1989-12-12 00:00:00

The army chief in Visayas says that during the recent coup attempt, Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal of Cebu helped keep an explosive situation from becoming a bloody encounter.

At a Mass Dec. 10, a day after the surrender of Mactan airbase, army chief Brigadier General Renato Palma said, "All throughout the crisis I sought advice from the cardinal."

"Once more, our experience reminds us that peace could be attained through constant dialogue in all seriousness and sincerity," Cardinal Vidal said.

Palma called the peaceful conclusion of the nine-day seige "the work of God" and claimed it was the prayers of the Cebuano people that saved them from violence.

-- Mactan Island, about 10 kilometers south of Cebu City, is linked to Cebu by the 600 meter Mactan-Mandaue bridge.

On opposite sides of the bridge, armed government and rebel soliders had kept guard in quiet but tense posture from Dec. 1 when the airforce chief, Brigadier General Jose Comendador, threw his support behind the rebels.

Palma described the atmosphere during the siege as "quite panicky" with both sides bracing for attack.

Two shiploads of rebel troops from Surigao, on the northeast coast of Mindanao, landed on the island Dec. 1 and took over the international airport connected to the airbase.

Twelve commercial planes were stranded in the airport. Comendador threatened to blow up the planes, as he did 25 military aircraft, if the government forces fired one shot.

By Dec. 2, about 11,000 people were evacuated to six centers on the island. Days dragged by with both sides standing their guard, residents said.

Cardinal Vidal met Comendador Dec. 7 to discuss a peaceful settlement to the Mactan situation, but Comendador refused to give up his position.

In his Masses, the cardinal called for calm. He also asked Cebu business people not to take advantage of the crisis and raise prices of goods.

The cardinal told UCA News he was saddened by the news that the governor had given up after the first two attempts at dialogue with Comendador failed.

He said he contacted Senator Ernesto Herrera, a native of Cebu, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Renato de Villa, both in Manila, when local officials seemed to give up the negotiations.

He said this gave way to "high-level" negotiations.

The final dialogue between Palma and leaders of the renegade soldiers Dec. 9 was at 1:00 p.m. during heavy rain on Mactan bridge.

At this point the rebels agreed to return to their barracks.

"Our time last week (Dec. 1-8) was very troubled and most trying. What was needed then was patience and encouragement and hope. We prayed and waited for peace, and it was painful to wait. But it was worth waiting for," the cardinal said during the Dec. 10 Mass.


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