MANILA, AUG. 30 -- An angry President Corazon Aquino, having survived the most serious attempt yet to topple her government, today branded the coup leaders "traitors and murderers" and said Friday's events "taught them a bitter lesson and we shall teach them again if they want it."
Making a long-scheduled appearance at a military camp here to mark the country's Heroes' Day holiday, Aquino said the 20-hour military rebellion that claimed more than 30 lives was a direct attempt to assassinate her.
"The aim of the rebels was clearly to kill the president and her family," Aquino said. "The size and ruthlessness of the attack, the treachery that marked it, the brutality of the rebels who fired on civilians, and the timing . . . proves beyond a doubt their murderous intentions."
Aquino praised the military officers who crushed the rebellion, specifically Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Fidel Ramos, who has sided with the president to defuse or crush five coup attempts from within the restless military. Ramos has been criticized by some outspoken soldiers and officers for being more loyal to Aquino than to the institution of the armed forces. The troops who launched last week's rebellion were demanding his ouster.
Ramos defused a coup last November when he and some key generals agreed to present Aquino a letter listing the military's grievances, among them the low pay of the soldiers and what they considered to be the corruption and incompetence of some Cabinet members.
"For the past 18 months, it has become clear to me that Gen. Ramos and I have begun to share common enemies," Aquino said in her brief speech. "And also for the past 18 months, I and Gen. Ramos have crushed every threat to this government and our democracy."
Ramos said today that he had ordered field commanders to "maintain unity, operational effectiveness and morale," Reuter reported. He said officers not at their posts by noon today would be arrested. Lower ranking soldiers involved in the revolt would be questioned and have their movements restricted, he said.
Officials said more than 30 persons died and close to 300 were wounded Friday when up to 2,000 mutinous soldiers attacked the presidential compound, television stations and key military camps in Manila. Hundreds more took over military camps in the provinces. It was unclear how many other soldiers were sympathetic to the rebellion.
The military said 816 rebel soldiers, including 31 officers up to the rank of colonel, were being held in two Navy ships anchored in Manila Bay. Scores more were still believed to be at large.
The leader of the rebellion, Col. Gregorio Honasan, continued to elude a massive manhunt after escaping from the rebel soldiers' stronghold while it was under heavy bombardment by government planes. Military officials and some news reports here said Honasan was whisked away in a waiting helicopter, shortly before pro-Aquino troops overran Camp Aguinaldo, armed forces general headquarters. But other witnesses said they had no recollection of a helicopter taking off.
Manila's Sunday newspapers were filled with speculation about Honasan's whereabouts. Military officials and Aquino aides have consciously tried to discredit Honasan since the plot collapsed, calling him a cowardly officer who abandoned his men. But there is a widespread feeling that Honasan, a veteran combat officer from the Moslem wars in Mindanao and a soldier with a reputation for ruthlessness, may stage a violent return.
As troops continued to hunt for Honasan, his onetime boss, former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, broke his long silence on the abortive coup and denied in several interviews that he had any involvement. "I was afraid that if I said anything, I would be implicated," said Enrile, an opposition senator, in one radio interview. "I am already being blamed for this coup."
Aquino fired Enrile as defense minister last November after military officials warned her that Honasan was about to lead a coup to overthrow her and install Enrile.
Enrile also said he received a telephone call from Philip Kaplan, the departing charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, asking that he try to stop his former security chief's coup attempt and make a statement denouncing the mutiny.
Asked about his refusal to help, Enrile, speaking on the NBC television program "Meet the Press," said Kaplan "was not the proper person" to seek his assistance. "I was waiting for the government -- our Philippine government -- to ask my assistance. And if -- had they asked me to make the statement, I would have made a statement."
U.S. Undersecretary of State Michael H. Armacost, appearing on the same program, said, however, that the United States had not asked Enrile to intervene. "It was a matter of keeping contact with people who might be players in order to ascertain what the situation was. And in the course of that converstion he was asked whether he was prepared to make a statement, and he indicated he was not."
Armacost also praised the Aquino government's actions in putting down the rebellion. In the past, he said, the Philippine government's response to previous mutinies "has been a little ambiguous." But this time, he said, "Mrs. Aquino has indicated a very firm attitude."
Joker Arroyo, Aquino's executive secretary, was quoted today as saying the abortive coup was the replay of a plot originally designed by Honasan and men loyal to him to topple Ferdinand Marcos in 1985.
That plan, like Friday's attempted coup, called for an attack on Malacanang palace, followed by a takeover of key broadcasting facilities and military camps.
Honasan, in past interviews, said the 1985 plot, which was planned for December of that year, was preempted when Marcos called a "snap" presidential election.
After an election marked by widespread fraud in February 1986, Marcos moved to arrest officers and officials he believed were plotting to overthrow him, including Enrile. Word of those arrests set the abandoned plan in motion, and eventually led to the revolution that toppled Marcos and installed Aquino.
Aquino defeated this latest coup attempt by doing what Marcos failed to do: ordering an early assault against the rebels and refusing to negotiate. By the second day of last year's anti-Marcos revolt, an assault on the rebels was impossible because more than 1 million people had turned out to surround the rebel-held camp, forming a human wall that blocked Marcos' advancing troops.