Nov 30, 2007

[Philippines] The Little Coup That Couldn't

Sundalo @ Bravehost

Today is November 30, locally celebrated as Bonifacio Day, a day during which we celebrate the life of one of the heroes of our revolution against Spain. It's with some irony that today the Metro is emerging from the gloom of a hastily instituted curfew in light of another failed coup attempt.

More than three years ago on July 27, 2003, pretty much the same minds behind yesterday's mutiny staged a similar coup attempt which is commonly known as the Oakwood Mutiny. Despite all the time that had past, the odd pair of now Senator Antonio Trillanes and Brig. General Danilo Lim managed to practically just saunter out of the Makati RTO, lead a small group of followers down Ayala Ave. and all the way to the Manila Peninsula where they silently and peacefully took over the hotel...and held a press conference. How swanky can you get?

They had the usual demands - the ouster of our current President and the creation of a new government, although they never specified the nature or the mechanics of this new government. Despite initial denials that this was all spontaneous and not planned, documents seized later on and a website featuring the lengthy statement read out by Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim at their press conference that appeared shortly after they settled down at the Peninsula clearly speak of longer term coordination, complete with hired demonstrators. Classic.

Things ended rather quickly when government forces decided to treat the Manila Peninsula like some showcase battleground by ramming an APC through the lobby doors and teargassing the place. I really feel bad for the Manila Peninsula, which will close for now in light of all the damage they've taken as part of the attack.

It's funny how the international media have viewed this event. Earlier in the evening, the BBC reported that the siege involved around "1,500 troops," which was a ridiculously exaggerated figure. I suppose they fell for the whole show the government staged with the solitary APC attack. My bad - there were at least two of them, although only one battered down the door. Oh yeah, really kick ass that was.

The icing on the cake was the government's decision to call for a citywide curfew come midnight to last until five in the morning. Given I work in the call center industry, naturally I realized the mere thought of restricted travel during these hours meant near disaster for BPO companies working at night. The government tried to explain that call center workers were somewhat exempt, and later tried to clarify this when they released the curfew guidelines.

There were still a large number of vehicles and people on the street despite the curfew given the large number of night shift workers, although the government has not definitively stated whether or not the curfew will continue on tonight. If it does, it'll continue to be a pain for our segment of the business sector.

So what now? The coup was a bomb and the President remained largely unfazed for most of the day, not even rushing away from the public school she was visiting in the morning in order to get to relative safety. While there was some level or organization behind this attempt, clearly more grassroots work needed to be done. Just because 11 million people voted for Trillanes in the elections, it doesn't mean that all of them were bound to come out and support his cause. Heck, it may not even be the reason he was elected.

Do they have valid concerns? I'm sure they do, to some extent. However at the same time, they lacked sufficient support to really get the political ball rolling. Let's face it - ever since Marcos, there hasn't been a sufficiently "evil" leader for all the various factors to rise up against as one opposition and so all these micro revolutionary attempts tend to fail. Sure there was EDSA II versus former President Joseph Estrada, but that was a bit of a lucky break that could have been hit or miss had Erap been as decisive as Gloria is. Now all we have are disparate and disorganized protest actions and mutinies without sufficient military support.

So instead of sweeping change, we're left with minor inconveniences. These events trigger work stoppages and curfews, traffic and other issues that are largely petty but become the main focus of the wrath of a largely politically uninterested population. Another day, another hassle brought on by political instability. Oh joy.

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