As I was reading about the suicide of former Secretary and retired General Angelo Reyes, my curiosity led me to little snippets of the history of military coup attempts in the Philippines. As I dug further on, a few names kept popping up and a pattern slowly revealed itself.
It is a fact that the names Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and Danilo Lim are both associated with military adventurism. Records show that their plans for government takeover always fail. However, they always live to fight another day. This information is widely known yet largely ignored by the Filipino public and, as a result, remains under the radar when issues crop up — like the recent corruption scandal involving military personnel.
Gringo Honasan is associated with several coup attempts during the presidential term of former President Cory Aquino. His last coup attempt in 1989 during Cory’s time resulted in the deaths of dozens of Filipinos. He was later captured but escaped after charming his navy guards. A precedent was set when former military General and former President Fidel Ramos granted Honasan “unconditional” amnesty in 1992. The now renowned Filipino tradition of pardoning captured and escapee rebels was established.
In a bizarre change of fortunes of the sort that can only happen in places such as the Philippines, former rebel soldier, Honasan is now a much-revered Philippine senator just for being, well, popular. He has reinvented his image as a law-abiding-law-maker as such that he now even gets annoyed when people still refer to him as a former rebel. This was evident when his name was included in the list of candidates for amnesty of soldiers last December 2009.
Another certified rebel soldier, Danilo Lim also has a string of coup attempts under his belt. Proud and unrepentant, Lim’s first foray into the business of overthrowing governments was in December 1989 when he was still a captain and a member of the Young Officers Union (YOU). It is worth mentioning again that this was also during the presidency of Cory Aquino and he even referred to Cory’s government as “this curse of a regime.”
Not surprisingly (in this part of the world), he was also granted “unconditional” amnesty during the time of Fidel Ramos along with Honasan in the midst of strong recommendations made against such a move. Strangely enough, Lim also got reinstated and promoted to Brigadier General in the military along the way. It is one thing to be granted amnesty but it is another to be reinstated with full benefits and even promoted.
Because Lim was unrepentant and because he easily got away with his involvement in that coup, he was undeterred in his mission of military take-over and gave it another try in 2003 during former President Gloria Arroyo’s (GMA) term in what was billed the “Oakwood Mutiny”. This time with the help of another self proclaimed “saviour” of the Filipino people, Antonio Trillanes and the guidance of Senator Gringo Honasan.
From a news report obtained from the Net, it is interesting to note that charges were actually filed against Honasan for instigating another coup attempt against a woman president of the Philippines:
The Department of Justice filed coup d’état charges against former senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan before the Makati City regional trial court (RTC) in connection with his alleged role in the July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny staged by the Magdalo soldiers in Makati City.
[Senior State Prosecutor Leo] Dacera said Honasan and his co-accused retired military officers were among those who reportedly instigated junior military officers and enlisted men of the military to stage a coup d’état in Makati City.
“The undersigned state prosecutors of the Department of Justice hereby accuse the above-named individuals and several John Does and Jane Does of the crime of coup d’état defined under Article 134-A and penalized under Article 136 of the Revised Penal Code on or about July 27, 2003,” Dacera said.
Apparently, Honasan’s propaganda materials were found in one of their safe houses, which happened to be connected to former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. Lim and Antonio Trillanes backed by Honasan were advocating for both the overhaul of the military and the reinstatement of deposed President Estrada.
It is mind-boggling how these military adventurists keep getting away with their decades-long attempts at destabilizing the Philippine government, particularly Honasan who cannot seem to stop himself from engaging in such activity even when he is already part of the government. It is like he is a rebel at heart or worse, a rebel without a real cause.
It is becoming clearer that the law and order problem in the Philippines also originates from one of the institutions that are supposed to ensure that peace and security is maintained in the country — the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). No wonder the Philippines is considered a basketcase.
There seem to be no end to military adventurism. As Winnie Monsod mentioned in her article, Military adventurism, selective idealism:
Thus, Lim is the perfect illustration of what the Davide and Feliciano Commissions feared would result from allowing the coup plotters to go unpunished. In discussing the five root causes of the Oakwood mutiny, the Feliciano Commission cited one as being: “(2) Failure on the part of the Government to enforce the law deprives the law of its power to deter, particularly among those who had engaged in previous coup plots against the Government but who were granted unconditional amnesty in 1995 without prior punishment. A number of former coup plotters who had been punished for their participation in the coup attempts of the 1980s and returned to the military after the 1995 grant of unconditional amnesty, have turned their back on military adventurism. Members of their units did not join the Magdalo group in Oakwood. But some of those who received unconditional amnesty without prior punishment were in the list of members of the NRP Council. This suggests that consistent enforcement of the law may be a critical factor in neutralizing the coup virus.”
In light of the corruption scandal involving high-ranking military personnel, it is easy to see now why the low-ranking military personnel have low morale and feel hopeless to the point that they feel like they have to resort to take matters into their own hands. It is also not easy to judge such sentiment. And since the coup d’état attempts were more rampant during Cory Aquino’s time, people like PNoy cannot keep insisting that corruption and disunity in the military started during GMA’s time.
There are a few ironies that seem to just fly over people’s heads: Danilo Lim was only a captain when he started being actively involved in secretly plotting the overthrow of governments starting with Cory Aquino’s. You would think that his military adventurism could have been because he was genuinely frustrated with the apathy and corruption he saw happening in the military. But after he was reinstated in the military, he even became a general himself. Being in a position of power, he could have done more to prevent corruption that plagued the military; but he was notably very quiet during former president Fidel Ramos (FVR) and Erap Estrada’s term.
Lim resumed his so-called fight for freedom from corruption and for reforms in the government as soon as GMA was in Malacanang. One can be forgiven for thinking that some of these military mutineers hate having a woman as their chief executive. Lim is said to be still adamant that he did nothing wrong in plotting coup d’états in 1989, 2003, 2006 and 2007.
Another irony is that, President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) doesn’t seem to know or does not seem to want to bother knowing at all who the real bad guys are. In keeping with the disgraceful tradition of granting amnesty to rebel soldiers – the very group of people who bring instability to the country – PNoy is now advocating for the review of the charges against the now free and fully functioning Senator Trillanes for his part in the coup d’état or Oakwood Mutiny in 2003 during GMA’s term. In a deliberate attempt at insulting the former president, he went on to suggest that the case against Senator Trillanes might have been baseless. PNoy’s obsession with getting back at GMA as the only person to blame for all the ills in the country is distracting him from the job of looking at the bigger picture – that there are actually more culprits sitting right under his nose.
It is either PNoy is not thinking clearly or a deal has been brokered between the current government and the perennial mutineers. The reason why some people might think that PNoy is being irrational about his obsession in dumping the mutiny case is because he doesn’t seem to realize that the common denominator behind every coup d’état seems to have been Senator Gringo Honasan. It is so unbelievable that PNoy can ignore this considering he even sustained 5 bullet wounds and saw three of his escorts killed in the bloody coup in 1989. That incident should have been permanently etched in his brain. His obsession should actually be focused on going after the people behind his near death experience and who made his mother’s stint in Malacanang a living hell.
If I were conspiracy theorist, I might suggest that PNoy’s government is trying to appease these military adventurists to the maximum limit just so his own government will not experience the same attempts at military takeover. By having them on his side, he might prevent another underground movement from gaining momentum. With Trillanes now in the Senate and back in the company of another Estrada in the form of Jinggoy Estrada, things are going great for him. Incidentally, Jinggoy is also implicated in the military corruption scandal. The name Estrada too somehow keeps getting associated with corruption and the military.
In fact, Senator Trillanes is actually on a rampage now. Fresh from being released from prison, his newfound power acting as jury and judge during a senate inquiry is said to have driven Angelo Reyes to commit suicide. Unrepentant and unmoved by the loss of another human being’s life, who knows what Trillanes is capable of doing next now that he is in the driver’s seat with gun enthusiast PNoy behind him?
All these military adventurists seem to want is to be in power. But once in a position of power, as evident in the case of Gringo and Lim, they do not have any kind of economic or political reforms to provide in an effort to uplift the status of the nation. What they have is a vendetta to get back at people who they perceive to have “wronged'” them. What a nightmare for the rest of the Philippine population!