The withdrawal of support of the group of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile in February 1986 was not against the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos but to end a junta that effectively controls the government then.
Enrile, one of the main characters in that historic People Power revolution at EDSA which toppled the late strongman and his 20-year rule, bared this in an exclusive interview at the Daily Tribune’s “Straight Talk” forum, Saturday.
Enrile said the withdrawal of support was laid out by him and his close military aides — then Army Lieutenant Colonels Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and Eduardo “Red” Kapunan, and aide de camp Noe Wong, in the morning of 22 February 1986.
The three military officials were among the founding officers of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), whose leaders were part of Enrile’s security battalion as defense chief.
FM collateral damage
“The planning of RAM as far as I was concerned was not against President Marcos contrary to the perception of people. We were not really against the President, it just happened that we had to include him and became a collateral damage because we had to, he was the Commander-in-Chief and President,” Enrile told the Daily Tribune.
“Our real opposition, at that time, was a junta that was secretly organized in the country composed of the chief of staff then the head of the Army, the head of the Air Force, the head of the Navy and the head of the Coast Guard,” he added.
Enrile was referring to then Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff the late Gen. Fabian Ver and other top military generals.
“I learned about this junta, it’s organization and presence as early as between November and December of 1982 after President Marcos came back from his last official visit to the United States,” he recalled.
Imelda’s role unknown
Asked if he believed that then First Lady Imelda Marcos was part of the junta’s planning, Enrile replied “I don’t know, I don’t think so.”
When he withdrew support from Marcos in the afternoon of 22 February 1986 that triggered the EDSA People Power, Enrile said that the junta was already in control of Malacañang.
“They were already in control of Malacañang. President Marcos was, at that point, a virtual prisoner of Malacañang,” he pointed out.
Enrile said Edna Camcam, who was very close to Ver, informed him about the junta and its plan. The former Senate President said that nobody knew his family’s closeness to that of Camcam.
Upon being informed of the junta’s plan, Enrile said he started to re-organize his security battalion that eventually became the “nucleus of the RAM.”
Part of the junta’s plan, Enrile quoted Camcam as saying, was to hide the health status and even death of President Marcos from the Cabinet officials.
“The reason why she (Camcam) had to tell me because of the plan of the junta, that if President Marcos dies, for any reason, they will not announce, the junta will not announce the death of President Marcos,” Enrile said.
“Instead, they will call a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang and in the name of President Marcos and once the members of the Cabinet were in Malacañang, they will quarantine all of us but in my case, they have to assassinate me,” he added.
At that time, Enrile said that he was not aware of Mr. Marcos’ illness. He said he only learned that the President was sick on 8 August 1983.
The junta, Enrile said, would initially install then First Lady Imelda Marcos but would eventually remove her.
“Their plan was to make Mrs. Marcos president for at least six months and then later on remove her and let the country under military control. That was the plan,” the 97-year-old Enrile remembered.
“I did not question the veracity of that story, I assumed the truth of it. I have no doubt about the credibility of my informant and that’s why secretly I had to protect myself as a matter of survival,” he added.
On the other hand, Enrile stressed that the primary motivation of his group’s withdrawal of support was to restore democracy.
“We never intended to harm the first family, but only to immobilize them and then of course ask the President to step down and put the country back to a normal democratic condition,” he said.
PNP junks any plot
In connection with the EDSA rites commemoration this year, the Philippine National Police (PNP) also Friday assured they will never back any attempt by any group or individual to overthrow the government.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa made the assurance in reaction to reports that there are several groups planning to oust President Rodrigo Duterte in time for the 34th commemoration of EDSA.
“As far as the PNP is concerned, I am confident that that’s nothing,” Gamboa said.
“That’s what the detractors will always say. That they are discontented. But, look, how can they succeed with the (still) very high rating of the President?” he added.
The PNP chief reiterated that any uprising being mulled against Malacañang will not succeed without the backing of the AFP and PNP.
Not in radar
“Mind you, the PNP and the AFP of which my classmate is the chief of staff, that there is no such thing that will be supported by the PNP nor the AFP,” he noted, referring to Gen. Felimon Santos Jr.
Both officers came from the Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986.
Last week, talks circulated about some opposition personalities’ plan, with allegedly disgruntled members of the military, of staging a coup against Mr. Duterte due to his decision to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and United States and other issues.
The AFP leadership already brushed off such reports and assured the public that they will not do anything in violation of the Constitution.
with Kristina Maralit