Coup Leader Vows To Continue Struggle; General Killed in Copter Crash
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The army colonel who led last week’s failed coup attempt vowed in a message broadcast today to continue fighting what he called the ″misguided and incapable″ leadership of President Corazon Aquino.
Presidential spokesman Teodoro Benigno, responding to the broadcast, called the mutiny a ″naked power grab by a man using honeyed words to mask the military dictatorship he would (have) set up to rule the Philippines.″
Meanwhile, hundreds of air force soldiers met with Vice President Salvador Laurel and indicated they were not satisfied with their commanders. The troops asked that the 1,500 soldiers who took part in the mutiny be pardoned.
In another development, a helicopter carrying two Philippine generals crashed today in a remote area of Quezon province, about 50 miles southeast of Manila, killing one of them, the military said.
Radio station DZXL quoted military officials as saying the aircraft was flying over an area where Communist rebels operate. Military officials said initial reports gave no reason for the crash.
Military officials said Brig. Gen. Eugenio Ocampo, constabulary commander for southern Luzon, was killed and his companion, Brig. Gen. Antonio Samonte, the army commander for southern Luzon, survived. His condition was unknown.
Col. Gregorio ″Gringo″ Honasan, breaking a weeklong silence, said in the taped message he had not intended to harm the president in the mutiny he led.
Honasan, who had been blamed for several earlier coup plots against Mrs. Aquino’s 18-month administration, led 1,500 rebel troops in attacks on the presidential palace and key military and broadcast installations Aug. 28 that left at least 53 people dead and hundreds of others wounded.
Diplomatic and military sources say he is hiding in the Manila area or northern Luzon, where an unknown number of rebel soldiers have reportedly regrouped.
The 15-minute message was broadcast by the private radio station DZRH a day after police arrested Honasan’s brother Don for illegal weapons possession and seized arms including a grenade launcher and thousands of rounds of ammunition from a building reportedly owned by opposition leader Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Enrile denied any knowledge of the guns and ammunition seized Friday from the Sigma Security and Protective Agency. Honasan was security chief to Enrile before Mrs. Aquino fired Enrile as defense minister in November after the military uncovered an alleged coup plot by military officers close to him.
Honasan, who fled last week as loyal troops recaptured the armed forces general headquarters from rebel, said in the broadcast the attacks were ″an initial necessary step to set a new direction for our country and people.″
He said Mrs. Aquino’s government was indecisive against an 18-year Communist insurgency in the Philippines and was duplicating the corruption and incompetence of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
″This we cannot allow, and we shall not allow it,″ Honasan said.
Mrs. Aquino, whose son was wounded by rebels during the mutiny, has charged the rebels wanted to kill her and her family in their attempt to seize power. But Honasan said they had no intention of harming her.
″It was politically untenable for us to do so given a leader that is perceived to be popular, sincere and committed, no matter how misguided and incapable she may be,″ he said.
He described the death toll, which included 22 civilians, as ″regrettable and inexcusable″ and said that when loyal troops counterattacked, his forces decided not to fight back because enough blood had been shed.
″It may have been a fatal tactical error on our part, but it was a gamble we were prepared to take to save more lives,″ he said.
Honasan said he mounted the mutiny because the military leadership was not truly assertive against policies by the civilian government that were viewed as anti-military. If armed forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos had acted as decisively in fighting Communists or formulating the civilian government’s anti-insurgency policy as he did in quelling the military mutiny, Honasan said, ″this whole affair could have been avoided.
″To our fellow soldiers, the struggle continues for those who have not yet awakened and come to terms with themselves,″ he said. ″For as long as there are some who do not awaken to the hardships we bear or the hardships our children will bear in the future, we will continue the fight until everybody is one with the spirit of our struggle.″
A few hours after the broadcast, Laurel met with 1,500 officers and enlisted men of the Philippine Air Force in a dialogue he said Mrs. Aquino had asked him to conduct to curb unrest in the ranks.
The troops cheered and applauded each time a soldier stood up to suggest that the mutineers be pardoned.
A hush swept through the gymnasium when Laurel asked the soldiers if they were satisfied with their leaders, whom Honasan had criticized as incompetent. A chorus of boos rang out when one soldier stood up to say he was satisfied.
During the 90-minute dialogue, soldiers took turns to air greivances, which included low pay, a perceived softness in dealing with communist insurgents, corruption and alleged anti-military members of Mrs. Aquino’s Cabinet.
Laurel’s reception at the base, parts of which were occupied by the rebels, was yet another sign of the depth of opposition in the ranks both to the government and the pro-Aquino armed forces leadership.
Aided by Honasan, Enrile and Ramos, Mrs. Aquino was swept to power in a civilian-military uprising in February 1986. Marcos, who had ruled 20 years, fled to Hawaii.