The Philippine government moved to put one of the most divisive episodes of its recent history behind it Friday by signing a peace pact with army rebels whose coup attempts nearly ruined the country.
"We forge today a peace covenant with neither blame or surrender, with dignity for all concerned," President Fidel V. Ramos said in a statement after the signing ceremony. "Our vision has always been--peace with honor, peace of the brave, peace amongst gentlemen," said the man who put down coups in 1987 and 1989 that nearly toppled then-President Corazon Aquino.
The peace covenant was a big step toward the full achievement of economic recovery, said Ramos, who was military chief and then defense secretary under Aquino.
Hundreds of people broke into applause after the agreement was signed at Manila's military headquarters.
"This is a ray of hope," Sen. Gregorio (Gringo) Honasan, who led two of the bloodiest coup attempts as an army colonel, told reporters at the signing ceremony.
"I'd rather not comment," Aquino told reporters at an industrial show north of Manila. Witnesses said she seemed displeased by the agreement.
The eight-page agreement grants amnesty to 5,000 officers and soldiers who took part. Most enlisted men will be allowed to rejoin the army without loss of rank or pay.