ELLEN TORDESILLAS: THE VIEW FROM VANCOUVER

ELLEN TORDESILLASMANILA, August 13, 2003 (MALAYA) By ELLEN TORDESILLAS - FROM the narration of national security adviser Roilo Golez at the House of Representatives investigation of the July 27 mutiny, we got the impression that the government allowed it to happen. The probable reason could be that they could be caught "in the act" of staging a coup for which they are now charged before a civilian court. Charges before the military court are being prepared.

Not surprisingly, the government was able to declare "victory" 20 hours after. But Gloria Arroyo's triumphant grin the night of July 27 has been erased by scowls in the days that followed as public sentiment and foreign commentaries sympathized with the rebels' cause.

Jonathan Manthorpe's commentary in the July 29 issue of the Vancouver Sun is one commentary which we are sure Arroyo would not like to read.

Manthorpe wrote: "In the history of Philippine coups, successful and otherwise, Sunday's brief occupation of a Manila shopping mall and apartment block by disgruntled military men hardly rates a footnote.

"If the 19-hour incident does deserve recognition, it is to applaud the 200 or so apparently idealistic young officers and men, and to conclude they were absolutely right in their criticisms of the Philippines' political elite.

"Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's legal right to the presidency is entirely dubious. As vice-president she grabbed power from Joseph Estrada in January 2001 in a Palace coup backed by military and business power brokers.

"There are some well-founded reasons to think she may be inciting civil disorder so as to justify remaining in office when her term ends next year.

"There is compelling evidence the Philippines' military, not some international al-Qaida conspiracy, is feeding weapons to Abu-Sayyaf separatist bandits on the country's southern islands. The military wants to keep the insurrection going so aid from Washington continues to flow.

"And despite being the birthplace of 'people power' uprisings against totalitarianism, real power in the Philippines remains firmly in the hands of a deeply corrupt land-owning aristocracy.

"The military mutineers led by navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes gave up and returned to barracks Sunday evening after making these points to local and international reporters.

"'We are not attempting to grab power. We are just trying to express our grievances,'" Trillanes told the journalists.

"It was not certain on Monday, however, that this will be the end of the matter. When the deeply unpopular Arroyo went to the Congress building on Monday several thousand people gathered outside calling for her resignation.

"There have been about eight coup attempts since the original `people power' uprising in 1986 when Corrie (sic) Aquino ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"None was successful until Arroyo rode popular discontent with Estrada's corruption and incompetence into the Malacanang presidential palace. Even then the turning point for her was when the military top brass, business leaders and the biggest power broker of them all, Catholic Cardinal Jamie Sin, joined her side.

"The legality of Arroyo's takeover remains very much in doubt. Estrada, two years later still in a prison hospital on corruption charges, never quit. The two judges who ruled he had 'constructively resigned' came to that conclusion, according to one of them, after consulting Isaiah, Chapter 62, in the Bible rather than their law books.

"So it was a little strange hearing on Monday messages pouring in from regional leaders applauding the survival of democracy in the Philippines in the face of the military mutiny.

"Arroyo has declared a 'state of rebellion,' and it remains to be seen whether she will try to manufacture a continuing national crisis in order to avoid resigning next year. All the indications from polls are she could not win a regular election.

"It seems to have been apprehension that Arroyo was sparking instability for her own political purposes that spurred Trillanes and his followers to make their Sunday protest. They were outraged at the escape from prison a few days ago of Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, a convicted terrorist and bomb expert associated with the Southeast Asian Muslim extremist Jemaah Islamiah group.

"Al-Ghozi just walked out of prison, and there is no doubt the right people got paid off. "Trillanes and his men believe al-Ghozi's escape, perhaps to be followed by some bombings in Manila, was part of a plot by Arroyo partisans to declare martial law.

"That may seem far-fetched, but the mutineers are some of the brightest, most professional American-trained young officers in the Philippines military.

"Many of them have served for years against the Abu-Sayyaf Muslim separatists in the south and are appalled by having seen their senior officers selling munitions to the rebels to keep the profitable insurrection going. After September 11, 2001, president George W. Bush increased military aid from $1.9 million US a year to $100 million US and has promised an additional $65 million US. Corroboration comes from a former Abu-Sayyaf hostage, Gracia Burnham, who says in her book recounting the experience that her captors told her they got most of their weapons from the Philippine military.

"'Maybe we can change the system,' Trillanes mused on Sunday. Someone needs to."

Email address: ellen@i-manila.com.ph


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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