Marcos Detects a Plot

When it happens, it happens so fast you can’t believe it’s happening, and only afterwards can you truly catch up with your perceptions and your emotions. It began on a Saturday and ended the next Tuesday, and I doubt that there was anybody in the Philippines who really felt abreast of events. I wasn’t. I was in Baguio when the Minister of Defence Juan Ponce Enrile and the Chief of National Police General Fidel Ramos, having supposedly learned that they were about to be arrested, took refuge in the Ministry of Defence at Camp Aguinaldo. And even the next morning I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the news. ‘You see what I was saying last night,’ said a friend, ‘Enrile could be the next president.’ We wondered whether Philip Habib, Reagan’s latest envoy to the country, had tipped him the wink.

But if it looked like a coup it also looked ominously abortive. Ramos and Enrile were holed up with a small number of men. It sounded as if they were scared as well as cornered. Ramos had said: ‘I am calling on the people of the world to help us restore decency, justice, freedom and democracy in this land. There is no justice, no decency, no real freedom, much less democracy in this helpless land. Nobody has indicated any help to us. We are going to help ourselves even with our bare hands.’ He had fought for his country, he said: ‘I don’t have plenty of medals but the hour of reckoning is here and now for me. When you serve your country you have to take risks. Anyway, if I die tonight or tomorrow, Mr Marcos will also die some day. He has no immortality, but at least my heart is clean.’

Enrile has spoken about a hit list which had been drawn up at Malacañang, a list which, according to a report in the London Times, featured 3,000 people. The opposition was going to be arrested and liquidated. In withdrawing his support from Marcos, Enrile claimed that in his own region, Cagayan Valley, the KBL had cheated by some 350,000 votes. When asked whether Marcos might reimpose martial law, Enrile had said bitterly that martial law had never been abolished. This was all very striking, coming from the administrator of martial law himself.