AFTER enduring sustained heavy political and media fire on the extra- judicial drug killings for the past seven months, President Rodrigo Duterte finally hit back by filling Manila’s Rizal Park on Saturday and Sunday with a couple of hundred thousand people from various parts of the country to show massive public support for his war on drugs. The spectacle was impressive but hardly surprising, given the fact that the entire government was behind the entire mobilization effort, led by the Department of Interior and Local Government and its communist front partner-organization, “Kilusang Pagbabago” under DU3O’s “de facto prime minister”—Cabinet Secretary, NDF vice chairman and KP’s doctrinal and organizational head, Leoncio Evasco Jr.
The whole thing must have cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of pesos. But it completely missed the point. Even the bitterest critics of the drug killings support the war on drugs. What they have condemned, do condemn and will continue to condemn are the summary killings of mere suspects. Thus, while huge streamers proclaimed, “support for DU30’s war on drugs,” not a single sign proclaimed support for the extra- judicial or summary killings. Not one sound bite praised DU30 or the Philippine National Police for the “rub-out” of Albuera, Leyte, mayor Rolando Espinosa inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay, Leyte, at four o’clock in the morning, or the police kidnap-murder of the Korean Jee Ick-joo inside the premises of Camp Crame, PNP’s central headquarters.
A people’s proclamation, bogus or what?
On Facebook, there briefly appeared a so-called “People’s Proclamation”, invoking “people power as the highest expression form and expression of democracy” and calling upon DU30 to establish a “revolutionary government” so that he could rule by decree. There was no sign the so-called proclamation had come from the DU30 camp, and it apparently did not reach the crowds or the newspaper reporters covering the event. Otherwise, it would have appeared that while celebrating the end of one dictatorship 31 years ago, the pro-DU30 crowd would like to see DU30 lead a new one. If the DU30 camp was not the source of this so-called “People’s Proclamation,” it would be good if they could trace and expose its real source and author.
Because of the perceived “success” of the pro-DU30 rally, there is now instant talk that DU30 would soon reactivate and intensify his war on drugs. This is now suspended following the police kidnap-murder of the Korean businessman, but the reported plan is to launch “Project Triple Barrel” in place of “Project Double Barrel,” whose main objective under PNP Command Memorandum Circular 16-2016 is the “neutralization of all illegal drug personalities”. This has accounted for the undocumented killing of some 7,000 suspects as of January.
This has apparently created a lot of tension, even in official military circles. American historian Alfred McCoy, who has chronicled the troubles of previous Philippine regimes, appears to be looking at this when he warns that DU30 could face a threat from the military, which could move very quietly indeed. “You will never know it’s going to happen until it happens,” McCoy has been quoted as saying. “One of the things about the military is that it’s complex. From any level, from lieutenant colonel onward, you can get a core group that will oppose you (and) they don’t talk about it before they do it.”
DU3O’s military ties
DU30 has tried to cultivate strong personal ties with the military by visiting as many camps as possible since July. He talks not just to the officers but also to the men, whom he tries to entertain with “locker room” stories. But his latest visit to the Philippine Military Academy where he joined the PMA alumni did not apparently produce any good results. According to some sources familiar with what happened, DU30 marched with the alumni but when he was introduced to speak, only a few clapped their hands. As reported earlier by Times columnist Rene Saguisag, DU30 spoke of his two wives, among other things, hardly what the officers and men were expecting to hear from their President and Commander in Chief.
He did not speak long, though; he left before the alumni could ask him any questions. The alumni would have wanted to be clarified on at least four issues, sources said. These included: DU30’s policy of selective promotion in the military; DU30’s statement, echoed by his spokesmen, that out of five statements he makes only two are to be taken seriously; the President’s real position on the rapidly growing communist presence in government, the reported communist arms landings and the growing armed communist threat in the cities and countryside; the President’s real regard for the Medal of Valor, which he has awarded en masse to a particular group without individual screening, in violation of the standard procedure and protocols, which required a rigorous vetting of individual candidates before the medal is awarded.
The alumni also reportedly thumbed down a suggestion to be photographed while doing DU30’s “fist bump” sign; it’s not part of the “PMA tradition,” some seniors reportedly said.
Enrile revisits EDSA
On Sunday evening, while people were still talking about “ People Power” at EDSA, I asked former Defense Secretary and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on my weekly cable TV program “Una sa Lahat” what EDSA was all about. Enrile was the paramount leader of that revolt 31 years ago, but 60 percent of all Filipinos today are 30 years and younger. They know next to nothing about EDSA. Enrile said the “EDSA revolution” was a military revolt, and not a civilian exercise. Civilian support came after the military had withdrawn their allegiance from their Commander in Chief, so it was a civilian-supported military coup rather than a military-backed ‘people power’ uprising against Marcos.
It happened on EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) because that’s precisely where the military decided to make their stand, Enrile said. This was the first time this particular point was explained to the public by its lead participant. There was a choice of going underground and waging guerrilla warfare, Enrile said, but this was instantly discounted. Then there was Fort Bonifacio, Philippine Army headquarters—they found it too big. Then Camp Villamor, Philippine Air Force headquarters—it was open to artillery fire. So EDSA proved ideal.
On one side of EDSA stood Camp Aguinaldo, general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and also the offices of the Department of National Defense, while directly across stood Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary (now defunct, replaced by the Philippine National Police), then commanded by the AFP deputy chief of Staff, Gen. Ramos.
For Enrile, the EDSA revolt spanned three days—February 22 to 24—only. He described February 25, the day Cory Aquino took her oath at Club Filipino as “revolutionary President,” as “looting and power-grabbing day.” This was the day the crowds sacked Malacañang and people who had no part in the “revolution” became active participants in sharing the spoils. Enrile said he never entertained any thought of ever running the government, but would have welcomed joining a five-man revolutionary council that would include Cory Aquino, who had lost the February 7, 1986 snap presidential election to Marcos, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, Gen. Rafael Ileto, and former Executive Secretary and then-UN official Rafael Salas.
Junking the Constitution a complete surprise
But this idea lost to the idea of a revolutionary President Cory Aquino, he did not say how. But he was genuinely taken aback when Cory abolished the 1973 Constitution, and replaced it first with the so-called Freedom Constitution, and then with the 1987 Constitution. He apparently had thought that the 1973 Constitution could be amended to put in the reforms from the envisioned “revolutionary council.” Initially appointed as Cory’s defense chief, they quickly had a falling out, and he found himself leading the campaign against the new Constitution, drafted by Cory’s handpicked constitutional commissioners.
Cory stayed on as President after the promulgation of the new Constitution on February 2, 1987, under a provision, which extended “the six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice President elected in the February 7, 1986 election…for purposes of synchronization of elections…to June 30, 1992.” Enrile shared the view expressed earlier in this column that this provision, as worded, applies to Marcos and his running mate, Arturo Tolentino, who were declared “elected” in that election, even though they were not allowed to sit. Cory and Salvador ”Doy” Laurel were never elected.
There was an offer from the Batasan to revoke the proclamation of Marcos and Tolentino in favor of Cory and Doy, but Cory rejected this, so the proclamation was never revoked, Enrile explained. Cory therefore sat as usurper for the next six-and-a-half years. This probably explained why Cory was subjected to so many coup attempts, and would have fallen, were it not for the intervention of the US Air Force during her most critical moment.
The real reason for the EDSA revolt
For the first time since 1986, Enrile revealed the reason for the EDSA revolt. This is a detail I had missed in my reading of Enrile’s memoir, launched in Manila in 2012. Enrile said that on Marcos’s visit to the US in 1982, he learned that the President had developed an unnamed sickness, which compelled him to stay on one floor of the Waldorf Astoria’s in New York, while his wife stayed on another. There he also learned that Gen. Fabian Ver, the AFP Chief of Staff, who was also chief of presidential security, intelligence, and a few other things, had begun contemplating a military junta of five generals who would take over the government under Mrs. Marcos should anything happen to the President.
Should Marcos die, the Cabinet would be summoned to Malacañang and kept there before his death was made public, while he himself would be eliminated, Enrile said. Enrile took this information seriously and began planning his counter-move, he said. His first moves included acquiring 300 Uzis and 500 Galils, out of his own corporate funds. The rest is history, accessible to readers of Juan Ponce Enrile, A Memoir.
Given DU30’s own health condition, I find this detail especially relevant to us at this time. DU30 has openly admitted his various afflictions, but refuses to allow an impartial medical analysis to diagnose and declare his actual medical condition. The constitutional line of succession exists, but DU30’s communist partners appear determined to prevent a constitutional successor from taking over should DU30 be summoned by his Maker before his term ends. It appears that Mr. Evasco will leave no stone unturned to put a revolutionary government in place, before anything happens to the President.
This would make Vice President Leni Robredo and former Senator Bongbong Marcos, who is contesting the vice presidency, and the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, who are all in the line of succession, totally irrelevant. In Enrile’s case, he and the military had to mount a coup to prevent five generals from taking over should Marcos die. In Evasco’s case, he has to make sure a revolutionary government is in place to prevent a constitutional successor from taking over, should DU30 prematurely depart the scene. Is there anyone who will prevent him from carrying out his scheme? Don’t you think he should be wearing Enrile’s old shoes, right now?