October 4, 2021 is the 31 st Anniversary of the 1990 Mindanao Crisis, better known hereabouts as the
Alexander Noble Mutiny.
It was counted as the seventh of the 1986-1990 coup attempts against the government of President
Corazon C. Aquino and lasted from October 4-6, 1990 in the Mindanao cities of Butuan, Cagayan de
Oro and Iligan.
There have been rumors that a coup attempt was brewing in the region for nearly six months.
Military sources said the mutineers were planning to stage ″pocket rebellions″ in remote areas of the
country before striking in the capital.
Mrs. Aquino had previously survived six coup attempts since she took office in February 1986. In the
most recent attempt, in December, rebels seized Manila’s financial district in bloody fighting and nearly
toppled the government. Over 100 people were killed.
On Thursday, October 4 th , 1990, a bomb exploded at a water pumping station at the Philippine Army
headquarters in Manila three hours after the Mindanao base was taken, but caused no casualties.
It was the 35th explosion in the capital since August. Officials see the bombings as the work of military
officers hoping to destabilize the country.
The 1990 Mindanao crisis began when rogue Col. Alexander Noble and his supporters seized two
military garrisons in Cagayan de Oro and Butuan without firing a shot and unilaterally proclaimed the
independence of the Federal Republic of Mindanao on Thursday, October 4, 1990.
According to an informed military source, Noble had gathered some 500 military followers from two
infantry units that had been chasing him through the jungles of northern Mindanao for the past two
months. The 43-year-old former deputy chief of Aquino’s Presidential Security Guard was also backed by
about 200 Higaonon tribesmen and 1,500 civilian supporters of Canoy’s Mindanao Independence
Movement, the source said. Some 150 Scout Rangers from Iligan also declared their support.
According to Noble, the proclaimed state would have a civilian-military junta as government. He later
announced the next day that he was calling for dialogue with the Philippine government.
Noble is a former bodyguard of President Corazon C. Aquino. He had been hiding in the jungles of
northern Mindanao since his involvement in plotting the two attempts against Aquino last December
- The police had offered a $40,000 reward for his capture.
Officials said about 200 rebel soldiers launched the revolt about 1 a.m. on Thursday, October 10, 1990,
seizing the 402nd Brigade army base in Butuan City. Flights to Mindanao were canceled and schools on
the island were closed.
De Villa said soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Battalion, one of the units at the 402nd Brigade, organized
The rebels later moved into Cagayan de Oro, 70 miles west of Butuan.
″This shows that the free Mindanao movement is not just propaganda,″ Noble told reporters at Camp
Earlier Friday, about 150 Scout Rangers from the 23rd Infantry Battalion in Iligan City, 88 kms from
Cagayan de Oro, declared their allegiance to Noble.
Military officials said government planes fired on the camp while attacking and destroying an Sikorsky
AUH-76 gunship commandeered by the rebel soldiers.
Late Friday, the mutinous Rangers left their camp and marched to the heart of Iligan, where they planned
to camp overnight.
Government forces did not attempt to stop them to avoid a firefight in the industrial center.
Cagayan de Oro
National Security Adviser Rafael Ileto said that the rebels hope to establish a secessionist government on
Mindanao, then ″move up north.″
Witnesses said rebels were marching around the streets of Cagayan de Oro in a virtual ″victory parade,″
attracting large crowds of curiosity seekers.
But no other Philippine Army units joined the uprising, and it fizzled after Government planes bombed
the rebel positions in Butuan City on Friday.
The Government’s air strike on Friday morning, by two T-28 fighters deployed from a nearby air base,
destroyed buildings, trucks and equipment at the camp in Butuan.
To counter the rebellion, six AT-26D Trojans (colloquially known as “Tora-Toras”) from Mactan Air
Base and two from Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga, took-off to eliminate the rebel gunship and
perform persuasion flights over Cagayan de Oro.
Lt. Hubert Yulo, one of the pilots from Mactan was on his first combat mission with Lt. Arne
Mangubat. They reached Cagayan de Oro after one and a half hours but were unable to locate the rebel
helicopter and with Yulo’s plane low on fuel, Mangubat decided to return to Mactan.
However, 20 minutes after turning back, Yulo reported engine vibration and soon after said his aircraft
was losing power. Although he was ordered to eject, one of the pilots seeing a beach line below called out
for him to ditch. But Yulo’s plane was descending too fast and was unable to reach the beach, so he
ejected at around 100 feet and drowned underneath his parachute as he was unable to disengage from it.
Yulo became the sole casualty of the Noble uprising, ironically it turned out, as Noble apparently staged
his mutiny without firing a single shot. In four previous coup attempts, at least 168 persons were killed
and more than 900 wounded.
Corazon Aquino urged the country’s security forces to stop the rebellion initiated by Noble. The Armed
Forces of the Philippines was put into red alert. Hundreds of troops were stationed near the headquarters
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Manila due to a military report months before the rebellion
warning of a coup attempt would follow an uprising in Mindanao.
Troops with anti-aircraft weaponry were stationed around the military compound while troops with anti-
tank weaponry and machine gun stationed within the walled compound and outside its gates. Aquino’s
military advisor, Mariano Adalem in a briefing for foreign diplomats that Noble’s actions in Mindanao
may be a distraction, and his actions in Mindanao is a regional destabilization effort leading to a coup
Gen. Renato S. de Villa, the armed forces Chief of Staff, said he was ”100 percent” certain that Noble
was operating together with the leadership of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), an
underground group of right-wing former military officers involved in previous coup attempts.
Analyzing the revolt before the surrender, Alexander Magno, a professor of political science at
University of the Philippines, said: ”Apparently the underground network began to develop a plan,
although it was not prepared to execute it as yet.
”Noble, under pressure, initiated the plan independently, hoping to create momentum, hoping for support
from comrades in the rebel military network,” he said. ”But a sequence of camp defections would have to
occur quickly to build political momentum and force the Government to commit mistakes and to panic in
the face of the defection. This didn’t occur and Noble is isolated now.”
Accompanied by priests and local officials who negotiated his surrender, Noble gave himself up to Sen.
Aquilino Pimentel Jr., a former mayor of the city, at 3:00 am of Saturday, October 6. Pimentel flew to
the city Friday to offer himself as a negotiator to end the crisis.
Noble told reporters that his basic goal had been to call attention to Mindanao’s problems, and that he had
achieved it, The Associated Press reported.
”At least the basic issues can be resolved peacefully,” the renegade colonel was quoted as saying.
“They want me to continue their cause for Mindanao, which is for the national government to give
enough attention,” Pimentel said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Besides Noble, government forces arrested renegade colonel Victor Erfe, a former coup plotter who had
been hiding out on Mindanao for three years; Reuben R. Canoy, a Mindanao independence advocate and
the rebellion’s leading civilian supporter; and about 200 other officers and enlisted men, military officials
said. They said other rebels who changed into civilian clothes and fled are being hunted as part of
“mopping up operations” on the northern coast of Mindanao.
Noble was escorted to Manila by military officials led by Brig. Gen Arturo Enrile, superintendent of
the Philippine Military Academy. Despite the arrest, Noble claimed success in his goal into bringing
attention to the issues affecting Mindanao.
Aquino’s Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig said Noble and Erfe would face a court-martial. Canoy
will be charged with rebellion before a civilian court.
US ambassador Nicholas Platt said that America “strongly condemns any effort to destabilize the elected
The United States provided air support for Aquino in quelling the December uprising in which 119 people
were killed and more than 500 were wounded.
In an online post dated August 24, 2013, Mindanao Gold Star Daily Editor in Chief Herbie Gomez, and
veteran journalist Froilan Gallardo interviewed Noble 23 years after he led the 7th unsuccessful military
rebellion against the Cory Aquino government.
“Froilan and I were among those who covered the pocket rebellion in October 1990,” Gomez remarked.
“Early this week, we sat down and had coffee with Col. Noble and I asked him if he encountered the
fleeing Brig. Gen. Miguel Sol after the siege of Camp Evangelista. He said, “Yes.” Sol allegedly told
him: “Ikaw talaga Alex. Kung hindi dahil sa kalokohan mo, wala sana tayo dito ngayon.” Both faced the
military court. Noble still has that pony tail 23 years later.
In an even later interview published by the Philippine News Agency on March 1, 2020, Noble told
journalist Alexander Lopez of the Philippine News Agency on that the longstanding communist
insurgency problem in the Philippines is deeply-rooted in economic inequality, not in ideology.
Lopez interviewed Noble at the headquarters of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion based in Buenavista,
Agusan del Norte, during the unit’s 37th-anniversary celebration, served as the battalion’s seventh
commander from April 10, 1980, to November 1, 1985.
“The insurgency problem and its solution must be entrenched with all-inclusive development
interventions that will bring impacts into the lives of ordinary people,” Noble said.
He pointed out that the majority of those enticed by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) to join
their ranks “are the poor, particularly the indigenous peoples (IPs)”.
The former Army official recalled that he once trained members of “Alimaong” when he served the
intelligence service of the Army in the hinterlands of Esperanza and Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, in parts of
Surigao del Sur, in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, and in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
“The warriors are an integral part of the tribe. They can effectively defend their territories and
communities from the NPA,” he said.
However, this strategy must also be complemented by programs geared at improving the economic
standing of the tribe members. Failure to address the economic side, he said, would render any effort to
bring the IP communities on the government side unsustainable.
For instance, Noble said that despite the campaigns and training they provided to the tribal warriors, the
NPA still managed to recruit them.
“The tribes were neglected. When the NPA did the recruitment, they (the tribe) were easily swayed and
convinced to join the communist movement,” he added.
Noble also recalled the time he was invited to a National Security Council meeting in Malacañang during
the administration of former president Fidel V. Ramos where the problem of insurgency was discussed.
“I told them that insurgency is not a political or military problem. Insurgency is an economic problem.
The NPA recruitment is anchored on the poverty the ordinary people experience,” Noble said.
The former Army official said the government is on the right track when President Rodrigo Duterte
introduced the “whole-of-nation” approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC).
The new approach, he said, would address the core aspects of the insurgency problem in the country–
economic inequality–by mustering the weight of the entire government to develop areas in the
countryside that have long been a breeding ground for anti-government sentiments.
“All instrumentalities of the government must contribute and participate in the fight to finally end the
insurgency,” he said. (Collated by Mike Baños)
Rebel Col. Alex Noble with his Higaonon bodyguards. (The Associated Press)
Noble’s forces from Butuan parade along Velez Street in Cagayan de Oro surrounded by curious
onlookers. (photo courtesy of Froilan Gallardo)
Cagayan de Oro media interview Alex Noble. (Photo courtesy of Herbie Gomez)
Alex Noble at the headquarters of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion based in Buenavista, Agusan del
Norte, during the unit’s 37th-anniversary celebration on March 1, 2020. Noble served as the
battalion’s seventh commander from April 10, 1980, to November 1, 1985. (Philippine News Agency
photo by Alexander Lopez)
Lt. Hubert Yulo (photo from The PAF Story by Gen. Nemezio and Col. Molina III, , shared by Col. Francis
Karem Elazegui Neri)
Option: choose either of two photos:
PAF North American T-28 Trojan (photo by Peter Steinmann)
T-28 Trojans of the Philippine Air Force 15th Strike Wing (pinterest)