Last of three-part column
I relayed the conversation to Doy, in the presence of Cario.
“So what do you think? Shall I announce the existence of a revolutionary government?” I asked both of them.
It was Cario who answered. “Bon, you better not because we are not sure of victory at this point. Suppose we lose, that would mean staying out of the country until the end of Cory’s term.”
It was my mistake to have desisted from announcing the existence of a revolutionary government. The news about a revolutionary government would have produced dramatic results. It certainly would have boosted the morale of the rebels and their continuing effort to oust the Cory government. It would have welded the different rebel groups together, waiting for the appropriate battle orders. It would have given the rebels the correct political direction. It would have given the United States government second thoughts to continue supporting the Cory government. An announced revolutionary government could have fully destabilized the Cory Aquino government and could have fully unmasked the corruption and the incompetence of the Cory government.
It was my error not to have considered the opportunity presented by BG Abenina. It was also the condition he was in that he could not give me the order to organize a revolutionary government.
For want of a correct decision, a coup was lost. For the loss of a coup, a country was lost.
In the initial phase of the Ramos administration, men, like newly installed Speaker of the House of Representatives Jose “Joe” de Venecia, realized that another coup would be in the offing, if the problem of the RAM and YOU rebels would not be settled. So in an arranged meeting between Speaker de Venecia and the group of General Edgardo Abenina, Chairman of the RAM and the National Governing Council, we asked the Speaker to grant the rebels amnesty. De Venecia agreed, since he knew that the rebel forces were still intact and it would have been easier to oust Ramos, who was not as popular as Cory Aquino.
BG Abenina accepted the proposal of amnesty of the Ramos administration for several reasons: 1) To save the career of many young officers detained because of the coup so they could be re-integrated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines; 2) to save the families of the officers and men who were suffering and deprived of support; and 3) to look forward to similar opportunities in the future, if the government fails again to serve the people well.
BG Abenina is a dreamer. He shares the view of others that government is designed to serve the interests of the people, and not the other way around. Like all dreamers, he never gives up on his dreams.
To regain lost ground considering the wishy-washy performance of the Ramos administration, he tried to sound off then Vice-President Joseph Estrada on what he thought of assuming the presidency on a constitutional coup. This is what happened, as detailed again in my book, Ideas, Principles and Lost Opportunities with very limited grammatical editing.
Noting these developments, and the drift of the Fidel V. Ramos presidency – the indecisiveness and absence of boldness in the drive against graft and corruption, and lack of credible vision to change the country for the people and for the better, I convinced BG Abenina to visit Estrada at the Office of the Old Congress Building in Manila, now housing the Philippine Museum. We tried to test the waters with Estrada, whether he would be willing to participate in a bid to change national leadership, within the context of the Philippine Constitution.
When we were in the office of Estrada, he asked Abenina: “General, what is the reason for this visit, if I may ask?”
“I’ll go direct to the point, if you don’t mind Sir. What is your opinion on the need for a change of government?” Abenina asked Estrada.
“What do you mean?” Estrada replied.
“It means replacing President Ramos to meaningfully change the system,” I interjected.
“You mean coup or people power?” Estrada asked further.
“Not necessarily. You just use the Constitution to bring about the destined change.” I replied, since the question required a legal opinion.
“Give me time to think on the subject,” Estrada said.
We left the office of Estrada with Abenina giving me a Mona Lisa smile. We never went to see Estrada again.
As a dreamer for good and effective government, BG Abenina with me kept on looking for alternatives after the Estrada interlude. Banding together with former Secretary of National Defense Fortunato Abat and Commodore Mike Apari, BG Abenina gambled to approach and convince then Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Angelo “Angie” Reyes, to withdraw his support of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.
After conversation with the group, General Angie Reyes withdrew his support of President Estrada and installed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo President. It was a mistake of catastrophic magnitude and BG Abenina lived to regret it.
There are many more interesting interludes with BG Abenina but this is not the time to write about it, since this book is designed for a different purpose.
I see BG Abenina every now and then. He is a little weighed down by the years but the old fire is still there. His eyes lights up like an old warrior when he hears the refrain of the song adopted by the RAM as its hymn that “our dreams shall never die”. More so, when a bosom friend tells him that he will not go to the great beyond without seeing the dawn, he will not only see the sunrise, he will live till the sun sets. That’s Abenina – the dreamer and warrior for the country and the people.