Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Caudillos as authors

Caudillos as authors

Posted 11:18pm (Mla time) Feb 28, 2005
By Juan Mercado
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the March 1, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

DID you see who just reemerged, without advance notice, from the woodwork? Gregorio B. Honasan of the controversial Philippine Military Academy Class 1971, that's who.

This is "Mistah Gringo" (a nickname lifted from the 1966 Clint Eastwood's western movie "A Fistful of Dollars"). PMA baron and class president. Ex-colonel. Former senator. Mentor of the Magdalo mutineers. Guru of seven coups.

All the coups that Honasan planned and staged failed, notes "Closer Than Brothers," Yale University's comparative study of PMA Classes 1941 and 1971. "That is a record of sorts."

Class '71 graduates include Panfilo Lacson, Honasan, Vic Batac, Red Kapunan, among other officers. "Only 18 months after graduation, Class '71 became the defenders of the dictatorship," wrote Alfred McCoy in that study. "They were the ultimate creatures of martial law."

Among the 85 graduates, five practiced torture. Six were murdered. They provided 15 of the 77 officers involved in two or more coups. Among these were then Lt. Cols. Tiburcio Fusillero, Rafael Galvez, Franklin Brawner. (Add former AFP comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, now facing court martial for graft.) The number of would-be caudillos "was by far the highest for any single class."

But Gringo faded from the radar-screen after he capped a lackluster Senate term by joining the "Craven 11." He voted to seal the second envelope of evidence during Joseph Estrada's impeachment trial.

Yet, Honasan was only being consistent. As class spokesman, he pledged earlier that no matter how the impeachment turned out, "Erap [Estrada] would be adopted as a class 'mistah.'" And he turned fugitive, yet again, when his fingerprints surfaced in the failed Oakwood mutiny.

Now, Honasan told Inquirer's Michael Lim Ubac, he's a budding author. Together with aging Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa comrades, he's writing a book. Is this, as Maurice Oldfield once said, "a book by a committee, for a committee, about a committee"?

But Filipinos never read a definitive account of what led to and followed Edsa I, Honasan asserts. Historical distortions and biases stud everything that came before this still-to-be-written book. "RAM's contributions to peaceful revolution were marginalized, even distorted."

"History books [used] in public schools brand us as criminals," he complained. "My children ask if I'm a criminal and I reply: 'Do I look like a criminal?'"

So, will this be RAM's "Apologia Pro Vita Sua"? Oxford scholar John Henry Newman's towering integrity insulated the Apologia from being self-serving. Otherwise, self-justification guarantees a bookshop flop.

Mortals like us, meanwhile, make do with findings by scholars. There's the Ateneo-Madison Universities conference on the Marcos regime. Yale University did a perceptive analysis of RAM in its study of PMA graduates. From 12 books and 16 periodicals, professional editors stitched together a riveting account in "Chronology of a Revolution."

Then, there's the Fact-Finding Commission report, written by now Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. Maybe Honasan can explain away items like this on page 182 of the commission report:

"Unable to get to MalacaƱang, rebel troops under Honasan headed for Camp Aguinaldo through the Santa Mesa route. But in their withdrawal, they fired on civilian onlookers who were jeering at them, killing 11 and wounding 54. Earlier, they fired at the convoy of President Aquino's son, Noynoy. Noynoy was wounded while his bodyguard was killed."

What about this detail on Page 234? "In January 1989, Enrique 'Henry' Cojuangco, younger brother of Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco, arranged for Gen. Alejandro Galido to meet with then fugitive Honasan in a darkened van at Makati...While they cruised along South Superhighway, Honasan asked Galido's support for a planned destabilization for March 1989...Galido kept ex-President Marcos informed about the progress of the attempt."

RAM originally was a group of 11 idealistic PMA officers organized to fight corruption. Inspired by the charismatic Victor Corpus, they launched their "We Belong" March on PMA Alumni Day, led by Cadet Honasan.

RAM grew to 861 academy alumni, although leadership came from 15 officers of Class '71. "In later coup planning, Honasan stripped it of his mentor's ideological content and applied their tactical contents to simple seizure of power," the Yale study notes. When Edsa rolled around, RAM had become an armed unit backing a Juan Ponce Enrile determined to succeed Marcos. People power saved them from Marcos tanks.

"Against the tide of history, RAM leaders persisted in their reach for power, even after President Aquino had won her electoral mandate," notes "Closer Than Brothers." Dreams of becoming caudillos die hard?

Over the years, RAM has been fractured and frustrated, Fault lines run along factions based on loyalties to military and civilian patrons, military academy class ties, linguistic differences, and generational differences.

"During the time of darkness, we, together with a few, held hands and jumped into the void risking everything, praying for light and change," Gringo claims. "This act of RAM sparked the 1986 revolt."

This is insipid PR pap. Will this still-to-be-completed book read that way? Then, Dorothy Parker's classic review will come to pass. "This is a (book) that's not to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown-with force."


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