Marcos’ Man Tolentino Declares Himself President
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Arturo Tolentino, the running mate of ousted strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, declared himself acting president Sunday and holed up in a owntown luxury hotel with a small cordon of soldiers.
Early Monday, about 12 hours after the revolt began, about 200 of the estimated 300 soldiers with Tolentino surrendered to troops loyal to President Corazon Aquino, military spokesman Col. Emiliano Templo said on government radio.
Eight armored personnel carriers quickly moved into a park outside the Manila Hotel in what the military said was intended to secure the building where Tolentino remained with the remaining rebel troops.
It was not known exactly how many soldierss still backed Tolentino, who said he was acting on orders from Marcos, but reporters said they counted fewer than 100 left at the hotel.
Mrs. Aquino’s executive secretary, Joker Arroyo, said in a television interview that four generals had joined the revolt, but did not identify them. Reporters saw only three at the hotel.
Templo quoted the soldiers who surrendered as saying they had been told they were being sent to Manila from their bases in nearby provinces to support Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and the armed forces chief, Gen. Fidel Ramos.
Enrile and Ramos immediately reaffirmed their loyalty to Mrs. Aquino when Tolentino made his move.
Enrile sent in emissaries to talk with the Tolentino people, saying,″We can solve this peacefully. What we are trying to do is avoid an encounter and violence. We will use cool heads so nobody will get hurt or embarrassed.″
Templo appealed to remaining troops to surrender, saying they would receive ″no penalty, no punishment.″
Mrs. Aquino, who was on a political trip to Cagayan de Oro, 510 miles south of the capital, discounted the 75-year-old Tolentino’s move as meaningless, but vowed to prosecute him for sedition.
″It’s best to ignore him,″ she said. ″He’s nobody to contend with. I respect him only because of his age.″
She said she had no plans to cut her trip short and still figures on returning to Manila on Monday.
In Washington, the State Department condemned the act of defiance and reiterated its ″strong support″ for the Aquino government.
Mrs. Aquino’s vice president, Salvador Laurel, was on an official visit to Spain.
Tolentino, Marcos’ running mate in fraud-tainted presidential elections last February, took the presidential oath at the luxurious Manila Hotel, a landmark building used by Gen. Douglas MacArthur as headquarters before and during World War II.
Tolentino said he acted on orders from Marcos, who fled the Philippines on Feb. 26 after a civilian-backed military rebellion and now is in exile in Hawaii.
Tolentino then holed up in the hotel, variously on the fifth and 14th floors, to confer with supporters. About 300 troops, apparently supportive of Tolentino’s challenge, were deployed in and around the hotel. Ribbons bearing Marcos’ campaign colors were tied to their gunbarrels.
As this went on, about 10,000 Marcos supporters staged a peaceful demonstration in a nearby park.
Enrile appeared on television and said government troops had encircled the seaside hotel ″to contain the problem.″
A private radio station broadcasting appeals by Marcos supporters for public support was ″immobilized,″ Enrile said.
″There is only one government in this country, and that’s the government of Cory Aquino,″ said Enrile, who with Ramos led the revolt that ousted Marcos after 20 years of authoritarian government.
In Honolulu, a spokesman for Marcos, Arturo Aruiza, said Sunday that since leaving the Philippines, Marcos had written Tolentino to tell his former running mate that, as the country’s vice president-elect, he should take over in Marcos’ absence.
Enrile sent a team of officers to talk with the rebels. According to Enrile aide Capt. Rex Robles the insurgents included Gen. Jose Maria Zumel, former superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy; Col. Rolando Abadilla, former Manila military intelligence chief, and Col. Dictador Alquiza, former Masbate provincial commander
Reporters spotted another general in uniform, Jaime Echeverria, inside the hotel. He commanded southern combat troops until being re-assigned to Manila after Mrs. Aquino took office.
Col. Jose Samonte, an Enrile emissary, told reporters, ″We have agreed to keep the lines of communication open.″
Hotel officials said about half of their estimated 300 guests moved to another hotel.
Ramos, who was with Mrs. Aquino, said the rebels did not have the support of the rest of the armed forces.
″They have taken the law in their own hands and are subject to the severest penalty under our military justice system,″ Ramos said.
Two hours after taking his oath before former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, Tolentino said he had begun forming a Cabinet. He said he kept Enrile as defense chief and also named him ″acting prime minister.″
″I have today proclaimed the re-establishment of the Philippine government under the constitution of 1973 in order to restore constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law throughout our country,″ said Tolentino.
He was referring to the constitution that allowed Marcos to rule with authoritarian powers until his overthrow.
Asked by reporters if he was willing to talk with Mrs. Aquino, he answered, ″Yes, that would be a good idea.″