Thursday, January 5, 2006

When Last the Military Withdrew Support

"Gentlemen, I'm sure you know that we've just committed mutiny."

Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Angelo T. Reyes uttered those words to the Service Commanders of the Philippine Army, Navy and Air Force on the morning of Friday, 19 January 2001 in reference to their decision to WITHDRAW SUPPORT for the Commander-in-Chief, President Joseph Estrada and to join then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the EDSA Shrine demonstration demanding the immediate resignation of the President. GMA would be sworn in as president the very next day and Reyes would take several important Cabinet positions in the new regime. Not a man to take his Constitutional duties lightly, Angelo Reyes once defended his actions at Edsa-II by citing the so called People Power Provision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution that designates the Armed Forces as the "protector of the people." --
Article II Section 3. Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.
A retrospective on those events of five years ago this month may be useful in the light of reported restiveness in the military and because many of the DRAMATIS PERSONAE in the 2005 Gloriagate Crisis played major roles in that "People Power Revolution" of 2001. Perspective may be possible now that five years have past.

For sheer narrative power, (and a source of perhaps unintended historical ironies), there is none better than the magnificent book written by AMANDO DORONILA, The Fall of Joseph Estrada (The Inside Story), Anvil Publishing, Inc. and Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inc., 2001 ISBN 971-27-1154-4, where one finds an ample and interesting Chronology of Events climaxing in the two events of particular relevance to our present turmoils --

(1) the withdrawal of support from the Presidency by then Chief of Staff General Angelo Reyes on 19 January 2001; and

(2) the Oathtaking as President by then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on 20 January 2001, administered by then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr.

All the major players make their entrance in this story -- Jaime Cardinal Sin, former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Corazon Aquino, Justices Artemio V. Panganiban and Antonio Carpio, Generals Fortunato Abat and Victor Corpus, Secretaries Orlando Mercado and Edgardo Angara, and the entire cast of senators, congressmen, military and government officials, business, political, Media, cyberwarriors and social personalities of all kinds, that became a part of Edsa II.

2 January 2001:
Clarissa Ocampo reveals a cover-up attempt by Estrada allies just before she took the witness stand. Telling Mendoza, "I am sorry," Ocampo says the attempt to substitute the document signed by Estrada as Jose Velarde was done in the office of Mendoza.

8 January 2001: The defense and prosecution panels agree to speed up the trial so a vote on the Iimpeachment Articles can be taken on February 12.

11 January 2001: Former Finance Secretary Edgardo Espiritu reveals that Estrada is a partner of Dante Tan's in Best World Gaming Corp., the company involved ina stock-manipulation controversy.

14 January 2001: In a pastoral letter, Sin calls on the people to keep up the good fight to force the president to step down.

15 January 2001: Former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Perfecto Yasay testified that the President asked him to clear Dante Tan in the investigation of the stock manipulation controversy.

16 January 2001: Senator-judges identified with Estrada, on an 11-10 vote succeeded in preventing the opening of the Jose Velarde account. Private prosecutors walk out in protest. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel resigns in disgust. People stage noise barrages and converge at the EDSA Shrine to protest.

17 January 2001: The impeachment trial is suspended indefinitely after the House prosecutors resigned en masse. Protests escalated not onlyin Metro Manila but also in key cities nationwide. Traders walk out of their offices; students leave their classes to go to the EDSA Shrine. The peso plunges to all-time lows of 55.75 to the dollar.

18 January 2001: The EDSA shrine crowd swells; calls for the resignation of the president intensify. Actress Nora Aunor, an avid supporter and former girlfriend of Estrada, joins the protesters in EDSA.

19 January 2001 (1:00 AM) General Angelo Reyes arrives home from a party hosted by one of his men. He has left the party twice to talk with former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and Leo Alvez, a retired general in the anti-Estrada camp, separately. At home, Reyes watches television until 4 AM to assess the developments at EDSA and becomes convinced of a genuine mass outrage against the Estrada administration.

19 January 2001 (7:30 AM) Alvez arrives at Reyes's quarters at Camp Aguinaldo to try to persuade him it's time for Estrada to go.

19 January 2001 (8:00 AM) Reyes discusses the situation with trusted men.

19 January 2001 (9:00 AM) General Hermogenes Ebdane orders his men to prepare for Reyes's announcement of the withdrawal of military support from Estrada at 3 PM. His men are to secure Camp Crame.

19 January 2001 (10:30 AM) Reyes decides to break with Estrada.

19 January 2001 (11:30 AM) Reyes gets a call at his office from Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado asking for a prompt meeting, but Reyes cannot make it earlier than 1:30 PM -- he has been told by an aide that President Estrada called asking him to go to Malacanang right away.

19 January 2001 (About Noon) Instead of going to Malacanang, Reyes, believing that Estrada is becoming suspicious, decides to accelerate things and goes to the safe house in Corinthian Gardens two hours or so ahead of his scheduled meeting with Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

19 January 2001 (Noon) Sen. Raul Roco calls Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara to ask him to persuade Estrada to step down. Angara promises to call back after two hours.

19 January 2001 (Past Noon) Informed by Rep. Hernan Braganza that Reyes was already waiting for her in Corinthian, Macapagal-Arroyo goes from nearby Linden Suites, her temporary headquarters, to meet him. They talk, one-on-one, for 45 minutes. He pledges the Armed Forces support. He asks for only two things: good governance and a dignified exit for Estrada. [Angelo Reyes would become GMA's first Secretary of National Defense within weeks of this event.]

19 January 2001 (1:30 PM) Reyes asks that his service commanders be fetched at Camp Aguinaldo and brought to Corinthian. At the same time, he calls Estrada to tell him the military is defecting.

19 January 2001 ( 2:00 PM) The service commanders arrive in Corinthian and talk, one by one, with Macapagal-Arroyo. Angara calls Roco with Estrada's snap-election proposal.

19 January 2001 (3:00 PM) Reyes calls Mercado.

19 January 2001 (3:30 PM) Former President Fidel Ramos arrives in Corinthian. Lacson calls Angara and informs Estrada the national police is also defecting.

19 January 2001 (4:00 PM) Mercado arrives at the safe house.The military leadership proceeds from Corinthian to the EDSA Shrine.

19 January 2001 (4:30 PM) From the Shrine stage, Reyes, with his service commanders except for Lt. Gen. Jose Calimlim and Mercado, announces the military withdrawal from the government.

19 January 2001 (5:00 PM) Calimlim arrives at the shrine to support Reyes.

19 January 2001 (6:00 PM) The military leadership meets with Macapagal Arroyo at the Linden suites. Antonio Carpio, former presidential legal counsel of the Ramos administration and an adviser to Macapagal-Arroyo, calls Supreme Court Justice Art Panganiban to alert him to an oath-taking to be administered by Chief Justice Hilario Davide the following day, after Estrada will have resigned.

19 January 2001 (Dinner Time) Four generals together request for a private meeting with Reyes.

19 January 2001 (8:00 PM) Reyes meets with staff officers in Camp Aguinaldo to explain the situation. Angara meets Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Tessie Oreta, Blas Ople, and Tito Sotto to tell them Estrada agrees to the opening of the envelope of evidence suppressed at the impeachment trial. [The Second Envelope contained nothing damaging to Estrada's case, as it turned out later, being nothing more than the written claim of Jaime Dichaves to be the owner of the Jose Velarde account.] Angara calls Roco to discuss snap elections. Roco tells Angara: Umalis na ang bapor. Naiwanan na kayo." ["The ship has left, you've been left behind."]

19 January 2001 (8:20 PM) Senate President Aquilino Pimentel calls Angara to tell him he's going to Malacanang. There Estrada brings up with Pimentel the idea of opening the envelope and holding snap elections. Pimentel instead offers to negotiate for a graceful exit through former President Cory Aquino.

19 January 2001 (9:20 PM) Angara arrives in Malacanang and joins Estrada and Pimentel. Pimentel puts the idea of exile. Estrada turns it down and says he has been given by Reyes five days to leave.

19 January 2001 (10:30 PM) De Villa calls Angara to initiate negotiations for Estrada's resignation. They agree to meet at 12:30 AM at the Mabini Hall.

19 January 2001 (Close to MIdnight) A group of generals visit Reyes, offering a plan for a junta and snap elections.

19 January 2001 (Midnight) Roco goes back to the Linden Suites and discusses with De villa, Ramos, Paul Dominguez, Sen. Sergio Osmena, Vicky Garchitorena, and Corazon Dinky Soliman how much time to give Estrada; they decide no more than 6 AM the next day.

20 January 2001 (1:00 AM) De Villa, Bert Romulo, and Nani Perez arrive in Malacanang to tell Estrada of the deadline for him to step down. At the EDSA Shrine, Roco announces the deadline and a plan to march to Malacanang.

20 January 2001 (2:00 AM) Reyes call sRoco to ask him to tell Macapagal-Arroyo that Reyes has given word to Estrada for five more days in Malacanang. Roco goes to see Macapagal-Arroyo at the Linden Suites.

20 January 2001 (5:30 AM) Justice Panganiban rings Davide and other justices to tell them only Davide can stop a possible bloodshed. Davide tells Panganiban to call Arroyo.

20 January 2001 (6:00 AM) Militant groups begin their march to Malacanang. De Villa calls Angara for a meeting at 7 AM. Panganiban calls lawyer Tony Carpio to tell him Davide is willing to administer the oath to Macapagal-Arroyo at noon.

20 January 2001 (6:20 AM) Learning about the oath-taking from Msgr. Soc Villegas who was informed by Panganiban, Cardinal Sin makes a public announcement and gives Erap until 12 noon to resign.

20 January 2001 (6:30 AM) Monsignor Villegas announces the oath-taking.

20 January 2001 (7-8:00 AM) Negotiators designated by Macapagal-Arroyo arrive in Malacanang.

20 January 2001 (8:00 AM) Media interview Panganiban, who confirms the oath-taking at noon.

20 January 2001 (8:30 AM) Negotiattions for Estrada's resignation resume. Roco goes to the Archbishop's Palace to inform Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino, and Sin that elder statesman Jovito Salonga thinks Macapagal Arroyo should take her oath immediately and get recognition from foreign countries. Macapagal-Arroyo calls former Foreign Affairs Secretary Romulo to ask him to call the embassies.

20 January 2001 (9:00 AM) Macapagal-Arroyo meets Aquino and Sin at the Archbishop's Palace for a late-breakfast meeting. They agree to meet again at lunch. Pimentel calls Davide to tell him negotiations are still going on for Estrada to resign and leave Malacanang in five days.

20 January 2001 (Past 9:00 AM) Macapagal-Arroyo calls Davide, who passes the telephone to Panganiban. She tells them the negotiations have been stalled and asks that the oath be administered as scheduled.

20 January 2001 (9-9:30 AM) Interviewed on radio, Macapagal-Arroyo denies she is taking her oath at noon because Reyes has given his word to Estrada -- five days to leave. [Now-Justice of the Supreme Court and former Chief of Staff of GMA, Renato] Corona calls Ching Vargas and tells her to fetch Davide at the Supreme Court Building for the oath taking.

20 January 2001 (9:30 AM) Joey Rufino of Lakas-NUCD announces Davide is set to administer Macapagal-Arroyo's oath-taking.

20 January 2001 (9:45 AM) Macapagal-Arroyo calls Panganiban to tell him she is ready. Panganiban requests Macapagal-Arroyo to write the Supreme Court a letter [declaring President Estrada to be permanently incapacitated]. She instructs Carpio to prepare it. Carpio calls Panganiban to ask exactly what letter to prepare. Panganiban call Macapagal-Arroyo to say the oath-taking is on--EDSA Shrine, High Noon.

20 January 2001 (10:30 AM) Negotiators leave Malacanang empty handed. Estrada has refused to sign a letter of resignation. Vargas arrives at the Supreme Court. The justices are waiting for the letter [Estrada's Resignation Letter]

20 January 2001 (10:45-11:20 AM) Reyes calls Angara to say that the Supreme Court has decided to install Macapagal-Arroyo as the new president at noon. Angara orders that the provision on resignation be removed from the letter Estrada is asked to sign.

20 January 2001 (11:26 AM) Carpio faxes the letter to the Supreme Court.
[Here is that very FAX, penned by no other than now-sitting Justice Antonio Carpio for then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which is timestamped as arriving in the Supreme Court at 11:26 A.M. on Saturday 20 January 2001 -- whose existence was first denied by GMA when asked about it by the Press immediately after her Oathtaking as President. Yet it is an indelible part of the Supreme Court's Record and that of Philippine Commentary. More than any other piece of evidence, it is proof of malfeasance of the highest order in the Davide Supreme Court, the smoking gun as it were of Justice Hurried is Justice Burried!--Rizalist]
20 January 2001
Supreme Court Building
Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila

Attention: Honorable Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
Chief Justice

Your Honors:

The undersigned respectfully informs the Honorable Court that Joseph Ejercito Estrada, is permanently incapable of performing the duties of his office resulting in his permanent disability to govern and serve his unexpired term. Almost all of his Cabinet members have resigned and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have withdrawn their support for Joseph Ejercito Estrada. Civil Society has likewise refused to recognize him as President.

In view of this, I am assuming the position of President of the Republic of the Philippines. Accordingly, I would like to take my oath as President of the Republic of the Philippines before the Honorable Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., today, 20 January 2001, at 12:00 noon, at the EDSA Shrine, Quezon City, Metro Manila.

May I have the honor to invite all the members of the Honorable Court to attend the oath-taking.

20 January 2001 (12:30 PM) Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo takes her oath as President.

20 January 2001 (2:30 PM) Reyes and Calimlim escort Estrada and the rest of his family out of Malacanang.

THE GLORIAGATE CRISIS has enveloped every major institution of Philippine society -- the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Congress and Senate, the Media, and throughout December, the Philippine Military. In the latter case there has been a quick succession of disturbing events involving the former AFP Comptroller General Garcia, who has been court-martialled and stands accused of plundering some P303 million pesos while acting as a bagman for other military and civilian leaders; the declaration of Gen. Fortunato Abat of a revolutionary transition government; the escape of Oakwood "mutineer" Capt. Nicanor Faeldon; and the public accusations against the Philippine Air Force by Col. Efren Daquil, which was yesterday's headline and breaking television news story. Gloriagate threatens to devastate them all in some future explosion of destiny, wills and agendas. Undoubtedly the roots of this crisis lie deep in the events that unfolded five years ago, in January 2001 in what is still quaintly called "the Edsa II People Power Revolution" (you know: "those peaceful people power events that overthrow corrupt and dishonest leaders.")

The Nay-Sayers (like me) would say Edsa-II was actually a perfect storm of unconstitutional action by parties in self-interest -- namely, a Vice President eager to take the Presidency for herself; a Chief of Staff who went with the irreversible Winner he saw in a political fight to the finish; abetted by politicians who lost to Joseph Estrada in 1998; egged on by moralists in the Catholic Church and Civil Society, all of whom hated Erap for many right and wrong reasons; and aided at a critical moment by a Chief Justice who had just lost control of the biggest political trial in Philippine history. The genius in the "Edsa-II People Power Revolution" amounts to a clever JUDICIAL COUP D'ETAT under the cover of a "civilian-military uprising" Such roots have produced much rotten and crooked timber, and in the crisis called Gloriagate, many who found themselves in the anti Erap forces then, find themselves among the anti-GMA forces now. This includes such stalwarts as President Cory Aquino, Senate President Frank Drilon, the Hyatt Ten cabinet secretaries, and these upright citizens.

The most significant and persistent themes employed to rationalize the Military's actions in the Edsa II people power events are exactly the same ones employed by the judicial activists in and out of the Supreme Court to justify their wilful aberration from the clear mandates of the Constitution in the matter of Presidential succession, and the same yet as that employed by Jaime Cardinal Sin and the Civil Society moralists. All have justified the MEANS they employed to attain the END of deposing the despicable Joseph Estrada by CLAIMING THEY JUST WANTED TO PREVENT VIOLENCE.

I think this claim is basically a RED HERRING. Any claim that a threat of violence existed grievous enough to justify ignoring the Constitutional provisions on Presidential succession and the integrity of the military chain of command, would be quite overdramatic and exaggerated. Most of the middle and upper class demonstrators at the Edsa Shrine, including large contingents from private and public schools were hardly violence prone. As for the Militant leftists, their threats to do violence have been perennial and unchanging. The best explanation is the simplest one. Edsa II was a COUP that turned a Mutiny into a Revolution and the Constitution into a worthless scrap of paper. It was not VIOLENCE they were trying to prevent, but the inevitable petering out of the demonstrations. They merely decided to strike while the iron was hot with the Supreme Court in on the plot.




Your article on the military "withdrawal of support", a.k.a. militarily as MUTINY is outstanding. It should be kept as an official record of sorts but also distributed to schools and discussed.

Am thinking right off the bat - your article is a documentary, succint but complete. It would make for a great social studies course or something like that beginning with our high school students because this very same document could spark off our children's education in politics, governance or moral values, i.e., what is right or wrong. They should use it as a basis for classroom debates (just as we did when I was in high school) and may even be a the basis for students to formally begin studying what good governance is all about. (We should introduce this course in the Philippines to young students/pupils NOW!)

This mutuniy issue also reminds me of the time when a group of journalists were about to file (I believe they were H Tiu Laurel, Jake Macasaet, Lito Banayo, Ducky Paredes, N C Olivares, perhaps w/ Ellen Tordesillas(?)) a case against Angie Reyes, et al. I wrote to Tong Laurel (whom I'd already met in Manila) to modify their charge sheet because I told him the charge of coup d'état wouldn't stand since there was no specific violence committed to overthrow Erap. I insisted with him that they should charge Angie Reyes, et al with mutiny - particularly after Angie Reyes' statement right after his meeting with the other generals.

Ducky Paredes published one of my lengthy missives in his column where I outlined specifications on mutiny and coup d'état and told him that both France and the UK military have an obscure but still existing law on punishment against military people who commit mutiny - DEATH.

Tong Laurel said he would convince his friends to change but, alas, he wrote back saying, it was too late.

Pity! Not that it would have made a difference in the scheme of things but the charge of MUTINY could perhaps been tackled a great deal longer in court than the coup d'état charge which was booted out promptly for lack of technical legal merit.

Amadeo said...

Truly, this one is for the books.

And five years later, with a sharper hindsight honed by lessons of succeeding events up to and including Gloriagate, that initial brush-off against constitutional processes may have proved to be too costly for everybody.

And I share any collective mea culpa, for I also ran with the crowd who whispered in the wind prior to the 2004 elections that it should be okay for GMA to cheat when necessary, just so another movie luminary, like an FPJ, could never again become president of the country.

And now the sin of yesterday has come home to roost. And continues to shake and to question the political stability and credibility of the country.

More power to you!

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

Bravo DJB! You've done it again! Thank you for this document. It clears a lot of things.
It warms my heart to read amadeo's sharing "any collective mea culpa" of those who went with gma "to prevent", in the words of Dinky Soliman, "another actor from becoming President of the Philippines."
DJB, after reading your article I can't help but recall what my lolo use to say: "Para tayong kumuha ng bato at ipinukpok sa ating ulo." And the next word of the old man rankles: "GAGO!"

Jon Mariano said...

History usually clears up a lot of things. DJB's and others' accounts/articles will definitely be discussed and looked into. Something like a Zaide vs Constantino history books discussed in history subjects in high school and college.

Good work DJB.