Manila Rebels Surrender; Government Denies Deal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mutinous soldiers who launched an attempted coup one week ago agreed to surrender and return to barracks early today, ending the sixth and bloodiest coup attempt against Philippine President Corazon Aquino.

The dawn surrender came hours after Aquino declared a state of emergency throughout the Philippines to stem the deep political and economic damage.

She assumed broad powers to censor radio and TV broadcasts, take over public utilities, including transportation and power, and force private sector businesses to speed the flow of food, fuel and other basic commodities.

Chief government military negotiator Brig. Gen. Arturo Enrile said the government made no concessions to the rightwing rebels who have beseiged the Makati financial center, turning the high-rise commercial district into a free-fire zone.

"In the end, finally, reason prevailed," Enrile said of tense night-long negotiations. He said the government agreed the rebels "would be treated humanely, justly and fairly."

"Since they did this, they should be man enough to suffer the consequences," Enrile said. Asked if another coup was likely, he replied, "I can only cross my fingers."

Another negotiator said the goverment would probably court-martial 20 to 30 officers who launched the coup late last Thursday but that enlisted men would be pardoned. In previous coups, rank and file participants were let off with sentences ranging from 30 push-ups to Bible study classes.

The renegade Scout Ranger troops were allowed to take their weapons as they returned to Fort Bonifacio, headquarters of both the Army and Marines.

"The siege is over," said Malacanang Palace spokesman Adolfo Azcuna. "We are happy this is finally resolved."

"I believe the economy and political fabric of the country is still intact," Azcuna said. "The fundamentals are still there. The people are determined to join hands to rebuild from the damage."

However, rebels continued to hold the Mactan Air Base in Cebu province, about 325 miles south of Manila. Cebu is the economic success story of Aquino's administration, with the busiest port, heaviest exports and fastest-growing employment center.

Government officials insisted that the constitutionally sanctioned state of emergency was considerably different from the martial law that Aquino's predecessor, Ferdinand E. Marcos, imposed in 1972 as a pretext for arresting thousands of opponents and keeping himself in power.

Aquino's late husband, Benigno S. Aquino Jr., was the first and most notable victim of Marcos' martial law. He spent eight years in solitary confinement, and was assassinated in August, 1983, as he returned from exile in the United States.

"This is not martial law," Labor Secretary Franklin Drilon said. "There's no curfew, there's no suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Congress will continue. We will continue to enjoy our rights. It only empowers government to check those who may not be delivering basic services."

Officials said the government will also enforce new price controls on rice, flour and other basic commodities, and arrest shop owners who have more than doubled the price of pork and other foods since the crisis began.

The announcement came shortly after about 400 rebellious army Scout Rangers who have besieged the Makati financial district released more than 600 Americans, British, Swiss, West Germans, Japanese, Australians, and other foreigners trapped there since Saturday in international hotels, luxury condominiums and high-rise offices.

Despite sporadic sniper fire, a cease-fire that went into effect at 6 a.m. Wednesday held through the day and into the night as a loyal senior officer met with the rebel field commander, Lt. Col. Rafael Galvez, in an attempt to work out an agreement to end the siege. Galvez insisted publicly that the rebels will not surrender until Aquino resigns.

"I told them their demands are non-negotiable as far as the government is concerned," said the chief government negotiator, Brig. Gen. Arturo Enrile, commander of the Philippine Military Academy. "And they more or less did not contradict me. Not that much anyway."

Enrile said the renegade soldiers "would like to be able to prove their point," and that he had told them they had already proved it.

Asked if he had mentioned Aquino's ultimatum Saturday that all rebel forces must "surrender or die," Enrile smiled and paused, then replied: "We have not taken that up. They have not taken it up. And I have not taken it up."

The release of all foreigners defused a tense stalemate during which U.S. officials privately expressed growing unease at Aquino's apparent inability to stop the fighting that raged in Makati's high-rise canyons for four days. At least 77 people have died since the attempted coup.

A senior U.S. Embassy official insisted at a press briefing Wednesday afternoon that Washington's confidence in Aquino is unshaken. He attempted to put the best possible face on the week's events.

"This is the sixth coup attempt," he said, "and it's got to tell you that the government has the ability to survive this kind of challenge."

But Aquino's call for U.S. help, specifically the U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom jet fighters that pinned rebel planes on the ground last Friday, ending a string of rebel successes, continued to draw fire from Aquino's critics.

"This shows the U.S. government has the power to install and maintain a president," said Aquino's former defense secretary, Juan Ponce Enrile, now a harsh opponent. "They removed Marcos and installed Aquino. She is perceived as their creation."

Even the embassy official conceded that the cost of the crisis is likely to increase.

"The investment community is going to look at this and take a pause," he said. "The companies that are here will stay and plow money into the economy. The companies that are looking at investment will probably wait a while."

Other analysts were less sanguine. Guy Sacerdoti, editor of the Philippine Economic Newsletter, said the service sector--banks, stocks, insurance and the like--will be "extremely volatile, because it's based on confidence."

He predicted the collapse of a construction and real estate boom that has seen property prices in Makati and other prime areas double in the past year.

"The real estate boom will stop in its tracks," he said.

The president of a prominent foreign bank in Makati was equally pessimistic.

"We've lost about three years of financial progress in the last week," he said, asking not to be identified. "Japanese in particular, and in general almost any other new investment is going to be totally recalled."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
61°