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‘Why I joined RAM but didn’t join coups vs Cory’

By Hector Tarrazona
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:40:00 02/25/2010

Filed Under: Edsa 1, Anniversaries, Cory Aquino, Military, insurgency, Coup d etat

(Editor?s Note: The following are excerpts from the author?s speech delivered over Radio Veritas in Bacolod City to mark the 24th anniversary of EDSA I. He is running for senator under the Ang Kapatiran party.)

AS AN ELECTED member of the 11-man ad hoc steering committee of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (or RAM), I took part in many activities that led to my becoming No. 3 on Malacańang?s hit list.

I made preparations in case I got killed, imprisoned, or went underground. In December 1985, without their knowledge I entrusted my wife Pee Wee and our three children in the care of two friends, Keith Mackie, her former boss at American President Lines, and Maj. Feliciano Miravite, a Korean War veteran, a fellow graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, and a relative by affinity.

I had reached a point in my life when my love for our country and people surpassed my love for my family.

With the peaceful EDSA I Revolution cheered by the whole world, and with God sparing my life and the lives of thousands of other Filipinos, every day since then has been a thanksgiving day for me.

I went against the regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos because I believed that with him around, the communist takeover of our country was inevitable.

The communist insurgents were succeeding because the Marcos government was failing. Frustrated and disenchanted, the common tao had nobody to turn to except the communists who they perceived to be genuinely looking after their welfare.

Red tag

When the ?snap? presidential election between Marcos and Corazon ?Cory? Aquino was announced on Nov. 3, 1985, RAM launched a special project called Kamalayan 1986, which espoused a free, fair and clean election.

The plan was to hold rallies in military camps and remind AFP officers and enlisted personnel to remain neutral and, above all, help protect the sanctity of the ballot.

One of our activities was a press conference at Jade Vine restaurant on Jan. 7, 1986. We were put on the spot when a reporter asked: ?Is Cory a communist??

All seven of us answered in the negative.

My reply was: ?If she is God-fearing, I don?t think she is.?

The next morning, the headline of Philippine Daily Inquirer read: ?Cory no Commie.? Our group had effectively cleared her of the communist label.

But the government-controlled press continued to vilify Cory as being a communist or, at the very least, a procommunist.

On Jan. 19, 1986, Veritas ran Cory?s open letter to the bishops denying that she was a communist sympathizer but saying that if elected president, she would give a role to the communists in her government.

Unfortunately, shortly after EDSA I, without consulting with the key players of the revolution, President Aquino released, without conditions, Jose Ma. Sison and the other communist insurgents in detention. Later, it was reported that the release was her commitment to them.

Shortly after that, a senior officer and a member of PMA Class 1962 angrily told me: ?Look at what you?ve done. You installed a monster!?

When it began

At 2 p.m. on Feb. 22, 1986, I prevailed upon my wife to take our three children and stay with her sister in Cavite City. Airman First Class Jose Salanio drove them there.

Seven RAM officers were to meet in my house at Villamor Air Base at 7 that night. But at around 3:30, Lt. Col. Oscar Legaspi phoned and told me to join them at Camp Aguinaldo. I immediately drove there with MSgt. Faustino Cadavona.

When Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos made that historic press conference at the Ministry of National Defense social hall on or about 6:30 p.m., I was behind them among a crowd of foreign and local reporters, officers and enlisted personnel, and civilian employees and supporters.

Thirty minutes later I began calling officers of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), appealing to them to join Enrile and Ramos.

Among the officers I called was Col. Antonio Sotelo, commanding officer of the 15th Strike Wing. This was the unit that sent its helicopters to Camp Crame and fired rockets over Malacańang. Later, as lieutenant general, Sotelo became the PAF commanding general.

Backed by the Filipino people, EDSA I was the culmination of a series of activities conducted by the RAM.

On July 10, 1985, we met at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club with the groups Manindigan and Bishops-Businessmen?s Conference.

They encouraged, if not practically pushed us, to go against the Marcos dictatorship.

On Aug. 1, 1985, another group of businessmen and media people met with us at the Association of General and Flag Officers Building.

Among those who attended both meetings was Jaime Ongpin, who eventually committed suicide during President Aquino?s term.

Defending Cory

I did not join the 1987 coup attempt.

In 1989, as the most senior officer left in Fernando Air Base, in Lipa City, I stopped rebel officers and men from joining yet another coup attempt. The plan was to take off in small trainer planes, pull the pins of hand grenades, put them inside empty glasses, and drop them on pinpointed targets.

It was possible that if the rebel pilots and their supporters were not stopped, their support for the coup plotters could have led to the toppling of the Aquino administration.

A general told me later that they were ready to turn over the AFP General Headquarters to the rebel soldiers.

I helped clear then candidate Aquino of the communist label and voted for her during the snap election in 1986; in 1989 I defended her administration against rebel soldiers.

But the general sentiment of the soldiers and policemen was that she betrayed them when she released the enemies of the state from detention.

She disregarded the many lives lost and the hundreds of millions of pesos spent to capture the insurgents.

Let us thank God that we are not under a civilian-military junta today.

We have a choice

As we approach the May elections, let us pray that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other political leaders will have discernment and wisdom to learn lessons from the past.

It is very likely that the People Power that installed Ms Arroyo as our leader in 2001 will again be expressed in similar or more unpleasant ways if she goes against the will of the silent majority.

We have a choice?to remain foolish by electing the same breed of leaders, or to be wise by electing a new group of leaders with integrity and character, who will initiate God-centered political, social and economic reforms, and who will give us new hope for a better nation.

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