Government warplanes blasted rebel soldiers out of one occupied garrison Friday and prepared to recapture another as President Corazon Aquino ordered troops to quash a day-old rebellion in the southern island of Mindanao.
Armed forces chief Gen. Renato de Villa told a news conference in Manila that two T-28 Tora Tora planes bombed the brigade headquarters in Butuan city, 500 miles south of Manila, sending rebels scampering away.De Villa said troops now were poised to strike in Cagayan de Oro city, where the rebel leader, Col. Alexander Noble, and opposition politician Reuben Canoy were holding out in Camp Evangelista.
"For all intents and purposes, the rebellion of Noble and Canoy is finished," de Villa said, adding that rebel hopes other government forces in the area would defect to them have not materialized.
De Villa however confirmed news reports that a platoon of soldiers in Iligan city near Cagayan de Oro apparently had defected to Noble.
Noble and his force of some 600 soldiers and militiamen began the uprising Thursday by taking Butuan and Cagayan de Oro.
Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos flew to Mindanao and inspected the cities of Zamboanga, Cotabato and Davao, where a simultaneous uprising had earlier been expected.
Ramos said the situation in Mindanao was serious and should not be downplayed but said he did not think the rebels would succeed because they did not have the support of the people.
Noble, who declared Mindanao an independent federal state on Thursday, held a news conference Friday and offered to negotiate. He said he wanted reforms in the military and genuine reconciliation. He denied he took control of the camp, saying it was "abandoned" when he came Thursday.
"My sole purpose in coming over here is to initiate a dialogue and start a crusade or a movement for peace and unity among the military here in Mindanao and our people in general," said Noble, Aquino's former deputy chief of presidential security.
Asked about Noble's offer to negotiate, a grim-faced de Villa said, "No, never."
Aquino has survived six coup attempts. The worst challenge to her four-year rule in December left 119 people dead and more than 500 wounded.