MANILA, SEPT. 5 -- Renegade Col. Gregorio (Gringo) Honasan, the leader of an aborted military coup who is still believed to be leading a force of 2,000 troops, said in a radio message today that he launched his revolt because President Corazon Aquino "has consciously taken the same direction as that of the then-popular Marcos administration at the start."
"This we cannot allow, and we shall not allow it," Honasan said, in an apparent warning that he would continue his campaign to topple the government.
In response, Teodoro Benigno, Aquino's spokesman, said: "Honasan would now cultivate the myth that he is a hero cut from the mold of Rambo, Superman and James Bond."
In a marked escalation of the propaganda war between government officials and rebel military leaders, Benigno called the Aug. 28 military revolt -- in which 53 persons were killed -- "a naked power grab by a man using honeyed words to mask the military dictatorship he would set up to rule the Philippines."
Meanwhile, a helicopter traveling south of Manila crashed in the water off the coastal town of Mauban today, killing Brig. Gen. Eugenio Ocampo, the police commander of southern Luzon island, and injuring two other persons, including a general. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
Also today, the rebel soldiers' self-proclaimed "ruling junta" released a nine-point program of government calling for reform of the criminal justice system, expanded health care for the poor, a reexamination of the Philippines' relationship with the United States and a review of Philippine history to emphasize precolonial historical leaders "who never lost to the whites."
The document, a vaguely leftist-sounding amalgam of nationalist jargon, also called for a "reconciliation" with the nation's Moslem minority and a new understanding that Filipinos "all belong to the Malay race." The document proposed that the fez, a hat with a tassel that originated in Turkey and became popular in many Moslem countries, be declared the national hat and for the Moslem holy book, the Koran, to be taught in schools. The rebel document also called for the Malaysian kris to be declared the national sword.
The proposals appeared to be aimed at winning support from Moslem insurgents fighting for self-rule on the southern island of Mindanao. Spokesmen for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the main insurgent group, were quoted yesterday as saying the MNLF would form a "tactical alliance" with the "nationalist arm" of the military that staged the revolt.
A military officer closely linked to the coup leaders -- but who said he was not himself involved -- said he believed the document was authentic because it sounded similar to a program of government the same group had prepared two years ago for use after a planned coup to overthrow then-president Ferdinand Marcos. "The program that we prepared for the Marcos coup sounds very similar to that," said Navy Capt. Rex Robles. "It evokes nostalgic memories."
In a radio message broadcast early this morning, Honasan said he was moved to launch his rebellion after becoming disillusioned with Aquino's failure to fulfill his "high hopes" and "visions" after the revolution that overthrew Marcos in February 1986. "The country was well on its way to another 20 years of misrule," Honasan said.
He said that under Aquino, graft and corruption had increased, political family dynasties have gained power, the communist insurgents have been allowed to expand their activities through legal front groups and the president "adopted measures that tended or were intended to widen the rift between the military and civil government."
Honasan's taped message raised new questions about the renegade colonel's whereabouts. Although copies of the tape were delivered by rebel messengers to a local radio station and to foreign correspondents here, Reuter quoted a spokesman for radio station DZRH as saying Honasan had telephoned to read the 15-minute statement. The spokesman indicated Honasan was calling from the Manila area because of the clarity of the telephone line.
Honasan has been in hiding since the coup failed, and military authorities have said they believed he was hiding in the posh Manila suburb of Makati.
Honasan also claimed in the message that his intention was never to seize power or to harm the president, because "it was politically untenable for us to do so, given a leader that is perceived to be popular, sincere and committed, no matter how misguided or incapable she may be." Honasan said the predawn attack on Malacanang, the presidential palace, was a diversion "to draw a sizable portion of security forces to Malacanang."
Several civilians were killed during that attack, an act Honasan called "regrettable and inexcusable," and he said the shooting of civilians "was never condoned by our group."
Military analysts are still uncertain as to how much of a threat Honasan poses for the government. He is believed to command a rebel force of up to 2,000 troops, and is thought to enjoy considerable sympathy within the armed forces, even from those who disagree with his methods. He won the support of all 800 cadets at the prestigious Philippine Military Academy.
Military analysts believe Honasan will now embark on a protracted struggle against the government, perhaps targeting select urban areas for attack. They said such a campaign would also include a heavy dose of psychological warfare aimed at undermining support for the military and political leadership and winning converts to his cause.
Already, Honasan has managed to keep the government off balance and large numbers of progovernment troops busy chasing a torrent of rumors of rebel troop movements, as the capital remains jittery waiting for an expected second strike.
Meanwhile, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the former defense minister whose own role in the coup plot has been questioned, denied any knowledge of an arms cache -- including crates of grenades, mines, ammunition, a bazooka, a grenade launcher and several automatic rifles -- discovered by police yesterday in an office building he owns.