Those push-ups weren’t a punishment
INQUIRER’S OCT. 13 editorial referred to “The ‘punishment’ of push-ups that President Fidel V. Ramos imposed on the men mentored by Gringo Honasan …”
Despite the availability of adequate reference materials and ample time to verify the facts, many people’s information on the event (the July 1986 Manila Hotel takeover by Marcos loyalists led by then Vice President Arturo Tolentino) remain superficial and, in some aspects, incorrect. Please allow us to set the record straight once and for all:
1. The decision not to hold the Manila Hotel fiasco participants liable was not made by then-Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. It was President Corazon Aquino who issued on July 7, 1986, an ultimatum to the rebels: “Surrender within 24 hours. No criminal charges will be filed if surrender is effected within this time limit.” This decision was arrived at after the President’s consultation with and upon recommendation by the Cabinet (of which FVR was not even a member). Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile initially recommended a 72-hour time frame, but the majority opted for a shorter period.
2. After the President’s ultimatum, Vice President Tolentino and his companions began negotiating with government representatives at the Army and Navy Club, after which, realizing that theirs was a lost cause, they did not even bother to return to the Manila Hotel.
3. On July 8, 1986, at the Fort Bonifacio Army gymnasium, Minister Enrile and General Ramos accepted the surrender of Marcos loyalist troops. Enrile said: “We are not going to humiliate, punish or embarrass any one of you. I stand on this even to the point of gambling my position to see to it that what we have promised you will be fulfilled. There will be no retaliation against you. We shall consider this as past.”
4. FVR then ordered the troops present to do the “Army dozen” (the military’s routine morning exercise consisting of sets of “push-ups,” “squat jumps,” etc.) and joined them. When a media reporter asked what it was all about, Lt. Col. Jaime Canatoy of the AFP Civil Relations Service, who was present during the proceedings, explained that FVR gave the order not as a punishment to the surrenderees, but to defuse the tension in the highly charged atmosphere and to get the soldiers on both sides to take their fingers off the triggers and lay down their high-powered firearms—and it worked. One wrong move from either side would have turned the volatile situation into a bloody confrontation.
The foregoing details were verified by the Davide Fact-Finding Commission created under Republic Act 6832 and reflected in its final report. The same details were also narrated in “Demokrasya at Kudeta,” a well-documented history written by retired Col. Gaudencio San Juan (August 2005).
—NICK A. LAGUSTAN, spokesperson of former President Fidel V. Ramos
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