E-INTERVIEW: REX ROBLES


E-INTERVIEW: REX ROBLES

32 years have passed. Memories have dimmed, characters have disappeared, causes have blurred, even doubts have surfaced. EDSA not only changed the Philippines. It changed the world. But perspectives are as permanent as the shifting sand, always at the mercy of the waves, the wind and the currents.

Rex Robles was RAM’S spokesman and media conduit. From beginning until the end, he was in the thick of it all. Here are eleven questions, snippets if you will, of once upon a time.

Edsa Memories

1. Thirty two years after People Power 1, what memory stands out the most, what memory you will like to remember the most and what memory you really will like to forget?

The civilians standing up to the tanks. I have an account in Bulletin Today (probably out by feb 21 or thereabouts).

I will remember the most our meeting with PFM (read BT article).

Everything is good to remember. Part of my life’s tapestry..

2. What is your role in EDSA? Greg Honasan? Boy Turingan? Red Kapunan?

Mainly as spokesman. Propagandist if you will. I tried to give RAM a unique face. I coordinated with diverse groups in media and study groups (Asia Society) and think tanks (Hudson Institute). Military attaches (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Korea). Met with bipartisan committee from US Congress. National Public Radio, who gave me a number to call in case I needed to broadcast anything about our reform efforts.

In depth background with regional Bureau Chiefs: Time (Sandra Burton, Bob Stewart} Newsweek (Melinda Liu}, Far Eastern Economic Review (Rodney |Tasker, who developed an escape plan for me from my detention cell at the Phil Navy HQS Roxas Blvd). Connections with Pentagon desk (Mary Tai), Col William”Bill” White, of East Asian Affairs and low level desk people who were contacted in person by Ltjg Alex Pama. (We used a conference in Argentina to mask a detour to Washington.} These “low level” deskmen were key to presenting a clear image of the RAM to US top brass all the way up to Reagan.

Local news editors, Letty Magsanoc (Inquirer), Max Soliven (Star), Ninez Olivares,(Tribune). Young fledgling reporters (Jessica Soho, Jarius Bondoc, a gaggle of woman writers (Shielah Coronel, Glenda Gloria….}Makati Business Club; Opus Dei,

For my role in Edsa, read my BT account.

The acknowledged leader of RAM was Col Tirso Gador {‘66} until he died in a training exercise a few months after.

Greg and Red were a team. Greg was tactical commander and Red handled intelligence. Tthey planned to breach the palace together. Red monitored radio transmissions about vote manipulation to the Comelec computer managers at the PICC which led to the famous walk-out by operators led by Red’s wife, Linda.

Greg and Boy Turingan (overall Chief of Staff) were the organizers with Boy T doing a yeoman’s job keeping things in order, to include finance and logistics. We were getting high powered firearms and other weaponry from Israel, Singapore and UK (————————-). Friends from Hongkong provided us with scramblers for our radios.

3. Who hatched the idea of a military take over against Marcos?

The plan was not for a military take over. It was to enter the palace, take custody of the President, and announce the takeover by a Transition Committee preparatory to an election. Members of the Committee would not be allowed to run for any public office. This was explained to Peping Cojouangco and Ramon Mitra in a meeting a few says before Edsa.

4. What is your opinion of Enrile’s memoirs?

JPE’s Memoirs was controversial in the part where he describes the ambush of his convoy. I was out of the country when this happened. I was an advanced Mechanical Engineering student at the US Naval Postgraduate School, graduating in mid 1974. I asked Tirso about it since he was duty adc when the ambush occurred. The portion of the vehicle where Enrile was supposed to be sitting was peppered with bullets. Tirso was sitting in front and the driver described themselves as deathly scared. (Putlang putla daw si Tirso, who sustained minor scratches}.As security precaution, Enrile was that day riding in another vehicle in the convoy.

I think what happened was SND’s men were anticipating an attack. Because days before, DND security led by Greg and Tirso staged a commando raid on the lair of an assassination squad earlier identified by AFP intelligence. The whole team was wiped out. Before that, there had been a bitter exchange beween Imelda and JPE at a palace meeting. Afterward, PFM called Enrile aside and warned him to be careful because “some groups” were out to get him.

My take is that during the press con at DND where Enrile and Ramos declared their withdrawal of loyalty to the president, Enrile decided to throw in the story of a staged assassination to bolster his case, but this version later worked against him.

But that’s only me.

The rest of the memoirs makes for fascinating reading. Nelson Navarro, who spent months cloistered in Menado, Indonesia to edit the book told me that he must have taken out at least 30% of what the author actually wrote.

5. In the aftermath of RAM, what went right, what went wrong?

RAM did not agree that the site of Cory’s swearing in would be club Filipino. They preferred the DND ceremonial hall where the withdrawal by JPE and Ramos was announced. Enrile himself vetoed this suggestion, saying that Cory would sooner or later need their help, anyway. But pursuing their own plans, Cory’s advisers had her ignoring the pledge of power sharing with Doy Laurel and the prior agreement to form a transition council. The blunder was to allow Cory and her clever minions to have their way.

6. Considering everything that has transpired from the day Marcos was toppled to the election of Duterte, will you do it again?

#6 is a leading question. The takeover of the yellow horde caused the country to march back into a marcos era without marcos but with the new elite gradually consolidating power without regard for the country’s welfare. From hind sight the military should just have allowed the country to learn its bitter lessons. If I had to do it again, it is to do it with people who would go right ahead and execute a takeover. Then if we fail, even after initial successes, then we really have only ourselves to blame.

But I always was an advocate of non-intervention. I agreed to join RAM on naïve notion that if we can force Marcos to step down, that would facilitate the entry of legitimate civilian groups and restore a democratic regime.

7. The opposition is pushing for another EDSA to get Duterte out of office, do the circumstances warrant such? Having participated in the successful overthrow of Marcos, what will you say to those who desire so?

The push for another Edsa is a pipe dream, pursued by those who enjoyed their halcyon years of unbridled stealing. Edsa was unique in its circumstances (please read the BT article).

8. What do you think of Marcos’ burial at LNMB and how the people’s perception of his presidency has moved from despicable to admirable?

The burial was just and proper for an erstwhile commander in chief. The swing in attitude for some is caused by the total mishandling of the issue by the yellow horde. They overplayed their hand and are consequently forced to defend a weak position.

9. How will history remember Rex Robles? How does Rex Robles want to be remembered?

History has eyes that can only see the past, but at the right distance. There comes a time when the focus becomes clear. Even only 60, 70 years from now, I don’t expect or hope to be remembered. I am not big at leaving footprints in the sand. Only to live life as best as I can, being of help to some, maybe, and a joy or inspiration(?} to my grandchildren whom I totally adore.

10. Who of the characters of EDSA will you still stand with after all these years? And who will stand with you still?

I have weekly breakfast meetings with Ram old guards, Felix Turingan, Jake Malajacan, and other septuagenarians. I look forward to those meetings and relish the time with them like an old fogey should. I stand by them.

11. What advice do you have for those who will like to change the world?

There is a saying, If you always aspire to do a lot, you may end up doing nothing. Be satisfied with the small successes and don’t forget about love. It is a blessing that we should all share.

If you plan to post this, please use discretion. I try not to talk too much about certain things, but sometimes that cannot be helped because of the need to make people understand. The relationship with the US is a sensitive area for me. Especially after Stanley Karnow made Edsa look like a brilliant US success in his book “in Our Image”. He spent several hours interviewing me and a dozen U-matic tapes. But he largely downplayed the role of the military (read his summary of events at the end of the book).

Rex’s narrative in Manila Bulletin :

https://news.mb.com.ph/…/i-was-an-eyewitness-to-this-dramat…

https://news.mb.com.ph/…/ram-leaders-meet-president-marcos…/

 

We are now practically a generation away from that uniquely Filipino event known as the EDSA Revolution, and yet invariably, memories come flooding back as naturally as the ocean tide on a warm summer evening.
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About danmeljim

Dan Jimenez was the Editor in Chief of The Corps Magazine from 1976 to 1977. After graduation, he never abandoned his ideas and continued writing. On October 1983, as a young Navy Lieutenant, he wrote an open letter addressed to Salvador Laurel who was then a leader of the opposition against President Marcos. It was published by almost all the dailies and earned for him the commendation of PMAAA, Inc. He immigrated to the US in 1986 but continued to write about the country of his birth. He has defended the Philippine Military Academy against claims of it being a Philippine Monetary Academy and a corrupt institution. Very recently, he posted commendation of Gen Bato de la Rosa and castigation of Senator Sonny Trillanes, which went viral. He continues to believe that "Ideas must reign supreme because personalities and individuals are as fleeting as the seasons." Always a plebe in his thinking, he will live by the adage: "The greatest failure is that never attempted."
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