MANILA — The 250,000-strong military pledged loyalty to President Corazon Aquino's government en masse today as rebellion charges were lodged against 41 allies of ousted leader Ferdinand E. Marcos who staged a failed revolt against Aquino.
Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and armed forces chief Gen. Fidel Ramos led the military in pledging allegiance to Aquino's interim "Freedom Constitution" in nationwide rites aimed at dispelling doubts about the military's loyalty to her government.
Justice Minister Neptali Gonzales said that once the military provides proof that four generals and 11 other ranking soldiers among the 41 people charged with rebellion have joined today's mass loyalty pledge, the charges against them will be dropped.
Gonzales said police filed the rebellion charges before the city prosecutor against former Sen. Arturo Tolentino, Marcos' vice presidential candidate in the fraud-tainted Feb. 7 election, and 40 others who followed Tolentino's failed 36-hour revolt three weeks ago.
7 Film Stars Reject Pledge
Those charged, including five former members of Parliament and seven movie stars, rejected Aquino's offer of clemency in exchange for their pledges of allegiance to her interim constitution.
Gonzales said the city prosecutor will conduct an investigation to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the rebellion case before a criminal court. Only then, he said, would arrest orders be issued against Tolentino and the others.
Tolentino, 75, declined immediate comment.
Enrile and Ramos, leaders of the revolt that forced Marcos from power and installed Aquino last February, said the loyalty ceremony at the suburban armed forces headquarters and other facilities nationwide showed the 250,000-member military's loyalty to Aquino.
"Never again shall this organization be fragmented by these insidious intrigues or machinations of those who may wish to destroy this republic," Enrile said.
Rebels Join in Oath
An armed forces spokesman said the 300 soldiers who joined Tolentino's failed revolt participated in today's rites at military camps across the nation.
A ranking armed forces official said Aquino ordered the oath-taking after a stormy Cabinet meeting last Wednesday at which Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo and other ministers demanded the rebellious soldiers swear their allegiance.
The official quoted both Ramos and Enrile as saying that singling out the soldiers would fragment the military. A mass oath-taking was then proposed.
The mass pledge came a day after a clash between riot police and about 600 civilian Marcos supporters at a downtown park in which a 23-year-old man who flashed the Aquino "fight" sign was beaten to death by loyalists. Ten other people were injured.
Two suspected Marcos loyalists were charged with murder, and a reward of nearly $500 was offered for information leading to the arrests of additional suspects.