(UPDATED) Former President Fidel Ramos publicly bashed President Benigno Aquino III Wednesday in front of about 200 people, including two who are campaigning to oust the President.
The occasion was the launching of the memoir of Ramos' former national security adviser, Jose Almonte, at Club Filipino.
Ramos spoke inside the very room wherein People Power icon Corazon Aquino was sworn into office as President in 1986. No immediate member of the Aquino family was present this time.
But President Aquino’s aunt, Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco came to the launch. The elder Cojuangco recently called on her nephew to step down from office to give way to an “advisory council” that would be headed by Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
All previous EDSA celebrations have included the “salubungan” -- a reenactment of the dramatic meeting between Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile, the defense minister at that time.
Ramos wasn’t present at Wednesday’s 29th anniversary celebration of People Power at EDSA.
He told the audience: “I did not go to the salubungan this morning today at EDSA people power monument. There was no schedule for it.” He did not say whether he was invited at all to the yearly event.
But had the salubungan pushed through, Enrile would have needed a stand-in since he is under detention while undergoing trial for plunder.
“It's the first time I missed the salubungan in 29 years,” Ramos said.
Aside from Enrile, two other key EDSA participants were also absent -- Senator Gregorio Honasan and retired Philippine National Police Director-General Avelino Razon.
"And (Avelino) Sonny Razon – my aide-de-camp during EDSA. And why was he not there (Wednesday at EDSA)?" Ramos said, his voice rising.
“He's in jail, in Camp Crame, in a jail that he himself built. I don't know what for (he's in jail). But he has been deprived of bail for 18 months,” Ramos said, adding, “Just because the Presiding Justice (Gregory Ong) in the 4th division of the Sandigan was kicked out by the Supreme Court for corruption.”
Razon and 31 other senior police officers have been accused of conspiring to defraud the government of P400 million by “ghost repairing” 28 V-150 Light Armored Vehicles in 2007. Razon signed the purchase orders and disbursement vouchers.
But Ramos said, “this is unfair. There are 32 of them all, general officers who just put their signature – but the crime was not completed until the next administration of the Philippine National Police.”
“Don't these guys deserve bail? I asked for a six-hour pass for Sonny Razon who was one of the early commanders of the Special Action Force under me in 1984.” Ramos surmised his request never reached “the authorities concerned.”
Ramos took potshots at President Aquino as he told the crowd about the “five letter C's...which I hope you will internalize.”
“Number one,” he said, “Come out into the open and tell the truth” – an obvious reference to President Aquino whom the political opposition has accused of covering up his role in last month's police commando operation that resulted in the death of 44 policemen.
Ramos brought the house down when he told them “Number 3 C: Consolidate the Philippine national team because that is being broken up by disunity, by conflict of interests, by the broken chain of command which starts with the commander-in-chief,” again a dig at Aquino.
Ramos said some recent events made him “so disappointed.” For instance, as part of the EDSA celebrations, the former President was assigned to give a speech Wednesday at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery). “I was there on time but...the head of the People Power Commission was late.”
“Is this how we are now? No wonder there is a lack of coordination all over the place.” This quip was received by hoots of laughter from the audience consisting mainly of senior citizens.
To cap his speech, Ramos performed his celebratory jump at EDSA 29 years ago, when he thought his former boss, dictator Ferdinand Marcos, had fled Malacanang Palace.
In their speeches Wednesday, both Ramos and Almonte stressed the need to “pass the baton” to the next generation of leaders, which in their book apparently excludes President Aquino.