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Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on United States Military Assistance to the Philippines

December 02, 1989

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

In the early morning of December 1, 1989 (local time), a coup attempt was launched against the constitutional government of the Philippines. The coup began when rebel forces, apparently under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Gregorio Honasan, seized Villamor Air Force Base adjacent to Aquino International Airport in Manila. Over the next twelve hours, rebel forces attacked Philippine military installations, broadcasting stations, and other government facilities. Rebel forces also seized the Philippine Sangley Point Naval Station and other installations. Rebel controlled aircraft bombed and strafed the presidential palace and the Constabulary Headquarters. In this context, President Aquino formally requested limited U.S. military assistance to support her forces as they attempted to put down the coup.

In response to this request, shortly after midnight on December 1 (Washington time), I ordered armed U.S. aircraft stationed at Clark Air Field to establish a protective cover over Villamor and Sangley Point to prevent rebel aircraft from taking off. No rebel aircraft attempted to take off, and U.S. aircraft did not fire. There were no U.S. casualties.

At present, I do not foresee the need for U.S. military action in addition to the measures described above. I am prepared, however, to take additional actions to protect the lives of Americans, should they be threatened, and, if requested, to provide further assistance to the Government of the Philippines. In this connection, I note that, as a precaution, I dispatched a company of U.S. Marines to reinforce Marine guards at our Embassy.

This measured action by U.S. Forces was taken at my direction in accordance with recognized principles of international law and pursuant to my constitutional authority with respect to the conduct of foreign relations and as Commander in Chief. I am mindful of the historical differences between the Executive and Legislative branches and the positions taken by me and all my predecessors in office with respect to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the War Powers Resolution. I am sharing this information with you consistent with that Resolution.

Our two branches have worked together over the years to provide assistance to the democratically elected government of the Philippines. I look forward to continued close cooperation with Congress in order to further this important policy.


George Bush

The White House,

December 2, 1989.

Note: Identical letters were sent to Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Robert C. Byrd, President pro tempore of the Senate. The letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on December 3.

George Bush, Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on United States Military Assistance to the Philippines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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