Tuesday, April 7, 2009

THE 89' COUP

(The family picture of the Somoza-Luga Clan during the death of Celestino Sta. Romana, the husband of Ruperta Luga-Sta. Romana)


IN QUEST FOR PEACE

THE FOILED 1989' COUP

(The untold story)

In honor of General Emilio S. Luga Jr.,

and Col. Mateo Luga



It was almost twenty years ago on December 1989 when then Captain Danilo Lim together with the Army's elite Scout Ranger Regiment marched along Fort Bonifacio's main road leading to Makati singing the Scout Ranger's song. Less than a kilometer away from the main road at the National Intelligence and Coordinating Agency's (NICA) compound, General Rodolfo Canieso, NICA's Director General, with his aide, Max Caro, then a Captain in the Philippine Army, with their staff, were listening to their radioman eavesdropping troop movements. After receiving a brief telephone call, General Canieso remarked: we will repel them!



The entire regiment of the Scout Rangers brought along with them high powered firearms, machine guns, bazookas, mortars, explosives and all sorts of ammunitions from the Logistic Command. Battle tested Rangers who fought Muslim separatist rebel in combat under the command of Captain Danilo Lim were in high spirits. Captain Lim, the most respected junior officer in the Regiment who fought hand in hand with his men during the Mindanao conflict in the early 80's was then a Lieutenant when he was under the command of General Emilio S. Luga Jr., the Commanding General of the Army's elite division, the First Infantry "Tabak" Division, a home to the Scout Ranger Regiment.


Unlike previous coup' d etat, were General Canieso, who was then the Army's Chief, personally took control of a tank leading his men to crash the walls of Camp Aguinaldo, where then Col. Gregorio Honasan with his handful of trainee's from Fort Magsaysay encamped, the General is now helpless. Without well equipped army to command, his men were no match with the superior firepower of the rebel forces and unlike the Army, NICA is a civilian agency without an armory and combat ready troop. Moreover, its role is only to provide information and not to engage into combat.


Not known from the outside world, however, NICA have real-time updates of troop movements from both sides. The high-tech equipment it used to monitor, break and intercept radio messages (a very sophisticated UHF radio transmitter, which can be acquired legally) , was allegedly donated by the PLDT , where Col. Mateo Luga, then Vice-President for Security Affairs of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the brother of the late Col. Isagani Luga and a cousin of Gen. Emilio S. Luga Jr., both of PMA Batch 54', donated by the PLDT. The equipment may have been dilapidated and, maybe . . . surely - out of service today.


Col. Mateo Luga, a retired Army Colonel during the Marcos administration is a highly respected officer. Nobody can penetrate the security cordon of the PLDT under his watch and nobody dares to cross path with the security detail that Col. Mateo Luga laid in PLDT, friends or foe alike. Eavesdropping by the military or by any intelligence agency using the facility of PLDT is a blatant breach for Col. Luga, regardless of friendship or blood relationship. The PLDT, however, allegedly helped NICA acquire high-tech communication equipment (a UHF that can be legally acquired ihe market) as a gesture of goodwill to Gen. Canieso, who was a fellow Cavalier of Isagani (who died many years before the 89' coup) and his cousin, Emilio, Jr..


Meanwhile, rebel forces took control of Makati. They commandeered vital installations and occupied buildings of strategical value, but not the PLDT Compound along Ayala Avenue. I heard later that there were allegedly some security personnel of Col. Mateo Luga' who died defending PLDT's facility when rebel forces tried to force their way into the compound. Snipers and machinegun batteries were set in place by the SRs atop the buildings of significant value in Makati business district. Those positioned at the twin towers along Ayala Avenue were so effective that it basically foiled series of attempt by government forces to penetrate Ayala Avenue even under cover by armored personnel carrier. Explosive devices were carefully planted in strategic locations that no armored personnel carrier or even a tank can penetrate their security cordon without heavy damage and casualty. Infantrymen with bazookas and mortars were scattered in the area. Many tried to enter Ayala Avenue, but failed and retreated. General Aguirre and Mayor Binay, were among them. It was a New Year's eve every night for about a week. Volley of gunfire, tracer bullets and flares exchanges above the horizon when darkness strikes.


After two or three days, if my memory serves me right, foreign guests entered the NICA compound and left after a brief conference. Subsequently, a US jet fighter hovered over the sky. The phone rang . . . somebody at the other end of the line was looking for General Canieso. At the other end, it was General Emilio S. Luga, Jr. and with him was Col. Arturo Enrile, who later became the Commanding General of the Philippine Army and thereafter, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. General Emilio S. Luga Jr., one of the most senior officer in the Philippine Army, a well respected Scout Ranger and veteran of the Vietnam and Mindanao war, helped the government convince the rebel forces to return to barracks peacefully. These were his men, whom he has been with fighting side by side during the Mindanao conflict in the 80's. As their former leader, General Emilio Luga, Jr., although retired, voluntarily went out of his way to see his men - a trait of a general they once called the "Rommel of Mindanao", who never leave his men in battle. After the Scout Rangers agreed to return to barracks peacefully, General Luga proceeded to Visayas to convince rebel forces in Cebu to lay down their arms and to peacefully return to the folds of law.


It was the trust and respect from his men that General Emilio S. Luga, Jr., earned that helped the government convince the junior officers to lay down their arms and peacefully return to barracks. General Emilio S. Luga, Jr., who earned the reputation as the "Rommel of Mindanao", for his bravery into leading his men in the front line - in combat during the Mindanao conflict, is well loved and respected by his men even after he retired from the service. It was this contributory factor, which decisively ended the Makati siege in the 1989’ ‘coup d etat’. General Arturo Enrile, later became the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It was, however, sad that Gen. Enrile’s career ended briefly by his death.


Today, General Emilio S. Luga, Jr., and Col. Mateo Luga, the grandson of the late General Mateo Noriel Luga, the Katipunero General who nearly captured and sent General Henry Lawton running away from battle with his American expeditionary forces from the island of Cebu, is now in their early 80's. Like their grandfather before them, many of their exploits were not made public. Soon they will be joining the ranks of the many Luga who has served this Republic and who, not known to others, played significant role in molding and shaping the history of our nation. It would be best then for those who knows of their heroism and exploits to honor them while they can still appreciate our gratefulness for their unselfish effort, sacrifices and heroic deeds to ensure that democracy and freedom reigns for our future generation to come. In has been an honor serving with them in that fateful week of December 1989.


(Inset pictures: 1. Upper photo: The Somoza Luga Clan; 2. Mid portion photo : Gen. Emilio S. Luga, Jr.; 3. Lower photo: Col. Mateo Luga)



(Above excerpts were based on the personal account of Roy R. Luga, who was then with General Rodolfo Canieso, in that fateful week of December 1989.)

2 comments:

  1. As I look at the photos of the Lugas above, I see strength, courage and heroism written in granite.

    The quiet heroism of the Lugas in the past even in modern history, without the external trappings and funfare of politics make the Lugas all the more admirable.

    They fight 'quietly' defending our freedom & democracy. This is the reason their heroism is not so known in high places.

    But I am proud to be an Isabelino because of the Lugas.

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  2. Thank you Sid. Not that it is not so known, but maybe because of their deep sense of nationalism and objectivity that they were not given so much attention as they might pause a threat because of their idealism as they are not much interested in money, fame or motivated by self-interest, but just to serve and do what is right.

    We are just trying to preserve history, that many are not aware of. We have have no intention to be famous. We are just keeping a memoir of events for our future generation to be proud of . . . for our tribe . . . its prople and this nation.

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