Enrile explains hurt over EDSA I rites
MANILA, Philippines—Twenty-three years after the 1986 People Power Revolution, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Sunday gave those who cared to listen a peek at what had been hurting him, why he had been snubbing official celebrations of the historic uprising.
The anniversary of EDSA I is officially observed every Feb. 25, the day the dictator Ferdinand Marcos fled Malacañang and Corazon “Cory” Aquino was sworn in as President.
But Enrile, the defense minister of Marcos, and members of the Reform the AFP Movement, which was renamed Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM)—the once shadowy unit that sparked the revolt—have stayed away from those festivities.
Instead, they have been quietly commemorating EDSA I on Feb. 22, the day they withdrew their support from the Marcos regime.
But that may be changing. Malacañang officials said Enrile was expected to be at Wednesday’s official commemoration rites at the EDSA Shrine in Quezon City marking the 23rd anniversary of the four-day revolt.
Sounding humble and mellowed when he spoke at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) on Sunday, Enrile said that Feb. 25 “deserves the nation’s remembrance.”
He also noted that the previous Feb. 25 festivities had seemingly “glossed over” the role of the soldiers at EDSA I.
“I have long nursed a certain discomfiture at being paraded as an EDSA hero, while those who bravely dared to fight the hard battle with us seemed to have been forgotten, their idealism ignored, and even their heroic contribution belittled,” Enrile said.
He said the political landscape today would have been different “if not for the courage and the commitment of men behind RAM, like Col. Tirso Gador, who gambled their lives to redeem the freedom of our countrymen.”
History would be the final judge, Enrile said.
“To recall what transpired since Feb. 22, 1986, to put the blame where the blame lies, and to place credit where much credit has not been acknowledged, will simply make one a sour grape,” he said.
“Whatever pain I went through, whatever form of prejudice and injustice I may have been a victim (of), is best left in my heart and for history to judge beyond my time,” he said.
“But this I need to say: Those soldiers who were really with us in EDSA never asked for any reward, recognition, much less power. All they asked from the new leaders then was real reform and good government.”
Enrile said Feb. 22, 1986, was “a day for difficult decisions to be made and for personal sacrifices to be offered for the greater good.”
Early that morning, Enrile said he went to the Atrium building in Makati City with his daughter Katrina, primarily to rebut a newspaper headline that he had left the country with his family.
At the Atrium, Enrile received a call from then Finance Minister Bobby Ongpin whose security men—all members of the RAM—were being arrested.
Enrile said his military aide, then Capt. Noe Wong, also arrived with the chilling information that the RAM plot to oust Marcos had been discovered.
Wong also told him that RAM members Allen Querubin, Lt. Col. Marcelino “Jake” Malajacan, Maj. Saulito “Lito” Aromin, Capt. Ricardo “Dick” Morales and two others had been arrested and detained at the Presidential Security Command in Malacañang.
“I fully grasped the significance of the unfolding event. And so I went home hurriedly with my daughter to take my lunch,” Enrile recalled.
After lunch, Wong arrived with Colonels Gregorio Honasan and Red Kapunan. “They informed me that all RAM and political opposition leaders would be arrested and detained at the Caraballo Island,” Enrile said.
He said Honasan, who was his chief for security, offered two options: Launch a guerrilla war in the countryside or take a stand in the city.
Enrile said he opted to take a stand at the Department of National Defense building in Camp Aguinaldo.
“Before I left my house, I asked Cristina, my wife, to inform the late Jaime Cardinal Sin what I was about to do.”
Enrile also made a call to then Constabulary chief Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. “I asked him if he could join us. He said he would.”
From the DND building, Enrile said he called US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, Japanese Ambassador Kiyoshi Sumiya and Rafael Salas, the Filipino executive director of the United Nations Population Fund.
Calls from Sin, Cory
At about 3:30 p.m., Enrile gave an interview over Radio Veritas to confirm reports that he was abandoning the Marcos regime.
He also informed Brig. Gen. Pedro Balbanero, head of the Military Police, about his plan. Then Postmaster General Roilo Golez, Brig. Gen. Ramon Farolan, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Espino and Col. Rolando Abadilla also came to see him.
A little after 4 o’clock, Enrile received a call from Sin.
“He asked me the same thing as the others did. I gave him the same story. He said, ‘I will pray for you,’” Enrile said.
An hour later, Enrile received a call from Cory Aquino from Cebu. “She asked me if what she heard was true … I said, ‘Yes, Madam,’” Enrile said.
Finally, sleep comes
Abadilla returned with a message to Enrile that Gen. Fabian Ver, the AFP chief of staff, wanted to talk to him.
“General Ver asked me why I was withdrawing my support for the President. I told him it was too late to discuss the matter. He asked me if we could talk. I said yes, but not on that night … (but) the following morning, I was stalling to gain time for the remaining RAM men to reach the city,” Enrile said.
“After all these were done, I attended to the throng of visitors flooding my room in Camp Aguinaldo. Thereafter, I went to sleep.”
About 72 hours later, Marcos, bereft of all power, was on his way to Hawaii (where he died several years later)—and Cory Aquino on her way to Malacañang.