GATTARAN, PHILIPPINES -- Two weeks after forces loyal to President Corazon Aquino narrowly repulsed a coup attempt by rebel soldiers in Manila, renegade Lt. Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo freely travels Cagayan province, passionately preaching the overthrow of the Philippine president and her armed forces chief, Gen. Fidel Ramos.

Though Aguinaldo has resigned from the armed forces to dramatize his war against the government and officially has been relieved of his post as Cagayan provincial commander, the government has shown itself powerless to stop his rebellion.

Eighteen months ago, Aquino decorated Aguinaldo for valor in leading the assault on the government broadcasting complex in the 1986 "people power" revolt that toppled president Ferdinand Marcos.

Now the renegade lieutenant colonel, his name and insignia ripped off his combat fatigues in defiance of a government he has sworn to overthrow, roams the province in command of a crack army of hundreds of former communist guerrillas, elite Army Rangers and handpicked constabulary soldiers. He continues to battle Communist guerrillas as a self-described "armed civilian volunteer," taking orders from no one, and taunts frightened provincial and local officials, demanding their resignations and daring the government to arrest him.

One part of the dilemma Aguinaldo presents for military authorities is his reputation as the armed forces' most accomplished and dedicated counterinsurgency fighter. His success against communist guerrillas in Cagayan province has won him the admiration of peers and the loyalty of enlisted men, some of whom call him "Rambo."

Since Aguinaldo declared his support for the coup and began his public campaign to overthrow the government, his superiors -- military officers who profess loyalty to Aquino and the constitution -- have refused to heed the pleas of the provincial governor and town mayors to arrest and disarm him.

"It seems like in Cagayan we have martial law, because the military is lording it over the civilians," said Gov. Teresa Dupaya, whose security force has been disarmed by Aguinaldo.

In the two weeks since the coup, Aguinaldo has demonstrated to Cagayan residents the fragility of the authority wielded by civilian and miltiary officials loyal to President Aquino.

Aguinaldo has made Cagayan province, 250 miles northeast of Manila, the latest front in the continuing military rebellion sparked by the Aug. 28 coup attempt led by Col. Gregorio Honasan and other officers. Coordinating his moves with Honasan, an old friend from Philippine Military Academy days and a fellow member in the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), Aguinaldo is attempting to establish the northeast as a base from which to direct the overthrow of the government.

"Aquino will not last long," Aguinaldo boasted in an interview at his isolated base camp in Gattaran, defended by more than 200 former communist guerrillas who surrendered to the colonel, combat-toughened Rangers and constabulary soldiers who still recognize Aguinaldo as their commander.

Aguinaldo does not cloak his disdain for the idea of civilian supremacy over the military.

"If the government is only serving its high officials, the military has the divine right to intervene," he said. "We are the ones sent out to bleed and die, and they do not even listen to us. We must have a hand in this government."

To an observer traveling through the province with Aguinaldo and his men, it appears that his message of rebellion is playing well.

He is welcomed into police stations and the camps of fellow military officers, embraced and courted by opposition politicians and encouraged by the province's business kingpins. When he goes into battle against the guerrillas, as he has on five occasions since the coup, he says he "requests" cooperation from the police and constabulary soldiers whom he formerly commanded in the province. His requests are met.

He has paralyzed the civilian government. He now rules Cagayan province.

"It's quite embarrassing," conceded Gen. Manuel Avila, the northeast Philippines regional constabulary commander based in Tuguegarao, the Cagayan provincial capital, and Aguinaldo's immediate superior in the armed forces. Avila has been in Manila this week meeting with top military officials, including Ramos, to decide how to deal with the renegade.

"We're trying to find a way to work this out because he is a very effective tool against the insurgents," Avila said in a telephone interview in Manila. The general said he has offered Aguinaldo the command of a "counterinsurgency task force" based in Gattaran, the site of a base camp Aguinaldo established in guerrilla territory five years ago.

A much more serious concern for military officials is the realization that many soldiers in Cagayan province, and elsewhere in the country, share Aguinaldo's disaffection with the Aquino government.

Aguinaldo and his aides said 95 percent of the units from the northeastern provinces of Cagayan, Kalinga-Apayao and Isabela phoned Aguinaldo and pledged their support for the coup. Interviews with soldiers and officers in military camps around Cagayan province lend support to that claim.

Col. Bernabe Orena, the commander of the 5th Army infantry brigade, said most of his junior officers and soldiers expressed support for the rebellion against Aquino.

Orena said that in an effort to quell unrest he has held a series of dialogues with his troops.

"We are telling people that the communists use violence and force to seize power," he said. "If we are credible, we should renounce the use of force and violence. We should air our grievances through democratic ways."

But he admitted that an overwhelming majority of his officers and men do not share his sentiments.

A colonel at the regional constabulary headquarters in Tuguegarao painted a similar portrait of strong support for the coup.

"The men feel the government is too accommodating toward the other {communist} side, particularly those who took up arms against the government, and the men think the government is too harsh on them, particularly in the area of human rights violations," he said.

Soldiers and officers interviewed around the province also made it clear that if authorities in Manila ordered Aguinaldo's arrest, the order probably would be ignored.

In the meantime, Gov. Dupaya and her town mayors are outraged -- and terrified -- that the rebel colonel has not been arrested.

On the day rebel soldiers attacked the presidential palace and other government targets in Manila, Aguinaldo drove to Camalaniugan with a truckload of armed men.

Standing in the middle of the highway outside the mayor's house, Aguinaldo shouted through a megaphone, "You must resign," and accused the mayor of enriching himself, witnesses said.

Aguinaldo repeated the scene in several other towns before driving into Tuguegarao.

There, soldiers loyal to Aguinaldo drove to government offices and at gunpoint ordered frightened employes to lower the Philippine flag and hoist it again upside down, a symbol of support for the rebellion. They even forced employes at the provincial Girl Scout headquarters to reverse the flag, authorities said.

Later, the colonel led a caravan of rebellious soldiers to the regional constabulary headquarters just outside town, where he asked Avila to declare his loyalty.

The general refused, and Aguinaldo threatened to overrun the camp, according to military and civilian government sources.

When Avila offered his pistol to Aguinaldo as a sign of surrender, Aguinaldo refused to accept it.

Outside, rebel soldiers turned the headquarters flag upside down, as sympathetic troops cheered, witnesses said.

"My concern was the soldiers," Avila said. "I did not want any violence or bloodshed."

Earlier this week, 15 Cagayan mayors passed a resolution asking for firearms and men to defend themselves, and Gov. Dupaya has appealed to Aquino and Ramos to arrest Aguinaldo.

In the meantime, Aguinaldo is whipping the soldiers of Cagayan into a frenzy.

"Aquino is part of the problem because she has failed in her leadership," said a young lieutenant, an aide to Aguinaldo.

Aguinaldo said the military rebellion will spread to other provinces and predicted that Aquino will be forced to resign by November.

"Even if Ramos resigns and Aquino sacks her advisers, that will only be a temporary solution," he said. "We will still be watching her."