MANILA, Philippines?After he was fired as foreign secretary in July 2002 following a falling out with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. had an unexpected visitor who broached a shocking plan: To assassinate the President.
Guingona had just come from a short vacation in Bukidnon province and had resumed work at his office at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City when the man showed up unannounced.
?I did not know him too well. But he was a tough guy who had served the previous governments as an undercover, the essence and details of which I did not fully know,? Guingona wrote in his memoirs titled ?Fight for the Filipino.?
He said that at first, the unnamed visitor suggested an idea that could ?change the nation.? He became curious and pressed the visitor about it.
?Then he uncovered an eerie proposition,? Guingona wrote. ?He said he would take care of everything, but was determined to execute a plan that would eliminate President Gloria from the scene. In other words, kill her.?
Upon hearing this, Guingona sat ?immobile for a few seconds,? unsure that he was hearing it right. The visitor sensed his hesitation, and repeated the plan.
Wrote Guingona: ?He proceeded to elaborate but I cut him off. ?Pare,? I said, ?puede ba huwag mo na ituloy. Naintindihan kita, pero di ko kaya yan. Wala sa radar screen ko, pare. Sorry, di ko matanggap? (Pal, don?t push it. I understand you, but that?s not on my radar screen. Sorry, I can?t agree to that).?
Rebuffed, the visitor left, and his subsequent visits to Guingona became ?infrequent.?
?Perhaps he thought my having been fired from the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) was reason enough ... He backed off,? Guingona wrote.
The whispered secret
This and other vignettes are featured in the 346-page book that the former Vice President is launching on July 4, his 80th birthday, at Manila Hotel.
In the book, Guingona also recounted one of the first Arroyo Cabinet meetings in Malacańang where, out of the blue, then Justice Secretary Hernando Perez told him a secret: The President ordered him to approve the controversial contract with Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (IMPSA), an Argentinean power plant builder.
?Secretary Nani Perez whispered to me ?Alam mo tinawagan ako niyan sa hatinggabi (referring to President Gloria seated on my left) at inutusan niya akong aprubahan yung IMPSA (You know what, she phoned me at midnight and ordered me to approve the IMPSA),? Guingona wrote.
?I sat immobile, then looked at him as if for confirmation. He gazed back as if for confirmation. He gazed back and nodded his head.?
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday, Guingona said that in writing the book, he wanted to set some events in the proper perspective.
He said he once told the late Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez that he was looking forward to reading the latter?s autobiography, but that Pelaez said he?d let others write it lest he hurt ?others? sensibilities.?
?But I told him, you will be writing so that others can understand better the actuations, the events, in perspective. Not to hurt others. Besides, time will heal that; people will understand,? Guingona said.
After the EDSA II people power uprising, Ms Arroyo nominated then Senator Guingona as Vice President, and, later, as concurrent foreign secretary.
Having served under her father, President Diosdado Macapagal, in the early 1960s, and worked with him in the 1971 Constitutional Convention, Guingona said his disposition toward Ms Arroyo was ?positive from the start.?
?In 1998 we campaigned together, she for vice president and I for senator. We found ourselves in the opposition, and we each played our roles in the turn of historic events that made her President,? he wrote.
But Ms Arroyo and Guingona soon discovered their varying positions on certain issues. One of their main disagreements was how to pursue the Philippine claim to the state of Sabah in Borneo.
Guingona wrote that while preparing for a trip to Malaysia, he took up with Ms Arroyo the conflicting claims of Malaysia and Indonesia over two islands off Sabah. He proposed that the Philippines file an action of intervention in the international tribunal to boost its claim?and was surprised by her answer.
?She said, ?You know, Tito (Guingona?s nickname), we may have to forego our claim to Sabah at some point in time,?? Guingona wrote.
?It was said matter of factly, not as a serious proposal, and I just responded that it seemed a controversial issue which could divide the nation. She did not press.
?To me, however, it was an eye-opener. When a nation stakes a claim, as was done by us in the 1960s through President Gloria?s father, Diosdado Macapagal, no less, then that nation should stick to the claim because it is a right that is legal and valid.?
More sore points
In the next months, there were more sore points of disagreement on key issues such as the joint military exercises in Basilan province under the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, the grant of immunity to US personnel, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, the ratification of the International Criminal Court, and globalization, according to Guingona.
It all came to a head, and in 2002 Ms Arroyo asked Guingona to consider serving in a different capacity, say as environment secretary. He said he ?yielded to her wishes,? but declined her offer of another post.
The following year, he quit as president of the administration party Lakas-NUCD because of their differences and became independent. He continued to serve as Vice President until June 2004.
But in January 2004, Guingona agreed to serve as an adviser to the opposition candidate, movie action hero Fernando Poe Jr., who eventually lost to Ms Arroyo in the bitterly contested May 2004 presidential election.
In August of that year, Ms Arroyo wooed Guingona back, asking him to serve as ambassador to China. He readily accepted, he said, because this jibed with his program for Filipinos working abroad.
Guingona?s ambassadorship was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments the following year. But he quit before he could assume his new post, after the ?Hello Garci? wiretapping scandal?which suggested massive fraud in the 2004 presidential polls?broke out in June 2005.