Marcos regime totters following revolt of loyalists. But Philippine President appears ready to battle it out to the bitter end
The political crisis in the Philippines entered a new and dramatic phase this weekend with an armed revolt by two of President Ferdinand Marcos's closest associates. By Sunday night the revolt had reached a standoff. Troops trying to attack the rebels were bogged down in a sea of Filipinos who massed spontaneously on the streets in their own low-key revolution.Skip to next paragraph
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The revolt has already done major damage to the tottering Marcos regime. The President had placed great store in the cohesion of the armed forces. This image has now been shattered, and his ability to survive is now in question. But President Marcos seems prepared to tough it out. At press time artillery had reportedly been moved within range of the headquarters of the Philippines Constabulary, where the former aides were stationed. However serious the revolt becomes, aides say, Marcos will never consider flight. (US congressmen urge Marcos to step down. Story, Page 3.)
``He'll die on his feet, if die he must,'' an aide said Saturday. ``He's not a Duvalier. If necessary -- and the analogy is not very good -- he'll do an Allende.''
The revolt by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Deputy Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos erupted Saturday afternoon when the two men resigned. They told a hastily convened press conference that they believed Corazon Aquino, not Marcos, was the true winner of the Feb. 7 election. They denounced the ``illegally installed Marcos government.''
Then the two men blockaded themselves in their respective headquarters -- General Ramos in Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philip-pine Constabulary, which he commanded, and Mr. Enrile at the Defense Ministry in the neighboring military base of Camp Aguinaldo.
In an interview Sunday morning, Enrile said that he and his officers felt Marcos should stand down. The two rebels later announced they would support a provisional government should Mrs. Aquino choose to establish one. Ramos also claimed that the majority of the 40,000-strong Constabulary had rallied to him. The rebels claimed to have received messages of support from the Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, and the Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country's leading business body.
Enrile and Ramos said their revolt was precipitated by the discovery of a government plan to arrest them, along with most of opposition leader Cory Aquino's advisers, and leaders of the citizens' election watchdog group, the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections, or Namfrel. The pretext, Enrile said in an early morning interview, was that they were planning a revolt.
The President claimed that the armed forces reform group -- a group of young officers protected by Enrile and Ramos -- had begun planning to attack the presidential palace and either kill or capture him. Both stories probably had an element of truth. Interviewed Sunday, Col. Greg Honasan, Enrile's security chief and one of the founders of the reform group, said that his group had been ``set up.'' It was, Colonel Honasan said, a ``tactical implausibility'' to attack the presidential palace, Malacaang. The forces defending the palace had, he claimed, been almost doubled in the last week. Under normal circumstances the palace is protected by the 4,000-strong Presidential Security Command.
Honasan said the latest troop movements led him and his colleagues to conclude that the government was preparing for the reimposition of some form of emergency powers. So they decided to act fast. Other groups, some of them far from sympathetic to the reform group, have recently voiced fears that Marcos would resort to emergency measures in an effort to shore up his weakened regime. These suspicions have grown with the approach of a nationwide day of protest called by Aquino for Wednesday, the day after Marcos's planned inauguration.