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Had Warning of Coup Move, Aquino Says

September 03, 1987|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — President Corazon Aquino said Wednesday that she had been warned of last Friday's attempt to overthrow her, but she conceded that palace security had been depleted because she was scheduled to leave the capital for a regional tour that day.

"Intelligence did not fail me," the president said in an address televised to the nation. "We anticipated a coup attempt by these specific officers for some time now."

But she made it clear that the only precautionary steps the armed forces took were to place the presidential security guard on "red alert" and to deploy armored vehicles around the palace, where her office is situated, and her residence nearby. Both were attacked Friday morning.

"I woke up to the sound of gunfire," Aquino said. She said she was not able to contact Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, chief of the armed forces, for several hours because the "hot line" between her home and Ramos' office was not working and lines to his office were all busy.

She said she rejected her security chief's advice to flee her residence because "this was my place."

"I remembered what happened to my predecessor," she went on, referring to Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was ousted in February last year. At the height of a similar military uprising, Marcos left the palace and was taken by helicopter to a plane that carried him to exile in Hawaii.

Aquino said her security people managed to repulse the attack. However, according to military sources, the attack on the palace was a diversionary move intended to draw loyalist forces away from primary targets--military bases and television stations.

Earlier Wednesday, Aquino made public an intelligence document confirming that her security force had known about the plot since July.

3 Americans Seen as Targets

It said the plotters also planned to kill at least three "unidentified American nationals" and burn the CIA offices here. It estimated rebel strength at up to 10,000 men--10 times the level estimated at the time of the uprising.

The intelligence document, called an After Battle Report, was submitted by the operations chief of the Presidential Security Group. It said that the rebels included soldiers and politicians loyal to former President Marcos and that Marcos supported the group with $250,000 in covert aid.

Gen. Ramos, the armed forces chief, briefed Aquino and her Cabinet on Wednesday on details of the 20-hour uprising, which left at least 53 dead and 260 wounded. He called for an investigation into reports that right-wing American groups were also behind it.

Sen. Raul Manglapus, chairman of the Senate Defense Committee, has charged on the Senate floor that the man who led the uprising, Col. Gregorio Honasan, met last year with John K. Singlaub, a retired U.S. Army general and former CIA officer who is active in international anti-Communist groups.

Singlaub spent several months in Manila last year and met with political and military figures. He said at the time that he was looking for buried treasure left behind by the Japanese in World War II.

The U.S. Embassy here denied reports in the Philippine press that Col. Honasan had escaped from the rebel stronghold at Camp Aguinaldo in a U.S. Navy helicopter and that he is now aboard an American warship anchored off the U.S. naval base at Subic Bay north of Manila.

The embassy issued a statement Wednesday that said, "The U.S. Embassy categorically denies that U.S. government personnel have assisted or are assisting rebel elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who were, or continue to be, involved in military action against the democratic government of Mrs. Aquino."

Moreover, President Reagan issued two statements Friday, while the coup was in progress, endorsing President Aquino and condemning the mutiny. Twice during the uprising, Philip Kaplan, former U.S. deputy chief of mission here, telephoned Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the former minister of defense and a close friend of Col. Honasan, and asked Enrile to persuade Honasan to call off the attack.

The After Battle Report emphasized that two groups were involved in the uprising--Marcos loyalists and supporters of Honasan, who was also the chief planner of the uprising that brought down Marcos.

According to the document, the rebels started organizing no later than July 14, when military and civilian elements opposed to the president gathered at a teahouse in Manila. It said they discussed such subjects as "CIA support for destabilization, increase of bombing missions, assassination of three unidentified American nationals, burning of CIA headquarters . . . public denunciation on or before 25 July of President Aquino by a group of soldiers."

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