MUTINY BRINGS BACK MEMORIES OF 1989 SIEGE

Manila, July 28, 2003 By Mike Frialde (Star) It was like yesterday, more precisely the Makati 1989 siege, once more.

Around 200 rogue junior military officers and men took over the Glorietta shopping complex early yesterday as they demanded the immediate resignation of President Arroyo.

Wearing red armbands bearing a white sun with an I, the symbol of the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan, the officers, clad in jungle fatigues swooped down on the upscale Glorietta complex at about 2:30 a.m. and immediately occupied the Oakwood Hotel.

The Magdalo group, led by Navy Lt. Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV, also planted bombs in the vicinity of the shopping area.

"These bombs were set to defend our positions. If they try to take us down, we will be forced to use them," said Trillanes. The mutineers also stressed that they have not broken away from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Reports said joining the Magdalo group are junior officers belonging to the Philippine Military Academy classes of 1995 up to 2001.

Trillanes, who belongs to PMA Class 1995, stressed that they are not trying to grab power but are only airing their grievances.

"We are not attempting to grab power. We just want to express our grievances against he government. We are frustrated with the corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the government in general," said Trillanes in a statement.

In their three-page statement, the Magdalo mutineers claimed to have uncovered a plot by the President to declare martial law by August to extend her term. This, they said, will be triggered by a series of bombings in Metro Manila and by the escape of terror suspect Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi.

The mutineers also accused the military leadership and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes of selling arms and ammunition from the national arsenal to the Abu Sayyaf, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People’s Army.

The Magdalo group also accused the government of having used special operations teams in the bombings in Davao City. The bombings, they said, were intended to be used as basis by the government in branding the MILF as a terrorist group and in asking for anti-terror funds from the US.

"We will not allow this to happen. We will not allow this plan to succeed. We swore to protect the state and the people. We will not abandon that vow," said Army Capt. Gerardo Gambala, the mutineers’ spokesman and a PMA classmate of Trillanes.

Earlier, AFP chief Gen. Narciso Abaya identified the other leaders of the mutiny as Navy Lt. Senior Grade James Layug, Army captains Laurence Louis of PMA Class 1995; and Army 1st Lts. Laurence San Juan, Florentino Somera, Jose Enrico Demetrio Dingle and Warren Lee Dagupon.

San Juan and Dagupon are both members of PMA Class 1997 while Somera and Dingle belong to Class 1996.

For his part, Reyes urged the mutineers to give up, saying the military will not allow the situation to deteriorate and that civilians are not allowed to assemble in the Makati area.

"We will not allow the situation to escalate. We will not allow people to assemble. We will not allow this thing to develop," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Defense Assistant Secretary Ric Blancaflor also urged Trillanes and his men to surrender, saying their action was doomed to fail.

Blancaflor was the architect of the almost weeklong 1989 Makati siege of the failed coup of now Sen. Gregorio Honasan.

In 1989, Army Scout Rangers occupied Makati establishments in their attempt to overthrow the government of then President Corazon Aquino.

Blancaflor, also a former chief of staff of Honasan, added that Trillanes and his men are just involved in a media gimmick.

"It is a political gimmick to attract sympathy whether political, civilian or otherwise. Walang patutunguhan ang ginagawa nila. Kawawa ang bayan. Galing na ako dyan (Their action will just lead to a deadend and people will suffer. I’ve already been there)," Blancaflor said.

However, both Reyes and Blancaflor declined to comment if Honasan was behind the mutiny.

"I don’t know if he (Honasan) is involved. But the national recovery program is his political program," Blancaflor said.

It was earlier reported that the mutineers were highly influenced by the doctrine of national recovery.

The Marines who joined yesterday’s coup came all the way from Ternate, Cavite, and were able to sneak past several police checkpoints set up along Aguinaldo Highway.

A senior police official said they had let the soldiers pass when they were assured by Marine Commandant Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio that he would send in troops from Fort Bonifacio to stop the advance.

"Sad to say the promised troops never came," said the official.

At about 2 a.m., the renegade soldiers entered the Makati business district unmolested, with only security guards from various establishments and taxi drivers around.

In another development, police and military authorities were alarmed yesterday by troop movements from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog despite official communications from higher headquarters ordering a complete stop to such movement all over the country.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Charlie Company of the Army’s 1st Scout Ranger battalion based in Rizal, is yet to be accounted for after they discreetly moved out of their assignments at dawn.

Scout Ranger troops based in Polangui and Sipocot in Camarines Sur, have been monitored heading toward Metro Manila without clearance from headquarters.

This prompted yesterday the Southern Luzon Command under Maj. Gen. Alfredo Dagudad to order the setting up of joint military and police blockades along the Maharlika Highway in Quezon province to stop the soldiers.

The northbound lane of the South Luzon Expressway was also ordered closed by Calabarzon police regional director, Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal.

Traffic along Aguinaldo Highway towards Metro Manila was likewise closed to prevent entry of anti-government forces. –With Jaime Laude


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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