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The 1989 Philippine Coup Attempt

On December 1, 1989, the most serious coup d’etat against Philippine President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was staged by the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines belonging to the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and soldiers that are loyal to former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

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President Corazon Aquino’s television address during the December 1989 coup attempt.

This coup was led by Colonel (now an incumbent Senator) Gregorio Honasan. General Edgardo Abenina, and retired General Jose Ma. Zumel. An alliance was formed of the RAM, led by Honasan and troops loyal to Marcos led by Zumel.

The rebels seized Fort Bonifacio, Villamor Airbase, Sangley Airbase, and Mactan Airbase in Cebu and some parts of Camp Aguinaldo. The rebels also established a patrol around the runway of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport effectively shutting it down on that day.

President Aquino went on air to address her people, and said that “We shall smash this naked attempt once more” three hours after the fall of Villamor Airbase.

The United States government supported the Aquino government during this coup. Operation “Classic Resolve” includes the use of US airpower from the USS Midway (CV-41) and USS Enterprise aircraft carriers and F-4 Phantom II fighters in Clark Air Base. The US Air force jets retook the skies for Aquino.

The coup was crushed through United States intervention on December 7, 1989. This resulted to the arrest of Honasan and the other coup plotters, financiers and leaders but some were given amnesty later on. The official casualty toll was 99 dead (including 50 civilians) and 570 wounded.

Following the failure of this coup, President Aquino established a Fact-Finding Commission headed by then COMELEC Chairman (and later Chief Justice) Hilario Davide, Jr. to investigate and provide a full report on the series of coup attempts against her government. The report became known as the Davide Commission Report.

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