MANILA, Philippines – Former Lieutenant Colonel Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, now a senator, plotted to kill dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family as part of the overall plan to bring down the Marcos government, according to retired general Jose T. Almonte.
In his memoir as told to Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan-Vitug, Almonte recalled the last few years of the Marcos regime when a group of military officers organized the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), which formed the backbone of the military rebellion that triggered the 1986 People Power revolution that ousted Marcos. (Read excerpts from the book here.)
The core members of RAM were Honasan and his classmates from Class 1971 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), such as retired police general Victor Batac and retired Air Force Colonel Eduardo “Red” Kapunan.
In the 1980s, the military had become restless because of how Marcos was using it for political ends. The chief of staff of the Armed Forces, Fabian Ver, was a Marcos loyalist who gave equally loyal generals plum positions in the military.
“Marcos reshaped the Armed Forces to fit his own ends,” Almonte said in Endless Journey: A Memoir, which will be launched on Wednesday, February 25.
“National security, intelligence, and presidential security functions were placed essentially under one man who was also later appointed chief of staff of the AFP. This monolithic structure, oiled by personal loyalties, martial law sanctions and material rewards, led to unprecedented corruption and unchecked abuses. Promotions became a matter of outsmarting fellow officers and proving personal loyalty to Marcos. The distinction between national security and the personal interest of Marcos blurred. The military became Marcos’s political partner in maintaining power and accumulating ill-gotten wealth,” he said.
After the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr in 1983, Almonte said, “my decision to join RAM became more urgent.”
It was then that he attended clandestine meetings with the core group where they debated strategies and tactics on how to bring down the dictatorship.
When Ver was forced to take a leave following allegations he was involved in Aquino’s assassination, the RAM officers saw an opportunity to mount an offensive. The idea was to sow chaos through assassinations, Almonte recalled. It was Gringo who proposed to ambush one of the contenders to replace Ver and to put the blame on another general who was also vying for the same post, Almonte said.
“In this scenario, they expected chaos in the military,” Almonte said. “Gringo and company would then take advantage of the situation. But how? A coup was on their minds, but it was still hazy because they didn’t know how things would unfold.”
But Almonte said he rejected the idea. He recalled telling the boys: “Look, this thing will not work. It is very uncertain. You do not play a game with a cobra. You hit the cobra anywhere outside the head, you will be bitten by it. We are fighting here a revolutionary war, so we have to aim at the head of the cobra. We have to aim at Malacañang rather than fiddle with this chaotic situation.”
Coup turns into a revolution
Honasan and company agreed, according to Almonte, and that was when the plan transformed into a coup.
The initial plot was to attack Malacañang. “The plan of Gringo was to kill Marcos and his family. He would lead the attacking force. Red [Kapunan] would lead the attack outside the Palace, in the park, against the Presidential Security Group.”
The days dragged and the plots changed, and in the end history changed its course.
Marcos called for a snap presidential election in February 1986 and Corazon Aquino was persuaded by millions of Filipinos to run against him. When the official tally showed a Marcos victory, Filipinos went out to the streets to protest, while his defense minister, Juan Ponce Enrile, and constabulary chief, Fidel V. Ramos, withdrew support from him.
Almonte, then a colonel, would be promoted to general after Cory Aquino was catapulted to the presidency. He would become the national security adviser of Ramos, who crushed RAM’s subsequent coup attempts against Cory Aquino and won the presidency in 1992. – Rappler.com
Endless Journey: A Memoir will be launched at the Club Filipino in San Juan at 4 pm Wednesday, February 25, with former President Fidel Ramos as guest of honor.