Nemenzo refutes coup plot charges

On November 14, Philippines special state prosecutor Deana Perez denied the motion of the lawyers of 49 individuals charged with rebellion to dismiss the preliminary investigation on the grounds that there was no valid complaint-affidavits. The 49 were alleged to have taken part in the coup attempt last February 24.

Lawyers for the 49 individuals — who include former University of the Philippines (UP) president Francisco Nemenzo, former senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan and former ambassador Roy Seneres, as well as a number of active and retired military officers — told the Department of Justice hearing in Manila that they would appeal Perez's ruling to the Court of Appeals.

In a statement issued that same day, Nemenzo denied participating in a coup attempt and said that the indictment against him rested solely on the basis of his having met with some junior military officers "to discuss the Blueprint for a Viable Philippines", a document proposing a range of reforms to the country's political and economic system that had been drawn up by Nemenzo and a number of other prominent leftist intellectuals.

"This I do not deny", Nemenzo stated. "What is wrong with discussing with soldiers the problems of our country and the policy options available? They, too, are citizens who are worried about our country's plunge to disaster...

"There was therefore nothing conspiratorial about the meeting. We also discussed the Blueprint with colleagues in academe, with journalists, religious communities, mass organizations, and even with Makati business executives. This document is published and widely circulated. In fact, it is posted in the internet and can be downloaded by anybody who cares about the future of this country."

He went on to state that the soldiers he had met with "have come to realize that 'political neutrality' is a fiction. Many times in Philippine history, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police played a political role. They have been used to protect the elite from the outraged masses. They have also been used to thwart the people's will in fraudulent elections.

"These soldiers who now stand accused for violating 'political neutrality' are in fact trying to redeem their profession from ignominy, by aligning themselves with the people. They seek to transform the armed services from a tool of elite rule and an instrument of deceitful politicians into a force for genuine democracy and social reforms.

"Extrapolating from survey results, a coup to evict [President Gloria Arroyo's government] would be the most popular coup in Philippine history. But there was no danger of that last February 24."

Nemenzo argued that the military officers who had been charged with rebellion "did not plan to stage a coup. They just wanted to march with their troops to the EDSA [1986 democracy movement] shrine and join a civilian crowd in calling for withdrawal of support from an illegitimate and corrupt government. Real coup plotters do not ask permission from their superior officers, much less invite them to heed the clamor from below.

"As a political science professor who specialized in the study of unconventional forms of political action, I have been a keen observer of military affairs. I therefore understand and sympathize with these disgruntled soldiers, but I vehemently disclaim the charge that we conspired against the Filipino people."

UP faculty regent Roland Simbulan said in a statement that the charges against Nemenzo "were reminiscent of the 1950s when UP faculty members who were known to have progressive and nationalist views were witch-hunted by the Congressional Committee on 'Un-Filipino activities' and accused of being Communists and conspirators.