Retired general recalls SAF heroism in 1986 EDSA Revolution

By Ben Cal

February 23, 2019, 5:59 pm

MANILA -- Retired Police Gen. Rey Velasco, the first commander of the famed Special Action Force (SAF), made public his memoirs as one of the co-authors of a book that recounts the untold heroism of SAF troopers, who risked their lives during the People Power revolution in February 1986.

“To tell the story of EDSA and the Armed Forces and Police Special Action Force not from a spectator’s point of view, but from the key players themselves, the unsung heroes, the ones often unheard of,” Velasco said in a speech at the launching of the book “Silver Linings: The Continuing Saga of the 1986 People Power Revolution.” on Friday.

As co-author, Velasco wrote an elaborate detail of what the 500-man SAF troopers did to protect and defend Camp Crame, the headquarters of the defunct Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police (PC/INP), the predecessor of the Philippine National Police (PNP), where the key players of the revolution – then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, and then Army Col. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, established the headquarters of rebel soldiers against forces loyal to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos during the critical four-day peaceful revolution that ousted Marcos from power.

The peaceful four-day revolt that occurred on Feb. 22-25, 1986 mesmerized the world.

The other co-authors of the book are former Local Government Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III and Melandrew T. Velasco, a veteran journalist-publisher.

In his speech at the launching of the book held at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City in Metro Manila, Velasco said “standing here before all of you today fills my heart with overwhelming emotion” as he related his story of the revolution that was covered live by the media, both local and foreign, and beamed throughout the world.

Velasco said that Silver Linings “tell the story of EDSA and the Armed Forces and Police Action Force not from a spectator’s point of view, but from the key players themselves, the unsung heroes, the ones often unheard of.”

“I pride myself in being one of those often unseen, unrecognized good guys,” Velasco said.

“Being the first SAF commander was not easy. And with our baptism of fire being the 1986 EDSA evolution and the coup attempts that came after, being in my shoes was something that would really think about for it was really a matter of life and death,” Velasco said.

He cited former President Fidel V. Ramos for organizing the SAF when he was still the PC/INP chief.

It was also Ramos who formed the Special Forces of the Philippine Army and was its first commander.

The SAF and Special Forces are trained in urban and jungle fighting techniques, respectively.

One incident he could not forget was when he and other SAF troopers were proceeding to Metro Manila from Cavite after Ramos told them to report to Camp Crame shortly before the EDSA revolt started on Feb. 22, 1986.

Velasco said they were riding aboard military vehicles and had to follow the traffic lights along the way, although they were in a hurry.

However, by twist of luck they proceeded smoothly along all streets they had passed with the green light signal on, except when they were about to enter Camp Crame in Quezon City when they had to stop for a while because of the red signal.

Velasco said they arrived on time.

During the launching, Velasco said: “I’m sure all of the other key players of EDSA and members of the SAF in the earlier days feel as I do, in the same way that their accounts contributed in this book speak best of what we have experienced first-hand in our battles together.”

He was thankful to be given the opportunity to be the co-author of the book since “it’s not every day that one sees a book that digs deep into the very soul of a Filipino soldier like myself.”

“I feel sheer joy that through this new Silver Linings, which spans more than 50 years of Philippine history and governance, people can come to understand what it is that uniformed men like us really yearn for – it is not violence, not a country inb ruins because of futile warfare,” Velasco pointed out.

“Rather what we have always fought for is a return to purity of intention, both within the Armed Forces and those with the power to rule the nation and to promote peace, sound governance and selfless service so that every Filipino can experience the life he/she deserves,” Velasco concluded. (PNA)