TADIAR: ‘I could not in conscience shoot Enrile & Ramos & the people shielding them’

12:07 PM February 24, 2011

Editor’s Note: Last Feb. 23, the day the tanks of the Philippine Marines were stopped in their tracks by barricades of pleading and praying Filipinos, the author, Gonzalo B. Misa, Jr. found himself face to face with the Marine commandant, BGen. Artemio A. Tadiar, Jr. It was 3 pm. and negotiations were going on, on Ortigas Ave. between the Opposition camp and Tadiar. Misa had joined his friend, Teopisto Guingona who was one of the negotiators including Tingting Cojuangco and Bren Guiao. The general agreed to grant Guingona and Guiao 30 minutes to negotiate with Gen. Fidel Ramos and to wait for the counteroffer from the rebel general holed up in Camp Crame with Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.

After 40 minutes of waiting, Tadiar said he had to proceed with his order; he had kept his end of the bargain. The author who stayed behind when Guingona went to see Gen. Ramos pleaded for more time to which Tadiar replied: “Will you take it as your personal responsibility if many people get hurt when my troops move in the dark? You keep on delaying me.” Misa said yes; the general took down his name.

Tadiar would not be stopped any longer. “He told me,” Misa relates, “to tell the people to proceed to EDSA between Crame and Aguinaldo if we wished since we wanted to prevent bloodshed. Or we could walk beside the tanks toward the back of Camp Aguinaldo to ensure that Gen. Tadiar would not attack Aguinaldo.”


Since nobody seemed to be in charge of the crowd at that moment, Misa decided to climb the nearest tank to make his first public speech, mostly it was morale-boosting about their willingness to die right there; and he asked the crowd to pray the rosary. And people knelt before the tanks praying. Butz Aquino spoke next and Gen. Tadiar who repeated what he had told Misa about not hurting civilians. “We will just go behind Camp Aguinaldo …Just let us pass.” The crowd did not budge an inch even as Tadiar ordered the tanks to start their engines; then they stopped and there was jubilation and almost everyone had tears in their eyes. Tadiar then ordered the tanks to move back to a clearing away from the road. “That was how the war was won,” Misa says, “not only by the Reformists but also by Loyalists who at the moment of truth disobeyed immoral orders and rose above themselves to bow to the will of the people.”


On May 14, 78 days after the Revolution, Misa visited Tadiar who is under house arrest in his quarters at Fort Bonifacio. Tadiar remembered Misa and agreed to an interview, his first since the Revolution. As he told Misa, “It’s only to you I will bother to tell these things.”

TADIAR: There have been so many unfair and inaccurate news reports being published. The book, The Quartet of the Tiger Moon, for example, states that I gave an ultimatum of 30 minutes to Mr. Tito Guingona and that marines were firing into the night to make their presence felt. You were there and you know Tito Guingona was the one who asked for the 30 minutes which I granted him. And, my men never fired a single shot. If we did, there should have been chaos. Perhaps it’s a miracle that in all our movements, the marines did not have even an accidental fire, nor have we bruised anybody or scratched any civilian vehicle. Let me tell you what really happened.

The military should have acted on the eve of Saturday, Feb. 22, 1986 but did not for some reasons I still do not know Early Sunday morning, Major General Josephus Ramas, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, was designated as the over-all Commander to undertake the operations against the Enrile-Ramos Group. But surprisingly, instead of utilizing army troops, he called upon the marines to undertake the mission. So initially, I designated my deputy, Brigadier General Jose R. Paez to command the Provisional Marine Brigade which was hastily organized for this purpose.

However, as intelligence reports poured in regarding the presence of multitudes of civilians forming human barricades at EDSA and the vicinity of Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo, I took it upon myself to lead my troops personally lest innocent blood be shed. My instructions to my officers and men were clear: “Do not fire unless fired upon and unless I personally order you to do so.

On Sunday afternoon, Feb. 23, 1986, we left Fort Bonifacio for Camp Aguinaldo with a troop strength of three battalions (about 1,650 soldiers) on 10 LVTs (landing vehicle tanks), 26 M-35 trucks, four V-150 commandos, and a number of Mini-Cruiser jeeps and Land Rovers. When I saw all those civilians at Ortigas Avenue, I ordered my troops to stop. Those 45-tonner LVTs could have rammed through anything or anybody. I mustered all the moral courage I could. I did not want my hands to be stained with the blood of innocent people and go down in history as the “Butcher of Ortigas Avenue”. You know I could have advanced but did not because I did not want to hurt innocent, unarmed civilians. The miracle of it all fall was that during those tense moments, not a single provocateur was present because he could have easily exploded a firecracker and pandemonium would have ensued. It was also a blessing in disguise that the NPA did not take advantage of the situation to create trouble — it was then the perfect time.

After our confrontation at Ortigas Ave., I ordered my troops back to Fort Bonifacio. Early morning the next day, the marines were able to reach Camp Aguinaldo through the AFP Logistics Command entrance. There were two rifle battalions, three LVT-H6 tanks and four V-150 commandos. That morning, the 105 mm guns of the three LVT-H6 tanks were already bore-sighted on Camp Crame. In addition, more than a dozen mortars of the battalions were already set and ready to fire. General Josephus Ramas gave orders to my Regimental Commander to fire, but he did not respond because the orders did not come from me. When this happened, I was then told to order my commander to fire. Well, everybody knows there were no shots fired.


I consider myself a professional soldier and I am apolitical. To my mind, what General Fidel Ramos and Minister Juan Ponce Enrile did on Feb. 22, 1986 was merely a case of political defection because initially no mention was made of a rebellion or a coup d’etat. They only announced that they were withdrawing their support from the then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. It was then a matter between them and President Marcos to solve. Besides, I deeply respect and admire Minister Enrile and General Ramos and they have not done me or my unit then any wrong. As such, I cannot in conscience shoot them or the people shielding them even if ordered to do so.

As a soldier, I had pledged my allegiance to the Constitution and the duly constituted authority, who was then President Marcos — until the time he left the country.

For me, two kinds of people emerged in those days: the constitutionalists and the moralists, not loyalists and reformists. I did what I was supposed to do as a professional soldier during the critical days of February, 1986. And, I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.

I am a professional soldier, so President Corazon Aquino, is now my Commander-in-Chief.

MISA: Why are you under house arrest? What is your crime?

TADIAR: Frankly, I do not know. But that is okay, it is part of the game. And I am willing to accept whatever is given me.

MISA: Were you General Fabian Ver’s favorite?

TADIAR: No, I don’t think so. If I were, I should be rich by now. But I am still a poor man. To tell you frankly, I do not even have a house of my own. In all my years of association with General Ver, my dealings with him were official in nature. I have not asked him a single personal favor.

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It was late in the evening when I finished my interview with the general. I left the general’s house with one unanswered question in mind. Brig. General Tadiar has not committed any crime. The top Communist leaders like Jose Mari Sison and Bernabe Buscayno have been given general amnesty together with hundreds of political detainees the NPA is wrecking havoc in the countryside; so many corrupt balimbing generals and government officials still wear their rank, why is Tadiar still under house arrest? Perhaps our magnificent rebels, Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel Ramos can answer this question.


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