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‘My troops will not move’

The EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 is a major milestone in the Filipino’s struggle for freedom and democracy. It is celebrated every year through special programs and activities that commemorate and relive the historic moment in the nation’s history.

In the past, these celebrations were anticipated with greater excitement as prominent personalities of the EDSA revolt, like former Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and others would often attend the commemoration event. Once, during one of  the celebrations, the organizers even featured ordinary people with their extraordinary experiences during the revolt.

But the 1986 EDSA revolt has other stories yet to be told, stories unheard from people who are not your “usual players”—those who were “on the other side of the fence,” so to speak.

Brig. General Felix Brawner Jr. has one such story.

He was commander of the 1st Philippine Scout Ranger Regiment (PSRR) of the Philippine Army and was also the J-3 (joint staff of operation) of the military during the final days of the Marcos regime. His role may be considered crucial during the bloodless revolt, if not as equally important as that of other key personalities.

General Brawner said in an interview that as J-3, he knew the military was prepared for action during the start of the People Power revolt and they all had plans to suppress uprisings and demonstrations.

“It was part of my job to send troops where it is needed. It was already plotted in my plans, if there are demonstrations there; I would bring troops there—in Mendiola and other areas. That was my job as J-3,” he said.

At the height of the People Power revolt, the government had made plans to storm Camp Crame where Ramos, Enrile and their forces were encamped.

Brawner said he ordered the tanks and the 105 mm howitzers sent to EDSA in preparation for the assault of Camp Crame. First, he sent Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar with the tanks but the Marine commandant later told Brawner that they were in a difficult situation and they could not advance.

So Brawner had the tanks and the marine troops pulled out of EDSA. When Tadiar arrived in Fort Bonifacio, Brawner asked him what happened and Tadiar said: “Sir, it is difficult. Many people will die if I move. I do not have the guts to do it.”

The following day, Brawner sent Col. Braulio Balbas, deputy commandant of the Philippine Marines, with his convoy of troops to EDSA but similarly, they could not advance and later returned to Fort Bonifacio.

The following day, Balbas and his men entered Camp Aguinaldo and position their 105 mm howitzers on the golf course fronting Camp Crame, ready to fire at the Ramos-Enrile camp. But when they were ordered to fire, they hesitated. When asked what happened, Balbas told Brawner: “We’re still adjusting sir.” Balbas and his men obviously did not want to hurt fellow officers, so they were later sent back to Fort Bonifacio.

Next, General Fabian Ver asked Brawner to stay in Malacañang but was later allowed to return and stay with his men in the PSSR Camp in Fort Bonifacio. While in the camp, junior officers of the PSRR asked Brawner that they wanted to go to Camp Crame to join the other PMA officers in the Ramos-Enrile camp.

Brawner did not stop the officers but told them: “If you want to go to Crame, you can go but you have to leave your firearms.”

Only one officer and a handful of reserve men stayed with Brawner in the camp. The general told his men that he had only one order which is for them not to leave the PSRR camp. “In other words, whatever order they tell me to leave the camp, I will say no, “Brawner said.

Major General Rodolfo Canieso, acting as emissary of Ramos and Enrile, then visited General Brawner in the camp to ask about the situation and to know about the next move.

Brawner told Canieso: “Sir, please go home. Nothing will happen. I will not send out my troops. My troops will remain here. You can tell that to Sec. Fidel Ramos and Mr. Enrile.”

Early morning the following day, Canieso called Fidel V. Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile and gave the phone to Brawner. The two talked to him on the phone, one after the other.

Brawner assured Ramos: “Sir, I told you. There is no problem. The troops will not move. The troops will not strike.”

Brawner told Enrile the same message to which he replied: “Don’t worry, Felix. After this, I will bring you to Cory.” It never happened.

Brig. Gen Felix Brawner Jr is now retired, enjoying the quiet, happy life of a good soldier, having served his country with loyalty, courage and honor.

Manny Salvacion is a freelance writer working for various publication. He took up English Literature and is currently writing the biography of B/Gen Felix Brawner Jr. The article is part of a chapter in the biography.

Topics: EDSA People Power Revolution , struggle for freedom and democracy , Presidents Cory Aquino , Fidel Ramos , Senator Juan Ponce Enrile , Brig. General Felix Brawner Jr.
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