It was a sudden invitation to the Hardcore Runners to offer a “runabout” for President Cory Aquino on the day of her burial. It was supposed to be a minimum of 50-Km run around Metro Manila but due to sudden “meetings” for the day and plan for the runners to conserve their strength in preparation for the Baguio City MILO Eliminations this coming Sunday, it was decided to have a run of about 20 kilometers, rain or shine! The assembly time was set at 5:00 AM of August 5 at the ROX, Bonifacio High Street and the runners arrived one by one. Finally, we assembled a group of 7 runners—Jonel aka Bugobugo; Jerry Karundeng aka High Altitude; Lester Choayap; Francisco Lapira; BR; Mari Javier; & Kim O Connell. Our run started at 5:20 AM with the plan to run at least a 20K distance.
After running for about 1 1/2 kilometers, we met Sir Amado aka Reinier6666 whom I thought to be going back to where he started already. He was too early for his daily workout and I thought he was at the ULTRA Oval Track as it was his weekday run. I guess, he was also doing his personal tribute run for the former President. We continued our slow and steady run at Lawton Avenue despite the strong rains and wind. Our plan was to reach NAIA 3 and have our turn-around point at the “big circle/rotunda” before the entrance of the said airport terminal. Since it was a “runabout”, we expected to have “stops” for photo-ops and we did just like that.
While passing along the Headquarters Philippine Army along Lawton Avenue, I tried to recall those times when the former President Cory Aquino was still a housewife when she arrived from the United States after former Senator Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in August 21, 1983. One thing led to another— Agrava Commission was created to investigate the killing; RAM-AFP was silently organized within the military & constabulary; former President Marcos was secretly treated for a kidney illness that he needed to have his regular dialysis treatments; former First Lady Imelda Marcos & AFP Chief of Staff Fabian Ver were suspected to be the ones holding the power of the government; former Pres Marcos was being suspected as the “mastermind” in the killing of Sen Ninoy; a campaign period for a “snap election” for the Presidency was declared; Cory Aquino was pushed by the people & opposition and challenged Ferdie Marcos; Scandal in the NAMFREL canvassing of votes; Marcos was declared the Winner but Public Protests & Rallies started to grow; Cory visited Cebu & Mindanao while an attempted Coup D’ Etat was discovered by the Palace; Senior Officers of the AFP were presented to the Media as Coup Plotters; Defense Secretary Enrile, as the Suspected Mastermind of the Coup, asked the Public and the Church to protect him and the “coup plotters” from being arrested; PC Commanding General Fidel Ramos joined Secretary Enrile; sea of people occupied EDSA and finally, it culminated to the very famous “People’s Power Revolt of 1986”. Former Pres Marcos, Family & entourage left the country for Hawaii and Pres Cory Aquino took her oath as the new President and later declared a “revolutionary” government. And the rest was history.
I am proud to recall that I was then an intelligence officer assigned with the National Intelligence & Security Authority (NISA) in Region 1 covering the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Pangasinan, Benguet, and Mountain Province. After Ninoy’s assassination, I was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for my “foreign schooling” and I was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the country. When I arrived back to the country, the RAM-AFP was already active in its recruitment but I stayed to my duties in Region 1.
After the People’s Power Revolt of 1986, I opted to be assigned to the Philippine Military Academy as Tactical Officer & Instructor together with almost 40 officers formerly assigned with units/offices identified with the former President Marcos. My assignment at the Academy brought back my passion in running after a year of complete rest. It was here where I introduced the “1,000-Km Club” to my officers and men and I can still recall those weekend runs we did from PMA to San Fabian Beach in Pangasinan via Kennon Road or to Bauang Beach via Naguilian Road. Those were good 35-50+Km runs with limited water and food supply along the way! But lots of food and beer at the finish line!
The following were the things that kept coming back to my memory while I was running last Wednesday and the things I could remember during the administration of President Cory:
1) I’ve never been assigned to a unit in the AFP to personally meet or shake her hand up to the point that I’ve never seen her in person! I guess, she limited her exposure to the military due to the coup d’etat attempts to her administration.
2) I was then the Chief Intelligence Officer of PMA when the PMA Bombing Incident happened, six days before Pres Cory’s visit to PMA for the Graduation Ceremony of PMA Class 1987. It resulted to the death of one Senior Officer ( a Colonel & a graduate of the US Air Force Academy) and the injury of other officers and civilian employees. It is still unsolved. If not for my love in running, I should had been in the place where the bombing incident happened. I was then the Officer-In-Charge of the PMA Running Team that participated in one of the weekend runs in Manila and my team arrived at the camp in the morning of the day of the incident. Instead of going directly to the Grandstand for a Graduation ceremony rehearsal, I dropped by my office to sign or act on documents and clearances. I was in my office when the bombing incident happened. Since the security of all the places/venues where the President would be going as scheduled were turned-over to the Presidential Security and security people from Camp Aguinaldo, the responsibility of providing security on said places were not given to the authorities of the Academy!
3) Seven (7) Coup D’ Etat attempts of the military tried to unseat Pres Cory during her administration but I’ve never been a part of any of these destabilization moves. While I was assigned in PMA, one of the “RAM leaders” who was then assigned also in PMA, tried to recruit me as part of his team from Baguio City. I refused to join his group. The said officer led a group of officers and PMA cadets in an attempt to provide support to the “raiders” of Camp Aguinaldo in 1987 while I remained at Fort Del Pilar with the Commandant of Cadets and the Superintendent. Since then, I got the trust and confidence of the PMA’s leadership.
4) I was re-assigned in Mindanao in the middle part of 1989 and I thought it was the end of my running. I was fortunate to be assigned to a senior officer who goes out every night to “eat & drink”; sleep at midnight or 1:00 AM; and wake up at 4:30 AM to run the mountain trails of Pulacan, Pagadian City, Zamboanga Del Sur for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. This was my daily ritual until the December 1989 Bloodiest Coup Attempt against Pres Cory.
5) The Area Commander in Mindanao was designated as the Commanding General of the Philippine Army as a result of a massive relief of Commanders involved in the December 1989 Coup attempt. As most of the key leaders of the coup attempt went “underground” and due to the need to counter the efforts of the military destabilizers, a “special unit” was organized to locate and arrest these suspected destabilizers within the military. I was made to report to Manila by the newly-designated Commanding General and he designated me as the deputy commander of such unit and later became as its Commander until such time that Pres Cory turned over her administration to the winner of the Presidential Elections in 1992. Since the creation of this “special unit”, there were no longer destabilization plots within the military against Pres Cory’s administration up to the time she ended her term.
On hindsight, we, the Filipino people gained so much freedom and democracy after the people deposed the dictatorship and “iron-fist” administration of former President Marcos and we accepted the leadership of former Pres Cory which is the embodiment of transparency, honesty, understanding, humility, and efforts to look for the welfare of the greater Filipinos. The freedom we gained resulted to the following personal opinion and observations that happened during President Cory’s administration:
1) The resurgence of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army was attributed during the administration of Pres Cory when he brought back Jose Ma. Sison to the country from exile.
2) The MNLF Faction of Nur Misuari was revived and he was made to return to the Philippines after a self-imposed exile in the Middle East.
3) Her administration never attempted to use the Bataan Nuclear Plant despite its approval to use it by experts (according to the book of the late former Secretary of Energy Velasco)
4) Do you still remember those months of daily “brownouts” and “blackouts” where almost all the establishments were forced to buy their own generators?
5) Have you observed that The Urban Poor and “professional” squatters in Metro Manila grew exponentially because of the Lina Law enacted and passed during the term of Pres Cory?
6) It resulted to the death of those efficient “Love Bus” plying in almost all parts of Metro Manila & Suburbs. The demise of the PNR System also followed. If we could have prevented those bus transportation franchises with second-hand buses from China plying on our main streets in Manila, we could have a better traffic flow of vehicles.
7) Of course, it was the end of the very successful Project Gintong Alay in Sports. Winning as Overall 1st Runner-Up in the 1986 ASEAN Games was a result of athletes produced by Project Gintong Alay of the former administration.
8) We fought against nepotism during the dictatorship of Pres Marcos, but look what is happening around us with the members of the family of political clans being elected and/or designated to government positions. When will we stop those “Kamag-anak Inc.”?
9) Too much freedom of speech and freedom of expression to the point of accusing somebody through the media. There are times when news are just plain “gossips” where we “judge” the accused through public opinion.
10) Too much laws, ordinances, rules & regulations enacted but weak in their implimentation.
11) We had a new Constitution in 1987 which up to this time we are trying to change. The Constitution gave us more freedom and it gave us also more Congressmen!
12) Have you observed that those “big shopping malls” started to grow like mushrooms during the administration of Pres Cory? I am not insinuating that Pres Cory was connected with these Malls but I have a strong suspicion that the money used were money left behind by the Marcoses with their “dummies”. Since I am from the North, I always think that the only road/infrastructure she made during her administration was the Dau-Sta. Rita Extension of the NLEX.
13) There was no MILO Marathon for four (4) years during the administration of Pres Cory.
14) Lastly, it was Pres Cory Aquino who signed the law on the Bases Conversion Act which created the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) whose primary mission was to sell all the military camps within Metro Manila with the end-view of relocating the Headquarters of the different Major Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines outside Metro Manila for the simple reason that the AFP was suspected to be a “threat” to her administration due to the numerous coup attempts. The proceeds of these sales were supposed to go to the “modernization” of the AFP. That’s the reason why we have “The Fort”/Market! Market!/new St Luke’s Hospital/International Schools/Heritage Park/McKinley Hill at the former Fort Bonifacio AREA and Marriott Hotel & NAIA 3 at the Camp Villamor AREA. As to where those proceeds of the sale went, I really do not know where did they go! In fairness to Pres Cory, such sale transactions were made after her administration.
Thank you very much, President Cory for giving me a chance to have served you as my President & Commander-In-Chief!!! The 20.5 Kilometers that I and my friends had offered to you may not be enough to equal the pain you have gone through on those last few days and for those years you served the country but I know that such distance and effort for the said run is enough to pay tribute to what you have contributed to the country as well as for the whole world and humanity.
My snappy salute!
(Note: Photos During the “Runabout” Courtesy of Bugobugo85 & High Altitude)