MANILA - A prominent military officer who took part in the bloodiest coup d'etat against President Corazon "Cory" Aquino's administration in 1989 offered a "snappy salute" to the late former president.
Detained Marines Col. Ariel Querubin, a key member of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa - Young Officers Movement – Soldiers of the Filipino People which launched the bloody 1989 coup attempt against Aquino, said he regrets that he did not have a chance to meet or shake hands with Aquino before her death last Saturday (August 1).
"At this time of national grief, and in her honor, I give my former Commander-in-Chief my snappy salute. Farewell, Mrs. President," Querubin said a statement released through his stepson and spokesman Martin Loon.
"It is no secret that I was one of those who led the coup against her administration in 1989. And I am glad that 20 years thereafter, the wounds brought about by that exercise have begun to heal. Pres. Aquino stood for freedom and democracy, ideals many of us share. With her passing, I hope that what she stood for lives on and that many, especially those in the military, will take inspiration from her values and the principles she lived by," he added in his statement.
Querubin suffered a near fatal gunshot wound in the coup attempt in 1989, described as the bloodiest and almost successful coup attempt, and was even reportedly presumed dead until found to still have a pulse.
On Mother's Day last May, Querubin said he "sent flowers and a message of prayer" to Aquino, who was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Courage and bravery
Querubin also praised Aquino for agreeing to support his group's cause during the Feb. 26, 2006 standoff at the Philippine Marines headquarters, where he allegedly called on several Marine units for an alleged to bid to oust President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Aquino was one of many political leaders who attempted to enter Fort Bonifacio grounds that evening, to offer support for Querubin's alleged move to oust Arroyo. Aquino had already joined calls for President Arroyo to resign in 2005, following allegations of cheating in the 2004 elections.
"Amidst Proclamation 1017 at that time, she (Aquino) braved the dark of the night and the anti-riot police to be one with the people in prayer. Through the years, I have learned to admire her bravery and courage very much. She was brave up to her final moments," Querubin said.
A Medal of Valor Awardee, Querubin is detained in Camp Aguinaldo, facing a mutiny charge for his alleged role in the standoff.
Querubin, former Army Scout Rangers chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, and then Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda allegedly planned to march to the EDSA Shrine and announce their withdrawal of support from Arroyo.
Cory had 'nerves of steel'
Meanwhile, former Philippine Constabulary (PC) Chief Maj. Gen. Ramon Montaño, a staunch defender of Cory Aquino during her presidency, said he admired Aquino for her bravery even during the toughest coups launched against her administration.
Montaño, who was then a ground commander of PC-Integrated National Police and head of the Metropolitan Police Force, said Aquino stayed composed during the first alleged coup attempt mounted by some groups in the military against her in July 1986. This happened just 4 months after she became president.
"The President just moved into the Palace and I was worried about her safety. We found out that she was cooking in the kitchen with teargas fumes swirling all over. She was unbothered and so calm as if her nerves were made of steel," he said.
Montaño said that Aquino remained just as calm during the "God Save the Queen" coup attempt in November 1986, as well as during a 1987 coup attempt when military rebels reached the Palace, burned the military's General Headquarters, and seized the Makati Business District for several days.
The 'Lady in Yellow'
He also described Aquino as "the picture of courage, confidence, and serenity" even during the toughest negotiations between Cabinet members and military rebels.
Montaño was one of many military officials who joined a "mutiny" against President Marcos in February 1986. He said they were afraid to go against the dictator at the time, but was heartened by former president Aquino and the crowds that lined EDSA during the famous "People Power" revolt, that sparked the end of Martial Law.
"We threw away these fears as we could feel the trust and the faith of the Filipino people in their chosen leader, President Corazon C. Aquino who inspired the whole nation to defy mighty tanks, gun ships and machine guns armed only with prayers and their faith in the Almighty," he said.
"The Lady in Yellow, then only known to the soldiers as the widow of the late Sen. [Benigno] "Ninoy" Aquino [Jr.], brought together the soldiers and the Filipino people," he said.
Montaño said that Aquino had symbolized "what is good and what is noble in the Filipino people", which became a unifying factor for many soldiers.