EDSA 20: A military plan

"Malapit na ang lusob." Or how the tragedy of Gringo Honasan is repeated as dangerous farce by Lt. Lawrence San Juan, Magdalo mutineer

I’ve been asked a few questions or received some (negative) feedback about the prominent role Gringo Honasan, the charismatic leader of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement in 1986, played in the EDSA 20 documentary. I can only say that, regardless of what we may think of the man who led the two most destructive coup attempts in our history (ask any historically minded economist, and he will tell you the economy is still recovering from the effects of the August 1987 and December 1989 coup attempts), he did play a leading role in Edsa. Giving him so much airtime, I thought, was only being true to the situation.

The "truth of the situation" is something I learned from Fr. Jose Blanco all those years ago (it was a central tenet of the creed of non-violence, one which fit neatly — the kairos! —  into the Ancient Greek philosophy Fr. Roque Ferriols was teaching at the same time). Because the idea was to tell a sort of oral history, it was important to allow Honsasan as much room as he needed to tell his story from his perspective.

It helped that he was extremely articulate (you can visualize the commas and the semi-colons in his speech).  And that he was candid and engaging. He would talk openly about, say, his group’s plan to attack Malacanang Palace (lusob) in December 1985, and then recall a personal moment (for instance, his goosebump experience while watching an anti-Marcos Apo concert, when the plan of attack was already in place). While over the 90-minute interview he proved inconsistent on a certain number of points (chiefly, on whether people power was part of the plan or not), there is no doubt that he had an integrated, "internalized" story to tell.

His charisma, his perfectionist approach to military discipline, his sense of bravado (comparing his 30 men with the 200 loyalist troops he expected to face inside the Palace, he waxes expansive: "Patas ang laban [It would have been a fair fight]," he said): I think it is important for the post-Edsa generation to realize what an effective leader he was.

It is even more important to realize, however, that even the best soldiers in the AFP can get it wrong, that the most carefully laid plans can be compromised. All that preparation, and what happened? The rebel forces ended up retreating to Camp Aguinaldo, to make a last stand.

Which brings me to Magdalo mutineer Lawrence San Juan. This morning I heard him on the radio with Ted Failon. I cannot believe how much airtime the ABS-CBN network (which of course includes dzMM and ANC) is giving him these days; does the network actually believe that this third-tier leader of a hopeless-coup-plan-turned-failed-mutiny represents the truth of the present situation?

San Juan announced, again, his group’s plan to remove President Arroyo (this mangkukulam or voodoo witch, he said, in an extended bit of revealing political analysis); he even set a date, saying something will happen this Friday (only the 20th anniversary of the first People Power revolution). When Failon asked whether he was giving away the element of surprise, he replied, curtly, in Filipino: We want to give those living near Malacanang a chance to get away from the coming violence.

This would be risible if it were not fraught with real danger. What recommends San Juan, or any Magdalo mutineer for that matter, as our country’s savior? That they were incompetent enough to botch their coup attempt in 2003? That they are two-faced enough to apologize, in public, to the President for their role in the mutiny a couple of years later? That they are hypocritical enough to lambaste corruption and cronyism in the military and yet depend on their own set of cronies and network of contacts in the military to escape detention or enjoy unusual privileges? That they are cowardly enough to find courage in their arms and makeshift bombs and other instruments of violence?

If they tell us they have the privilege of leading us into the future because they have laid their lives on the line, we should tell them: Other Filipinos also lay their lives on the line, daily, such as overseas workers who leave family and country behind to earn a decent but dangerous living abroad, but does that act of sacrifice entitle them to explode bombs and assassinate public officials?

Like Honasan and his men in 1986, San Juan and the gang that can’t think straight are in need of redemption.

PS. 3:45pm. As it turns out, it may not have been San Juan on the radio today. (Scroll down to paragraph 17.) According to AFP Chief of Staff Generoso Senga, the "real" San Juan was arrested early this morning, apparently while in a meeting with two NPA cadres.



Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics, Readings in Religion

3 responses to “EDSA 20: A military plan

  1. Very good documentary John. Production values were high.

    Gringo, articulate and charismatic, no doubt, but an “effective leader?”

    All of his coup attempts failed miserably.
    His attempts at an ideology and proposd programs of government are a mish-mash of motherhood statements. He’s all vigor, but little rigor.

  2. Hi Howie. I do agree with you, about his miserable track record when it came to the actual coup attempts. We can get an inkling of that (to give just one example) when he talked about the operations plan to attack Malacanang: a force of 30 men, versus 400 in the inner sanctum of the Palace? Sounds a little dicey to me.

    But he was effective in gathering soldiers and officers around him. Even the spectacular failure of the August 1987 coup did not diminish his capacity to recruit soldiers for the December 1989 attempt. I guess what I really wanted to say was: Hearing him speak at length gives us an idea of how soldiers and prospective plotters must have perceived him, in the 1980s.

  3. edgar j bandivas

    comments ko gringo wag siyang susuko dahil wala naman wastong ebedinsya puro lang
    lang katapangan ginamit ni arroyo eeeeeee…tingin kung kang grigo wala naman syang ginawang kamali-an,at wala naman napakita syang nag leader sa isang rebebilion batok kang arroyo.kung susuko sya hindi naman matiwala-an ang ating governo.
    ano na nangyayari sa oakwod wala parin hostisya.kulong parin.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s