Rebels seeking the resignation of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos today took over the government television station and launched an attack on an air base near Manila's international airport.
As the attack on the station was under way, Marcos, in a broadcast from the palace, declared a "state of emergency" and ordered radio and television stations to stop broadcasting "propaganda" of rebel military forces after Manila erupted into celebrations following an erroneous report that Marcos and his family had left the country.
The rebel air force also claimed to have destroyed five Huey helicopters on the ground at Villamor Air Base near the Manila airport this morning and to have fired six rockets at the Malacanang presidential palace this morning "just to show them we could."
Opposition leader Corazon Aquino, who was reported at an undisclosed location in Manila, issued a radio appeal for citizens to join massive crowds around Camp Crame, held by former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, the former acting armed forces chief of staff.
On two occasions since the mutiny began on Saturday, government forces seeking to clear a path toward the rebel camp were blocked by thousands of anti-Marcos civilian protesters.
Rebel forces holding Camp Crame were bolstered by the arrival of six Air Force helicopters armed with rockets and machine guns and carrying more defectors earlier today. Enrile claimed that the rebels now have "the helicopter strike group of the Air Force" as well as four battalions of troops. A Philippine battalion normally contains about 700 soldiers.
Before the government lost control of the television station, Marcos made his declaration of a state of emergency during a joint appearance with his armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Fabian Ver, in which the two men engaged in an extraordinary argument on national television.
Ver badgered the president to allow him to call in air strikes on the camp with two F5 planes that were circling overhead. Marcos refused, telling Ver to disperse civilians gathered outside the camp without shooting them.
"The Air Force, sir, is ready to mount an air attack were the civilians to leave the vicinity of Camp Crame immediately, Mr. President," Ver said impatiently, while the news conference was in progress. "That's why I come here on your orders so we can immediately strike them. We have to immobilize the helicopters that they got."
Marcos interrupted and said, "My order is not to attack. No, no, no. Hold on; not to attack."
Ver persisted, "Our negotiations and our prior dialogue have not succeeded, Mr. President."
Marcos replied: "All I can say is that we may have to reach the point we may have to employ heavy weapons, but you will use the small weapons in hand or shoulder weapons in the meantime."
Ver complained, "Our attack forces are being delayed" and that Marcos had given them orders to wait. "There are many civilians near our troops, and we cannot keep on withdrawing. We cannot withdraw all the time, Mr. President."
Marcos then gave the order to disperse the crowd without firing on the civilians.
Marcos repeatedly denied in an opening statement that the rebel forces had taken over the country.
He also insisted that "there is no way under which I can step down or resign from the position of president. If necessary, I will defend this position with all the force at my disposal."
Marcos accused the rebels of "trying to establish a revolutionary government," but he insisted that "we are in control of the military."
However, there were signs that control was slipping away from Marcos and his loyalist forces. Shortly after the news conference, officials at the presidential palace ordered employes to go home as heavily armed marines patrolled the palace grounds.
Marcos did not elaborate on what the state of emergency entailed, other than restrictions on radio and television broadcasts.
As he made his opening statement to assert that he remained in control, members of his family, including four grandchildren, appeared with him to disprove broadcast allegations that they had fled the country. The children shouted and frolicked about as the president solemnly made his announcements.
Marcos appealed to civilians to stay away from "human barricades" in front of the rebel base because, he said, "lives may be endangered by an exchange of small-arms fire."
In the course of the televised news conference in which Marcos announced the state of emergency, the government television station suddenly went off the air.
Marcos, guarded by about 50 armed soldiers in combat gear at the Malacanang presidential palace, said that the rebels "have started attacking some positions." He ordered loyalist troops to resist any attempts to overrun their positions.
During the assault on the television station, three government soldiers and one civilian were injured, according to news agencies. As the rebel soldiers moved from room to room in the station, defenders shouted, "We are brothers, don't shoot!" They then surrendered, but forces loyal to Marcos immediately launched a counterattack, United Press International reported.
The government television station, put off the air during Marcos' press conference, resumed broadcasting with a panel of opposition leaders on camera. Opposition member of parliament Mel Lopez said a new government would be declared soon and appealed to all military officers and soldiers not to support Marcos "because he is no longer the president of the Philippines."
He said Aquino and her running mate, Salvador Laurel, would broadcast statements soon to mark their takeover as president and vice president. The opposition leader called on citizens to surround the television station en masse to protect it against counterattack.
Residents of the neighborhood near the Malacanang palace were seen moving out of their homes with their belongings in what resembled a refugee scene. Hundreds of palace guards fired shots into the air and used water cannons to disperse more than 1,000 Filipinos.
At Camp Crame, spirits were running high as thousands of civilians remained to provide a defense against attack by government forces. Armored cars were seen going out of the compound.
Air Force Col. Antonio E. Sotelo, who defected to the rebels this morning, said three helicopters were sent out and destroyed the five Hueys with machine gun fire after the rebels had received intelligence that they would be used to strike their camp.
Sotelo, the wing commander of the 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force, also said that one of his helicopters had fired the rockets at the presidential palace this morning.
At one point early in the day, rebel leader Ramos said that Marcos' wife, Imelda, and Ver's wife had left the country and that Marcos himself was no longer in his Malacanang presidential palace. Aquino reported in a radio broadcast that she had been told that Marcos was on his way to Guam.
However, government television came on the air shortly after 8:30 a.m. (7:30 p.m. EST Sunday) and said, "The government remains in full control of the situation." It said Malacanang Palace was "fully secured." On the palace grounds, preparations for Tuesday's scheduled presidential inauguration continued.
Crowds began celebrating what they believed to be Marcos' defeat outside barbed-wire barriers blocking a street leading to the palace. About 400 people waved flags and flashed the laban (fight) sign with thumbs and forefingers symbolizing the initial of Aquino's party.
Elsewhere in Manila, closer to the dissident headquarters, other anti-Marcos crowds poured into the streets to celebrate. The church-backed Radio Veritas, which has supported the rebel movement, had announced this morning that Marcos and the rest of his family had left the country. The radio said Marcos and his son Ferdinand Jr. left this morning for an unknown destination.
"The revolution is now finished," Enrile said.
There were reports early today that heavily armed troops loyal to Marcos were moving in the direction of the dissident-held military camp on the outskirts of Manila, but there was no evidence that they had reached the scene.
Other troops reportedly were using tear gas and truncheons in an attempt to disperse crowds of civilian demonstrators who were gathered near an adjacent military installation. The effort was apparently unsuccessful and a fiesta-like mood soon returned to the scene when Enrile and Ramos made their claims of victory.
Yesterday, Marcos had vowed to crush the military insurrection, but in the only confrontation that took place yesterday, a column of marines backed down when met by thousands of civilians who had gathered near the camps to protect the rebels. Today an effort to use tear gas was also unsuccessful.
There was no other evidence that Marcos had deployed forces loyal to him in the capital.
There were a number of reports early today that top-level military leaders were defecting to the anti-Marcos forces, but few could be confirmed in the atmosphere of tension and confusion surrounding the rapidly unfolding situation.
The Philippines crisis reached its explosive stage on Saturday when Enrile and Ramos rebelled against Marcos' leadership, resigning their posts and calling on the president to step aside in favor of Aquino, his election challenger.
It was a development that directly challenged Marcos' hold on the presidency by threatening to split his ultimate power base, the allegiance of the military.
In an angry television speech at midnight today, the embattled 68-year-old president, calling himself "an old war horse," said he even may lead troops personally to "wipe out" the mutineers. He rejected the rebels' demand that he step down as president to resolve the tense confrontation between progovernment forces and members of a military reform movement occupying the camp in suburban Manila.
Marcos accused Enrile and Ramos of trying to grab power from both his government and the political opposition and form a junta. Marcos also has charged that the rebel troops wanted to stage a coup and assassinate him and his wife, Imelda.
"It is quite clear that now they have raised openly the flag of insurrection, the flag of rebellion," Marcos said. "We will deal with them as such."
"We are going to do everything to settle this peacefully," he said. "But there is an end to all this." He said some political opponents and rebel troops "are saying that the president is incapable of enforcing the law."
"They repeat that once more and I will sic the tanks and the artillery on them," Marcos railed. "We'll wipe them out."
Marcos added, "If they think I am sick, I may even want to lead the troops to wipe out this Enrile-Ramos group. I can tell you I am as strong as ever. I am just like an old war horse smelling powder and getting stronger."
He also described himself as shamed and humiliated by the rebellion and addressed this threat to Enrile and Ramos: "If you do not listen to my plea for a peaceful negotiation, then let the blood of those who will die in a confrontation be on your conscience."
[In an interview from Manila broadcast on NBC, Marcos was asked repeatedly whether he would step down if asked by President Reagan. At first he said he would not answer speculative questions, but then he added, "If that ever happens, I . . . let me think about it. Let us talk about it."]
Enrile, ensconced in the heavily guarded Camp Crame on the eastern outskirts oif the capital, called Marcos' warning a "bluff." He and Ramos expressed doubt that government troops would follow orders to launch an all-out assault against fellow Filipino soldiers, who were barricaded behind a "human buffer zone" of thousands of civilians gathered outside the camp.
However, military sources said they believed that Marcos -- facing growing isolation at home and abroad following his disputed "victory" in a fraud-marred election this month -- is capable of taking that step to remain in power.
According to a military intelligence officer not involved in the conflict, loyalist forces have been deployed to block reinforcements for the rebels from the provinces. He said at least two Philippine Army helicopters not normally used for ground support have been converted into gunships. In addition, he said, two battalions from the Army's 2nd Division under a staunchly loyal general have been formed without Philippine Military Academy graduates as junior officers. The academy graduates are seen as potentially in sympathy with the reformist officers leading the mutiny.
Enrile said he had spoken to Marcos by telephone yesterday for the first time since the mutiny and had rejected an offer of amnesty in return for ending the rebellion. He said he told Marcos that the consensus of a rebel officers' committee was that "the president must step down."
Enrile said that if Marcos wants to leave the country, such a solution could be worked out. "There is no intention on the part of anybody here to harm him or his family," Enrile said.
There was no immediate word on progress in forming a proposed five-member "generals' committee" to negotiate an end to the crisis. The proposal calls for two generals on each side to negotiate, with retired Gen. Rafael Ileto, currently ambassador to Thailand, as a mediator.
The archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, also has called for a peaceful solution but has urged citizens to help achieve this by showing support for Enrile and Ramos and keeping mass vigils outside the rebels' camp. This display of "people's power" was instrumental in heading off a potential clash yesterday when thousands of civilians blocked government troops on the streets leading to Camp Crame.
"Let us not be goaded into hatred and violence," Sin said in an address over the church-backed Radio Veritas before it stopped broadcasting temporarily. Station officials said saboteurs damaged a powerful new transmitter with pickaxes, forcing the station to use a weaker backup transmitter.