Saturday, March 1, 2008

A peek at EDSA 1

In February 1986, from across the Pacific Ocean ( I
was then living in Mexico) there were disquieting
reports of restlessness in the Philippine Military
attributed to the RAM-YOU (Reformed Armed Forces
Movement-Young Officers Union), a somewhat covert
group of idealistic officers. I was sent to Manila by
a Mexican news daily to cover what turned out to be
the last days of the Marcos regime.

Upon arrival in Manila, some friends from the
Left suggested that I attend Cardinal Jaime Sin’s
press conference at the Archbishop’s Palace in
Mandaluyong and that I should ask the Cardinal’s
staff to get me an appointment with the RAM. What an
astonishing troika, I thought, clerico/ military
fascist/ Left, a political slogan come true. Could
Marcos survive that?

The day after the Cardinal’s Press conference I
received a phone call and was told to go to the
Ministry of Defense Office at Camp Aguinaldo where a
certain Capt. Rex Robles would be waiting for me. The
anti-Marcos RAM, holding office at the Defense
Ministry? They will never believe this in Mexico, I

Rex Robles turned out to be a mustachioed,
youngish gentleman dressed in a flowered shirt and
tan slacks of the finest twill. He was relaxed,
expansive and when I introduced myself he offered his
hand and confirmed his identity. Somehow, I felt he
expected me to comment on his sartorial informality
so I obliged and told him that I had expected a
military rebel to be dressed in general issue
fatigues, with at least a light hand gun tucked in
his waistband. Obviously, the message was that the
RAM was in absolute control of the situation . As
soon as we were seated, an aide brought in two
steaming hot , luscious mouth-watering Giant Siopaos
from Ma Mon Lluk, which I found impossible to resist,
deprived as I was of such delicacies in Mexico city.

After the interview, Capt. Robles regaled me
with stories about how First Lady Imelda Marcos would
invite the RAM to Malacanang when she heard about
demoralization in the ranks due to lack of equipment,
uniforms, boots, starvation pay and poor living
conditions. Mrs. Marcos gave them lessons on
self-reliance, Rex said rather significantly. Perhaps
he was just being facetious but the message was clear
enough, the Marcos government was neglecting a vital
sector of his support network.

In retrospect, the demands of the RAM-YOU then
were no different from those of the Oakwood, Bicutan
and Peninsula Hotel mutineers. Yesterday, the Armed
Forces conducted a Unity Walk from the EDSA 1 shrine
to Camp Aguinaldo. Reportedly spontaneous, the march
did not include any significant civilian elements, in
contrast to what happened at EDSA during those fateful
days in February, twenty-two years ago.

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