MAX SOLIVEN: A WARNING FROM THE PAST, SO TIMELY NOW

MANILA, February 2, 2004 (STAR) BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - That latest military hiccup, the so-called "Kawal" conspiracy, involving several young captains, while it never took off, has depressed the peso once more.

When will all these coup-coup or cuckoo plots come to an end? Ten Army captains have just been trotted out, claiming to have attended a couple of those conspiratorial meetings, and hinting that an opposition figure, civil society frontliner "Boy" Saycon, might be implicated.

Iíve always been reluctant to refer to "Boy" by his full name, Pastor "Boy" Saycon, because itís confusing. It somehow makes him appear like a minister or priest, when Pastor is merely his first name, not his religious profession. We have messiahs in too much abundance already, like Brother Mike Velarde of El Shaddai, Brother Ed Villanueva of JIL (Jesus is Lord), and Ka Erdie Manalo of Iglesia ni Cristo. The prophet motive has begun to sound eerily enough like the profit motive.

Whether Saycon can be linked or not with this latest caper, which was nipped in the bud as they say, is beside the point. I think itís time we tried to seriously put an end to military adventurism, and this can only be accomplished by putting a cap on unrest within our armed forces. As the aborted Oakwood Mutiny of July 27 demonstrated, itís no just soldiersí gripes that fuel putsches, but other government shortcomings and "crimes" beyond the neglect of our soldiery which must be addressed.

* * *

For that matter, the noisy gadfly of our retired military, General Fortunato Abat, a former Defense Secretary no less, and a veteran of the Korean War and the Mindanao wars, should stop that silly patter of his about "No-El" or no elections, plus his ratings that the military ought to take over as Constitutional "protectors" of the people.

Give it a rest, Tony. That civil-military "junta" idea just wonít fly. And why should that rumor about Vice President Teofisto "Tito" Guingona taking over be circulated by malicious gossip-mongers? It would only result in getting Guingona in trouble. I saw Vice President Guingona last Thursday night at a dinner, and he looked and sounded like he didnít have a care or ambition in the world. Alas, weíre getting too tense and pompous in this essentially happy country.

Abat used to be a no-nonsense soldier, with admittedly a flair for theatrics on occasion, as when he entitled his book The Day We Almost Lost Mindanao. But during his stint as head of the Department of National Defense, to which he was appointed in 1997 by his buddy, President Fidel V. Ramos, Abat was very much the politician and deal-maker. (Heís also very buddy-buddy with my favorite bÍte-noir in the DND, the ancient Undersecretary Feliciano Gasis who managed to worm his way into the favor of four DND Secretaries, from FVR, through Rene de Villa, through Abat, to Angelo T. Reyes Ė which is why he was never "retired" owing to old age. Gasisí connections are ageless.

Gasis Ė a Moro Ė used to be one of Abatís former speech writers, by the way.

Another very good friend of Abat is Mr. Guillermo "Willie" Luz of Makati Business Club and Namfrel fame. Tony should cease and desist lest he get Luz in dutch, too. The retired general was also very "strong" with the Christian Democratic Unionís (CDU of Germany, I mean) well-known Konrad Adenauer Foundation. I enumerate these details, hoping they will be helpful to the public. Remember the adage: by their friends shalt thou know them.

FVR, whoís ostensibly supportive of President Macapagal-Arroyo, might even be one of the shadows behind Abatís current campaign for No-El.

Among the openly brazen supporters of the Abat Proposal is Major General Leo Alvez Ė by coincidence, a former Presidential Security Guard chief in MalacaŮang when Ramos was President. Navy Vice-Admiral Armando Madamba, who along with Undersecretary Gacis was one of Abatís speech-writers in the DND, is also Abatís No-El co-endorser. Madamba never got his third "star" as Rear Admiral confirmed by the Commission on Appointments of Congress, where he had been badgered in any exceptionally gruelling interview. Maybe this is why he may have no love for civilian politicos.

Still another Abat booster in this connection is Colonel Cesar Bello.

I know Tony Abat somewhat (it rhymes) because I was dragged in by FVR (West Point í51) into the brotherhood of honorary membership of his Philippine Military Academy (PMA í51) class. I had been on the point of being adopted by PMA Class 1970, instead.

I was happy to "join" PMA í51, though, because those officers were the heroes of the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Many had either fought in South Korea in the PEFTOK, or served in South Vietnam with the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG) under the late Gen. Gaudencio Tobias. When FVR and this writer were in Tay Ninh during the 1968 "Tet" offensive, Ramos was still just a Major in rank, and Administrative Officer of the PHILCAG. The Philippine camp was just a whoop and a holler away from the central headquarters of the Communist guerrilla army, the Viet Cong, which had been located in Nui Baden (Black Lady Mountain) only a few kilometers away.

Fortunately Ė in a politically smart decision Ė neither the Viet Cong nor their Army of North Vietnam comrades tried to overrun the PHILCAG encampment, an action which might have sucked the Philippines more actively into the war. The truth is that President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who preened himself an ally of the United States (Amboy or "American Boy") was simply raring to go.

However, thatís all water under the bridge. But itís timely that we should know where Abatís coming from.

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The ashes of the late Vice President and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Salvador H. Laurel were flown "home" from San Francisco yesterday by his widow, Celia Diaz-Laurel, accompanied by his children, Suzie, Cocoy and Iwi, and Baby Herrera, his chief executive assistant of many years.

Today, necrological services will be held for Doy, as his friends knew him, in the office of the Vice President at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), and afterwards, his ashes will be transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs, where a second necrological service will be held for him, scheduled at about 4 p.m. Tonight, his ashes will be borne to the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, then, tomorrow they will be brought over to the Senate, where Laurel too had served, for 9:30 a.m. necrological rites.

Thatís a lot of traveling for anyone, but those rites of passage are an indication of the late Doy Laurelís long and energetic career in the nationís service.

Indeed, Laurel was elected a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa of the Marcos hegemony in 1978, but resigned in protest in September 1983 after the assassination at the airport of his boyhood friend, Senator Ninoy Aquino. He had pointed an accusing finger directly at the Marcos dictatorship as being responsible for Ninoyís murder.

While weíre on the subject of coup plots and rumors about military unrest, itís timely to recall the warning voiced by the late Vice President Laurel when he appeared before the Davide Commission on May 16, 1990. (Yes, the same Hilario Davide Jr. whoís now Chief Justice of our Supreme Court).

Laurel had appeared before the committee which had been tasked to investigate the coup that had almost overthrown the Cory Aquino Administration in December 1989. Doy charged that there had been an "orchestrated attempt" (sounds familiar) to implicate the leaders of the democratic opposition, citing a May 4 newspaper headline (not The STAR), saying: "Palace Bent on Linking Laurel to Coup Attempt."

He reminded the committee that when he took his oath as Vice President on February 25, 1986, he had reiterated his "unswerving allegiance to democratic rule based on the Constitution".

He recalled that more than two years earlier, he had formally proposed to then President Aquino the creation of a fact-finding commission, right after the August 28, 1987 coup attempt. When Cory said she didnít want to establish such a commission, Laurel had asked her, at least, for authority to visit the major military camps to personally inquire into the causes of military unrest. The resulting study, he averred, had been received but had never been released by the Palace. In his report, Laurel noted (furnishing the Davide Committee with copies of the earlier document) he had documented the grievances of our soldiers at that time Ė meaning, 1987 Ė and "the action that must be taken to redress them". He declared that "the report fell on deaf ears".

He charged that if his report had been heeded, the even more disastrous December 1989 coup Ė during which MalacaŮang itself had been bombed by an attack Air Force plane, and downtown Makati occupied for a week by rebel Scout Rangers Ė would never have taken place.

In any event, perhaps we ought to dig up a copy of that report and compare it to current events.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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