untrue story, unsung heroes, of EDSA
25 years later and mainstream media still have to get straight the (hi)story of marcos in the time of EDSA. it’s almost like the bad old days are back and envelopes are going around in aid of reinventing the marcos image. or maybe it’s just pure ignorance, no time to read, no time for critical thinking?
i was half-listening to anc yesterday afternoon, pia hontiveros and coco alcuaz were annotating from studio the video from the edsa 25 show, i was multi-tasking, checking out fb and twitter, when i heard pia say something like, buti na lang marcos did not give the order to shoot, otherwise it would not have been a bloodless revolution (correct me if i heard wrong) and my ears ears perked up. of course they started talking of that tv footage when marcos denied ver permission to bomb the rebel camp, kesyo siyempre how could marcos have given permission with the world watching. buti na lang na at some point coco wondered if that marcos-ver exchange was “to some extent staged” — good for him — except that pia had nothing to say to that, and it ended there.
just a half hour or so later, i had moved to teleradyo‘s dos por dos, and omg gerry baja and anthony taberna were rattling off the same story, na according to taberna ay kinonfirm pa raw ni senator honasan? really? when? say it isn’t so, senator.
kalokah. do these people read at all? if not my edsa books, then the daily broadsheets man lang? the inquirer had a story on it yesterday mismo: How revolt was won: Turning points by Alexander Aguirre, chief of operations of the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police during the EDSA revolt.
on day 3, the same early morning that col. antonio sotelo defected to the rebel side, his squad landing some 7 sikorksy gunships in crame, over at the libis end of camp aguinaldo the crowds were tear-gassed by anti-riot and dispersal police. which was mentioned in pia’s vox populi tuesday night, but they only went as far as the story of the wind suddenly shifting and blowing the tear gas fumes back into the faces of the anti-riot troopers (laughter), as in miracle daw talaga. what nobody told was that the troopers were wearing gas masks and that they were able to clear the way for the marines led by col. braulio balbas who broke through the east wall of Camp Aguinaldo and took up positions facing the rebel Camp Crame.
… Marcos forces were able to move into Camp Aguinaldo by employing the First Provincial Tactical Marine Regiment under Balbas. The still sleepy people manning the barricades at Santolan Road were caught by surprise as the column was preceded and assisted by a CDC battalion that dispersed the crowd.
By 8:30 a.m., the unit of Balbas, armed with cannons and mortars, had established their positions at the vicinity of the KKK building in Camp Aguinaldo just opposite the rebel headquarters.
Looking down from the high ground of Aguinaldo’s golf course, Balbas had awesome firepower “boresighted” on the rebel headquarters only 200 meters away: 3 howitzers, 28 mortars, 6 rocket launchers, 6 machine guns, and 1000 rifles. [Alfred McCoy et al, Veritas Extra October 1986]
At about 9:10 a.m., (Marine commander) Tadiar received an order from the Army Operations Center to direct Balbas to open fire on Crame. The center said the order came from Malacañang. This was a grave order. Tadiar tried to call up Malacañang for confirmation, but he could not get through by phone or radio. So, he went to Malacañang to personally verify it and Gen. Fabian Ver confirmed the order.
He relayed the confirmation to Balbas, but the latter said that if he fired his cannons and mortars many people could get killed. Tadiar then told him to use his discretion. Accordingly, as the Marines would not like the innocent civilians killed, they never fired their weapons.
in fact, marcos did not cancel the kill-order until 3:30 a.m. of day 4, according to cecilio arillo in Breakaway (1986, page 108).
FORT BONIFACIO, 3:30 AM ► The Marines were jubilant over the news that Marcos had just cancelled his order for them to attack Camp Crame using mortars.
as for that marcos-ver exchange on live tv that same morning of day 3, and marcos’s alleged heroism, which i first read about in America’s Boy by James Hamilton Paterson, here’s an excerpt from my book review published in the inquirer in 1999:
In defense of his view that Ferdinand Marcos was a heroic, if tragic, figure in the time of EDSA, Paterson cites the “extraordinary” moment on live television when Marcos denied Fabian Ver permission to bomb the rebel camp that was then surrounded by human barricades. “To many of those who knew and worked with him,” Paterson writes, “this is still regarded as Marcos’s finest hour. It was the moment when, no matter what orders he might have given in the past in the name of expediency, he refused to give the instinctive datu’s command that would have translated into wholesale slaughter.”
How romantic of Paterson, and how naïve, to fall for Marcos’s palabas. In fact, that extraordinary exchange was pure sarsuela, a (failed) ploy to scare the people away from EDSA, and, incidentally, a response to Pope John Paul II’s plea for a non-violent resolution of the conflict, and to the US Congress’s threat to cut off all economic and military aid to the Philippines should violence break out.
In fact, Marcos and Ver had long gone ballistic and given the kill-order but the Marines, led by General Artemio Tadiar (at EDSA/Ortigas on Day 2) and Colonel Braulio Balbas (in Camp Aguinaldo on Day 3), kept defying these orders. When Marcos had that exchange with Ver on nationwide TV, he was just being his wily old self, making the best of a bad situation by pretending to be the good guy (look, ma, no bloodshed), hoping to fool Washington D.C. and the Vatican, if not the Filipino people, a little while longer.
i have no doubt that if balbas had followed orders and bombed camp crame, marcos would have blamed it on him and tadiar, using that televised exchange with ver as proof that he had given no orders to shoot.
fvr himself, in a 2006 blogpost by ellen tordesillas, can’t seem to decide whether or not marcos gave orders to fire. first he says
in the next breath he tells of balbas being given orders to fire at crame from aguinaldo.
In the case of Balbas, he got so many orders to fire, fire, fire. He kept delaying. He said, ‘Sir, there are so many many civilians. Sir, we do not have enough ammunition. He did not give the order to fire the artillery.”
balbas and tadiar were the unsung heroes of EDSA. every year i wonder why the media have never sought them out to tell their story. maybe because they were nevertheless regarded as loyalists, because they never defected to the rebel side and continued to protect, but not follow the orders of, the president? [Breakaway 89]
but wasn’t that infinitely more heroic than defecting and then hiding behind the skirts of nuns and other civilians?