He’ll present his credentials at the golf course

BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven -
The capture of perpetual putschist Greg "Gringo" Honasan was a big coup for the administration. No matter how government-orchestrated media "persuasion" now attempts to denigrate Honasan – if you ask me a poor strategy – the fact is that Honasan was the most effective recruiter of coup plotters. A PMA cavalier, a proven warrior (although he did spend only three years in the field against the Republic’s insurgent foes – spending more time staging coups and figuring out how to overthrow the government), Gringo was a figure of glamour and derring-do, which captivated the imaginations of young officers and Philippine Military Academy cadets.

Now that Honasan has been nabbed, seized while trying to hip-hop his way out of a tight fix, I trust they’ll lock him up and keep him securely in the brig. They ought to recall that once they put him on a ship in the middle of the bay, thinking that such isolation would keep him fettered – indeed, he was guarded by tough navy SWAGs (special weapons group commandos, our equivalent of the US Navy Seals). By golly. Gringo sweet-talked his guards into joining him instead, and he escaped from the ship, escorted by his own navy jailers.

In sum, the former Senator and RAM-rod’s articulate tongue and messianic message always mesmerizes his military listeners. Warriors, after all, traditionally believe that cowardly but greedy politicians are the ones undermining the nation – while our soldiers fight and die forgotten and unappreciated. Thus, Honasan’s hortatory teach-ins and speeches were absorbed by eager ears. In truth, he was a leader of men – in the wrong direction.

As for women, they swooned over him, even as he grew pudgy and his hair turned a stylish gray. Some officers told me the other night that, when caught, Honasan had requested his captors not to involve the lady Ingrid R. in whose Greenmeadows place he had been cornered, but say, please, he had been run to ground after a chase.

Oh well. She was probably just a friend, or a true believer.

Honasan is an old friend of mine, too. I knew his dad who was with Pres. Ramon Magsaysay. But now he’s blown it.

The coup "threat", of course, hasn’t gone away. Yet, those who would promote conspiracy have lost their most eloquent promoter. Greg was forgiven twice. This is strike three.
* * *
Wednesday evening was a Night of the Generals. This writer met with Lt. Gen. Romeo P. Tolentino, Commanding General of the Philippine Army, and his senior staff. We talked for three hours over dinner at the "Good Earth" restaurant on The Strip at the Fort.

When I got there, I was pleasantly surprised to see another friend, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Efren Abu, who was entertaining some former classmates from California at another table. General Abu, who’s now a Presidential "roving ambassador" came over to say hello. I asked him whether just-retired Police General Vidal Querol would soon be leaving to take up his post as the nominated Ambassador to Indonesia. (Both Abu, who is particularly close to the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Querol were SBY’s classmates at Ft. Leavenworth in the United States in advanced tactics).

Abu recounted that when the Indonesian chief executive (of course a retired General) SBY passed through Manila’s international airport and held a one hour and a half meeting with Speaker Joe de Venecia there – he was the ranking civilian official in town – "classmate" Abu had also been requested to meet His Excellency Bambang. Abu said that he made it a point to bring Querol along with him.

When he told the Indonesian Chief Executive that Querol would be our envoy to Jakarta, President SBY had laughed, said that Vid was more than welcome. Then he quipped: "I’ll receive your credentials on the golf course!"

If our generals played at war as efficiently as they play golf, I’d like to add, we’d have our enemies on the run – no doubt about that.
* * *
General Tolentino, who served 11 years as an officer in Sulu, knows that archipelago well – and he told me that the capture of Bali Bomber terrorist Dulmatin, Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Umar Patek, and the axing of Abu Sayyaf’s Khadafy Janjalani was only a matter of time. The problem, he admitted sotto voce, was to keep the Army and Marines from stumbling all over each other. That’s what I feared in the first place.

All his staff, it turned out, had served in the Mindanao wars – whether on the mainland, in Sulu, or in Basilan. There were Army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Jovenal D. Narcise, and his brother Gen. Samuel D. Narcise, both from Ilocos Sur. There was Brig. Gen. Daniel R. Casabar Jr., chief Army Resource management; then newly-promoted Brig. Gen. Ricardo C. Morales (MNSA), Camp Commander of Fort Andres Bonifacio. He told us he handles and disposes of, as part of his military duties, 5 to 7 tons of garbage daily. Soldiering is a many-splendored thing, by golly. Then there was Col. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, Asst. Chief of Staff for Intelligence, G2, Philippine Army – the ISAFP, General Tolentino pointed out, played a major role in staking out, then pouncing on Gringo Honasan. Finally, we had Col. Marilou Salazar, Infantry.

In any event, what was discussed is not for publication. We’ll see the results of planning in the weeks to come.

As for the "Good Earth" restaurant – which is right next to our friend Max Talreja’s "Prince of Jaipur," it seems to be a hang-out for the generals, who like things spicy – even Chinese food.

You won’t be burdened today with my usual analytical and boring profundities: I’m off to the airport for a meeting overseas. No, no, not Hanoi. The 21 big shots from APEC gathering there, including our La Presidenta, have overcrowded that venue with too much celebrity. I’m going elsewhere. Abangan next Sunday’s issue.











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