“Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a person turns about
When they might have won had they stuck it out.
Don’t give up though when the pace seems low…
You may succeed with another blow.”
EDSA started off on the wrong foot with betrayal of agreements. Betrayal came like an unexpected downpour from the Cory Aquino camp. I least expected it because Cory campaigned on a high moral tone and the Opposition leaders sang the same tune.
I should know, I was in the thick of it and one of those who participated, making strategic decisions long before the snap election campaign, during the campaign and after the campaign.
Betrayal of agreements
As the head of the Opposition committee that negotiated with Juan Ponce Enrile (JPE) and Fidel V. Ramos (FVR), I was the one who inked for the Opposition the agreement between JPE-FVR and the Opposition that Corazon Aquino (Cory) and Salvador H. Laurel (Doy) head the new government and JPE as secretary of National Defense and FVR as Chief of Staff head the military branch of the new government with the caveat that the Cory-Doy duo would only appoint five members of the Cabinet – National Defense, Local Government, Justice, Foreign Affairs and Finance – and the rest would be agreed upon by Cory-Doy and JPE-FVR. The Opposition leaders at the Laurel residence unanimously approved the agreement. Was it in writing? Of course not! But an agreement whether it is oral or not is an agreement that should be honored. As they say, there is honor even among thieves. Political leaders of a country should have honor better than thieves.
FIRST BETRAYAL: This agreement was never honored. While the Opposition group was meeting at the Laurel residence after the Committee and I reported what was agreed upon with JPE-FVR, without anybody’s knowledge, except probably Cory alone, two betrayers, Jose “Peping” Cojuanco and MP Ramon Mitra, Jr., met somewhere and prepared a list of the new Cabinet members in violation of the agreement.
SECOND BETRAYAL: The Opposition also agreed with JPE-FVR that the oath-taking of Cory-Doy would be the evening of that day at the Club Filipino. Consistent with that agreement, I informed my friends in the international and national media that the oath-taking would take place at the Club Filipino, under the protection of JPE-FVR. With other Opposition leaders we went to Club Filipino at the appointed time only to be told by Rene Saguisag, the appointed spokesman of Cory, that the oath-taking was postponed to the following morning. Angered by this change without prior notice, I shouted at Rene saying who the hell ordered the postponement. Rene said, “Bono, I am only a messenger here.” I replied: “By gad Rene, you cannot even observe simple agreements, how can you people expect to run a government.” Rene said nothing in reply visibly embarrassed. I went home that night in a state of rage, promising myself not to show up for the oath-taking the following day. My wife, Marge, who is a daughter of a former governor of Misamis Oriental, who has more traditional political sense than me, pushed me to attend the ceremony, and I did.
THIRD BETRAYAL: When the United Democratic Opposition (UNIDO) decided to support Cory for President, the agreement with Cory was that the type of government of Marcos would be continued, with Cory as ceremonial President, since everyone knew that Cory had no knowledge of how to run the country, and she admitted this. The joke in the course of campaign was the slogan of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), the party of President Marcos (FM), that Cory was TWA and this had nothing to do with the ownership of Trans-World Airways (TWA). TWA simply stands for Talagang Walang Alam which simply meant, she was ignorant of the task of government. Doy was the agreed Prime Minister with a Cabinet composed of Parliament (Batasang Pambansa) members.
Well, it did not turn out that way. Doy was, at the beginning, appointed Prime Minister, but sacked by Cory a little after. All members of the Cabinet were Peping Cojuangco and Ramon Mitra’s choices, most of whom were not members of Parliament, in violation of the Opposition-Cory agreement and JPE-FVR-Cory-Doy agreement.
FOURTH BETRAYAL: The greatest betrayal of all was the dissolution of the Parliament orchestrated by Cory and her crowd. Why was the Parliament dissolved? It was not due to the fact that Cory’s wanted to demolish a Marcos institution. It was because, if the Parliament was retained, Cory and her crowd would have only ended up in the periphery of power. Most, if not all of them, would not have wielded any significant power. They would have become outsiders of the new government that would have been dominated by UNIDO leaders, specifically the Nacionalista Party of Doy Laurel and its allies like the Concerned Citizen’s Aggrupation of Cesar Climaco, who was mayor of Zamboanga City, the Mindanao Alliance of this writer, the Bicol Saro of lawyer Salvador Princesa and the Muslim Federal of Abul Khayr Alonto.
The ranks of the Cory crowd wanted to grab power for themselves at the expense of the true Opposition, the UNIDO, which was doing it consistent with the slogan of the Nacionalista Party – Ang Bayan Higit sa Lahat (The country first above all else or the country first and foremost). Who were the suspected personalities responsible for the power grab? These were their team captain Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., the omnipresent brother of Cory; Ramon Mitra Jr., Cory’s Secretary of Agriculture and later Speaker of the House of Representatives; Jose “Joecon” Concepcion, Jr., Cory’s Secretary of Trade and Industry; Rep. Neptali Gonzales, Cory’s Secretary of Justice; Senator Jovito Salonga, Cory’s Chairman of the PCGG and later President of the Senate; Jaime Ongpin, Cory’s Secretary of Finance; Joker Arroyo, Cory’s Executive Secretary; and Father Joaquin Bernas, the consigliore of Cory’s Council of Trent.
If the Parliament was not abolished, most likely all the members of the Cory band would have been nothing in the circle of power, except Gonzales, who was a commuter between the UNIDO and the Cory train. The ones responsible for the rise of the Opposition in the country were the UNIDO and its allies. The Cory band members were not those who created the waves, they were just plain surf riders. Most of them were infinitesimal, if not silent, objectors, and many of them were plain and simple steak commandos who fought the war in the United States of America – very brave because they were thousands of miles from the scene of battles.
FIFTH BETRAYAL: This is attributable to my friend Doy Laurel and then Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile. Why betrayal? They were the two leaders who could have prevented Cory and her band from dissolving the Parliament. Doy was the head of the most potent Opposition group in the country – the UNIDO. Johnny headed the most powerful armed component of the Republic – the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). But they failed to fight Cory’s band of fledgling power grabbers because they were afraid of the potential of that crowd in EDSA during the uprising and the perceived power of the Cory magic. They certainly had brains but they had no balls to demolish Cory and her band which could have been easily done immediately after the order to abolish the Parliament. These two failed to fight despite their tremendous powers and this paralysis of the will amounts to a betrayal of the country whose people thought they could have better lives after the removal of Marcos. Well the people’s dreams became a nightmare because the Cory administration was a calamity and this could have been prevented if Doy and Johnny rose to the occasion but they did not.
SIXTH BETRAYAL: Still this belongs to Doy and Johnny. Why? The duo refused to fight for the enforcement of agreements as enumerated in the preceding discussion. Had both of them insisted on the enforcement of the agreements, the Cory band could have been easily neutralized but they did not. Then, there would have been genuine democratic restoration and the calamity of the Cory administration and those that followed it could have been avoided.
SEVENTH BETRAYAL: The sole responsibility belongs to the Cory band. Before the 1987 first senatorial elections after the installation of Cory as President, it was reported that Cory told her Comelec that she wanted a majority of the 24-man Senate in the elections. Comelec committed an overkill by orchestrating the most scandalous dagdag bawas (add and subtract) elections in the history of the country. Through the effective use of computer transmissions of the election results, Comelec and Namfrel uniformly reported twenty-two senatorial candidates of Cory won and only two of the opposition Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD) – Johnny Ponce Enrile and Erap Estrada. The true results, however, as the genuine figures of the Namfrel and Comelec showed is that only ten of the Cory candidates won and fourteen of GAD. GAD went to the Supreme Court with overwhelming evidence to reverse the false and scandalous Comelec public reports. The Cory Supreme Court dismissed the petition without requiring the notorious Comelec to file a comment or answer.
EIGHTH BETRAYAL: This one belongs to Johnny Ponce Enrile and Senator Gregorio Honasan for advancing the schedule of the coup of 1989 from December 7 to December 1. The advancing of the date was a betrayal of the agreement among the members of the coup top leadership – BGeneral Edgardo Abenina, MGeneral Jimmy Zumel and Colonel Gregorio Honasan – that the country would be governed by a National Governing Council (NGC) composed of three military men and four civilians – Johnny Ponce Enrile, the nominee of Honasan; Eduardo Cojuangco, the nominee of MJJimmy Zumel; this writer, the nominee of BG Abenina; and Vice-President Doy Laurel, by common agreement. The reason for the advancing of the coup schedule is attributable to Enrile and Honasan because Honasan wanted to install President Cory disregarding the agreement for the establishment of the NGC as the group that would rule the country because Honasan and Enrile perceived that they would be outvoted by the five of Abenina, Zumel, Laurel, Cojuango and this writer.
What might have been?
In the light of all these, everyone is left with speculations of what might have been. Well, for my part, my thesis is simple – the country would have been better off, if those who betrayed the national interests did not and, most specifically, if the coup of 1989 was not betrayed. It could have avoided the debacles of all administrations – from Cory Aquino to Noynoy Aquino.
The next column will deal on the lessons we should learn from the Edsa uprising and the events that succeeded it.