• Dialogues with RAM: Prelude to the Edsa uprising

    Jose V. Romero

    Jose V. Romero

    After the Aquino assassination the level of discontent with the dictatorship had almost hit the ceiling. While a consensus was forming in the private sector, led by civil society, business chambers like the Makati Business Club and the Catholic Church, to remove the Marcos administration by any and all means, an important component was missing—the support of the military which had brought the dictator to power.

    The Aquino assassination by elements of the military cast a dark spell on the community who had hoped that the patriotic elements in the military establishment would at the very least withdraw its support of the corrupt regime. Against this pall of gloom, however, there appeared a seemingly God sent ray of light in the form of rumblings in the military.

    I had sensed this when as related earlier I was an instructor in the National Defense College and supervised a masteral thesis by high ranking officers that uncovered anomalies in the Marcos administration. That research document was well received and even endorsed to higher authorities by the whole college.

    To the pleasant surprise of the Marcos administration opposition the discontent in the armed forces had developed into pandemic proportions. This was quite evident in the dialogues of the opposition with elements in the armed forces which called themselves RAM, the acronym for the Reformed Armed Forces Movement. The group first emerged in the early part of 1985, two years after the Aquino assassination, when a group of officers met in the social hall of the Ministry of National Defense on April 2, 1985 and christened themselves RAM.Upon hearing of this development, different sectors of civil society that were now the united opposition to Marcos, aided and abetted the movement and egged on the officers, albeit covertly, to withdraw support for the government. This was not unwelcome to RAM who had also sought an alliance with the private sector as a buffer against the Marcos loyalists.

    Accordingly a series of dialogues between the two groups were held over the next months up to the EDSA Revolt. I remember attending a couple of meetings right inside Camp Aguinaldo. The very headquarters of the Philippine Armed Forces and a spitting distance from the office of General Ver. I distinctly recall the first dialogues on July 10, 1985 at the Commissioned Officers Club which was attended by Ting Paterno, Ting Jayme, Rizalino Navarro, Emmanuel Soriano, Ramos del Rosario, Carlos Villa-Abrille, Dick Romulo, Jimmy Ongpin, Joey Cuisia and myself. Across the table from us were colonels Gringo Honasan, Vic Batac, Ed Kapunan, Hector Tarrazona, Eugene Ocampo, Ed Capunan and Capt. Rex Robles. A few months later another batch of businessmen met with the same group at the association of flag officers building in Camp Aguinaldo.

    The biggest attendance in these dialogues was registered in the premises of my organization, the Center for Research and Communications (CRC), in Pasig, which was attended by the Manindigan, a newly minted opposition group which was the umbrella organization of the opposition civil society sector.

    A very touching episode during the dialogue was the unplanned patriotic song rendered by a junior officer, a Lt. George Javier which went a long way to soften the hearts of the civilian audience and showed the human face of the armed forces which even up to that time was still considered an evil and undemocratic force.

    Following the introduction of RAM elements to the opposition groups at the Center for Research and Communications, the CRC co-sponsored with the Asia Society a symposium for the benefit of the study mission on Philippine developments and Philippine-American relations. It was also our aim to showcase the Ramboy’s before this influential group of  US officials, academics and communicators. The American groups included Robert Goheen, William Bundy, Thomas Hayward, Carla Anderson Hills, Carl Lande, Stephen Lewis, Joseph O’Hare, Jane Cahill Pfeifer, Donald Platten, Dorothy Ridings, Robert Oxnam, John Bresnan and David Timberman.

    The conference was attended by prominent members of the local and foreign press and served the purpose of gauging the sentiments of the nation’s decision makers which was precisely what the visitors wanted to report to Washington. The participants unanimously condemn the the Marcos regime and its abuses. This must have left a deep imprint on the visitors. I think the collective impressions gathered by the visitors, as reported to Washington was a big factor in the Reagan government’s withdrawal of support of the tottering regime.


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    1 Comment

    1. Please write more of what you remember about EDSA I, Mr. Romero. The present generation of young people don’t know anything about it except the reminiscences published in the Inquirer and the Philippine Star that focus on the street marches and the dramatic episodes.

      The EDSA I history when it is finally written must include the behind the scenes negotiations between the different segments of society.