Philippine Coup Attempts

A coup d’état or simply coup is a sudden, unconstitutional deposition of government power, usually led by a small group of the existing state to replace the opposed government with another type of government, either civil or military.
During Ferdinand E. Marcos’s presidency, a lot of corruption arose. During his second term, Marcos abolished the 1935 Philippine Constitution and in 1972 established martial law in order to retain his power.  He embezzled government money shortly after his establishment of martial law. Marcos also ordered the military to kill any political opposition against him. It is speculated that Marcos had arranged the Benigno Aquino, Jr. assassination in order to “kill” the competition.

After pressures from Washington in 1985, Marcos decided to hold snap elections to build legitimacy within his regime. The growing opposition of Marcos pushed for Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino to run for office, which she did. Marcos’s official election canvasser claimed that Marcos won the election, however the (unofficial) National Movement for Free Elections claimed that Aquino won the most votes. The Filipino people were fed up with Marcos’s corruption of abuse of power. Marcos fled to Hawaii in exile because of the People Power Revolution and Aquino, the true winner of the snap election, assumed control over the Philippines.

On December 1, 1989, Colonel Gregorio Honassan, General Edgardo Abenina, and retired General Jose Ma. Zumel staged an alliance of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement and of troops loyal to Marcos. During the coup, the rebels took control over Villamor Airbase, Fort Bonifacio, Sangley Airbase, Mactan Airbase in Cebu, and portions of Camp Aguinaldo.From Sangley Airbase, the rebels were able to launch planes and helicopters that bombarded Malacañang Palace (the Philippine White House),Camp Crane and Camp Aguinaldo. By December 3, 1989, government forces were able to recapture all forts and military bases except for Mactan Airbase. The rebels retreating from Fort Bonifacio occupied twenty-two high rise buildings  along the Ayala business area in Makati. The rebels fought hard until December 9th, when the rebels surrendered the Mactan Airbase while the Makati occupation ended earlier on December 7th. The coup left 99 Filipinos dead, including 50 civilians, and 570 Filipinos wounded.

The United States supported the Aquino government and sent aircraft carriers and fighter planes from Clark Air Base in support. The American planes had clearances to shoot down any rebel planes at their base.

Following the coup, President Aquino put together the Fact-Finding Commission to investigate and provide a full report on the coup attempts against her regime. She put Hilario Davide in charge of the investigation and his report is known as the Davide Commission Report. The Davide Commission Report claimed that the coup arose because of  perceived deficiencies in the Aquino government in areas as corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lenient treatment of communist insurgents. The Davide Report also suggested reform, including the establishment of a civilian national police force, a crackdown on corruption in the military, a performance review of appointive government officials, reforms in the process of military promotions, a review of election laws in time for the 1992 presidential elections. The coup attempts show how much more successful a legitimate government (Aquino) is than an illegitimate government (Marcos).

– Alexander Nubla


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