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Resign and End Crisis, Reagan Urges Marcos : Won't Flee, Beleagured Leader Says

February 25, 1986|MARK FINEMAN and NICK B. WILLIAMS Jr. | Times Staff Writers

MANILA — A shaken Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos said Monday night that he will not resign or flee the country, even though he and his family "are cowering in terror" inside his palace. As he spoke, key government defectors joined reformist rebel forces, and supporters of opposition leader Corazon Aquino prepared to declare her president today.

In an effort to clear the streets of the tens of thousands of civilian demonstrators who came out to shield rebel forces at a captured television station and military base, Marcos declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew nationwide. He said that the government, under a state of emergency he declared Monday morning, is taking control of all public utilities and broadcast stations.

Marcos himself planned an inaugural ceremony today. He urged his civilian supporters to attend the function, at which, he said, he will issue arms licenses and deputize them as his own "people's power" force.

'Last Breath of Life'

In an interview with a privately owned television station, Marcos also vowed that he will, along with his loyal forces, "defend the republic until the last breath of life and until the last drop of blood in our bodies."

But it was clear Monday that the momentum of events had shifted to the rebels led by former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, the former deputy chief of staff. Their break with Marcos on Saturday, apparently the uncoordinated act of two individuals, has snowballed into a full-blown military coup d'etat.

Instead of awaiting an attack by loyalist forces to retake their headquarters at the suburban Manila military base, Camp Crame, the rebels went on the offensive, capturing the government-owned television station and mounting an air attack on an air force base near Manila airport.

By day's end, crowds everywhere were defying the curfew order and Marcos, still in Malacanang Palace, appeared to be the one besieged.

Response to Rumors

The day began with rumors and radio reports that he had fled the country. In response, Marcos made repeated appearances on TV stations owned by friends and secured by commando troops in an effort to convince the nation that he is still in charge of a viable government.

He had been forced to switch to privately owned stations, however, because of the rebel capture of Channel 4, the government outlet. His first broadcast of the morning was cut off in mid-sentence.

In subsequent broadcasts, Marcos held up copies of the daily paper for the cameras to prove that he was actually where he said he was. The cameras panned around the room to show his wife, Imelda, his son and daughter, and frolicking grandchildren.

The palace compound was filled with tanks and about five battalions of loyal troops. When firecrackers went off in a crowd of pro-opposition civilians milling around outside, the jittery soldiers fired a volley that wounded four people. Others were hurt in the panic that followed.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians continued to surround both the rebels' military base and the captured television station. Witnesses said an armored column loyal to Marcos was unable to reach the station and turned back.

Aquino addressed the crowd at Camp Crame, telling them that "this is the first time in history that the civilian population has protected the military. Please keep vigil here."

Hardly Business as Usual

In such an atmosphere, business did not continue as normal. The central bank was closed and planned to remain closed today. Most stores, offices and movie theaters were closed Monday. Cardinal Jaime Sin, primate of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, postponed a long-scheduled visit to the Vatican.

Meanwhile, Aquino's supporters prepared to inaugurate her as president, the head of a new government, in ceremonies to be held on the grounds of a recreation and social club.

Enrile and Ramos left Camp Crame for the first time in 48 hours to attend the ceremonies. But they urged opposition supporters not to follow, apparently fearing a dilution of the civilian crowds that are trying to inhibit any counterattack at the base and television station by Marcos forces.

The ceremonies were delayed as two snipers on a broadcasting tower near Channel 4 began firing, reportedly wounding three people. The gun battle that followed, at a site near Aquino's home, seemingly delayed her departure for the inauguration.

With the crackle of gunfire audible over the telephone, she told radio interviewers that she would be leaving for the club soon and that she hoped "this will be the beginning of happier days for the entire country."

Rockets From Helicopters

The series of events that left Marcos at his most precarious point in 20 years of authoritarian rule came rapid-fire:

--Rebel helicopter gunships fired six rockets into the palace compound, wounding two guards but missing the palace itself.

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