IN COMMAND — AT LAST?
“ATTACK!” SHE ORDERED. “NOW!”
The “mere housewife” was fighting mad
“ATTACK!” President Aquino ordered the government forces under Chief-of-Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos.
The AFP renegades led by Enrile’s “boy” Gregorio Honasan had seized Camp Olivas (PC headquarters in Central Luzon) and attacked Malacañang, killing civilians and killing three of the bodyguards of the President’s only son and almost killing him and another bodyguard, then, when repulsed, heading for Camp Aguinaldo and taking it over and encircling TV and radio stations from where they could broadcast their appeal for support of their attack on the government…
“ATTACK!” President Aquino ordered the government armed forces under General Ramos that Friday morning.
The presidential order was not followed.
What is happening there in General Ramos’s command post in Camp Crame opposite the rebel-held Camp Aguinaldo? President Aquino wanted to know. Oh, her order to attack the rebels was being followed — acoustically.
Acoustically? What does that mean?
“There is a lot of noise,” Presidential Special Counsel Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. told the President over the phone. “A lot of noise but no casualties. They are firing upward, toward the sky.”
The government soldiers under General Ramos would not shoot straight at their comrades-in-arms. At Honasan & Co. Not straight at them.
A mock attack, in short.
“They are not firing upward,” Locsin, who was with General Ramos in Camp Crame representing the President, informed her. “They are firing downward. At the ground!”
The President laughed, then got mad.
That was the situation — the real relation of military forces, not imaginary ones. The government did not have enough troops then and there to wipe out the rebels holding Camp Aguinaldo. Attack and get nowhere? Its failure would destroy the government’s military credibility and — and invite mass defection from the government forces to the rebel camp.
So, Ramos waited.
“ATTACK!” ordered President Aquino.
With a threat to those who did not obey her order…? The “mere housewife” was fighting mad.
But why attack before reinforcement came — to make certain government victory?
Because it might be too late.
Get this straight.
Because to be certain of victory by waiting for reinforcement before attacking was to invite defeat
Because the government was not certain of the loyalty of the Marcos-Enrile AFP that President Aquino inherited from the deposed dictator. Four attempts at military coup to overthrow her government had been punished by — by what? Thirty push-ups for the coup plotters, release of the guilty in the last coup attempt before the latest one…
Why such softness to those who would violently overthrow the government?
Because the Aquino government did not have an army when it took over from the Marcos dictatorship. The AFP was Marcos’s and Enrile’s AFP. She was commander-in-chief of what? An AFP she could not trust. She could not afford to punish those who would take over the government and transform her into a merely decorative President. What if she asserted her presidential authority — and the AFP did not obey her? She had no armed forces of her own. That she remained President against all those attacks on her presidency is — incredible!
But she remained President. Somehow.
Now, the moment of truth. “ATTACK!” she ordered the Armed Forces under her Chief-of-Staff.
And only mock attack followed.
Then the real thing came.
Not too soon.
If the government forces under General Ramos had gone on waiting for reinforcement to come, it might well have come too late.
Because if the rebels had been able to hold on in Camp Aguinaldo, it would have invited mass defection by officers and soldiers of the government armed forces.
“The rebels are winning!” they would think.
If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em!
And goodbye the Aquino government and Philippine democracy with its rights and liberties, and those who love freedom dead or in concentration camps as under the Marcos dictatorship — and “Gringo” if not “Johnny” in absolute power.
To wait would have been fatal. Test the loyalty of the government forces now. Fire now — and draw the battle line. Get hurt by the enemy — thus making it impossible to join him.
With the firing by government armed forces and the killing of a government soldier by the rebels’ return fire, there was no more ambivalence.
Kill the enemy or get killed.
“ATTACK!” President Aquino had ordered.
And the soldiers under her Chief-of-Staff finally fired.
And the Republic with its democratic institutions and liberties won.