MANILA, August 15, 2003 (STAR)  By Max V. Soliven - The self-perpetuating dangers of the military messianic complex...

The Oakwood mutineers/rebels/putschists got their wish. In fact, they got radio, television and print media coverage far beyond their expectations. For the past two days, the Oakwood Five – the core group of PMA Classmates-Protesters ’95 – were on nationwide television "live", probably eclipsing in viewership even the top-rated tear-jerking, "imported" from Taiwan telenovela, Meteor Garden.

Being "red-tagged by F-4", the super-rich swaggering bullyboys of that admittedly heartwarming TV series, yesterday proved nothing as fearsome and entertaining as being "sandbagged by the Senate". Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes, Milo Maestrecampo, Gerardo Gambala, Gary Alejano and James Layug were able to publicize their complaints, grievances, "reasons" for their mutiny, resentments, diatribes over corruption, graft, et cetera, over and over again.

They started starring on TV during the Feliciano Commission hearings, then went on to parade their frustration and continuing grievances in the Senate chamber, visibly egged on by the political opposition, while various notables of the GMA Administration, including objects of their ire like Defense Secretary Angelo T. Reyes, who were forced to sit beside the group of putschists, mind you, squirmed in their seats.

Of course, Reyes, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Narciso Abaya, were also tasked by the Senators – who obviously loved every minute of the limelight – to respond to the putschists cum mutineers’ allegations and insinuations. Also sitting there, like members of the supporting cast, were DILG Secretary Joey Lina, resigned Intelligence (ISAFP) Chief Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, all of them looking like the "accused" in the docket waiting to be sentenced to the Guillotine, or whatever.

One wondered, aside from President GMA herself down in Mindanao, who was left yesterday to run the country, while the Senate had everybody down in the interrogation chamber waiting his turn to be questioned. (Sus, since the Court of Appeals has just slapped a mystifying one-year "suspension" on Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Rafael "Paeng" Buenaventura and Deputy Governor Albert Reyes, it seems that now, nobody’s running the central bank either.) Whatta country, one is tempted to exclaim. If this is democracy, could there be a better way?

* * *

The solution in the minds of the Oakwood mutineers, based on their testimony of the past two days, is much more disquieting – but it’s nothing new. The military "messianic complex" runs, in its own jagged way, through much of recorded history. If putschists or mutineers succeed, they become revolutionary heroes, and simultaneously, the new rulers. If they fail, they become traitors and riffraff, subject to severe punishment and, often, execution.

The way Trillanes, Maestrecampo, Gambala et al. have begun to put it, the Oakwood "rebellion" may end up looking like a mere Class Excursion (PMA ’95), a sort of "strike action" to call attention to the corruption in the military, and neglect of our soldiers, the treacherous sale of bullets and weapons to the "enemy", e.g. the Muslim rebels and other insurgents, their men dying from wounds suffered in combat owing to the misuse of the helicopters "by generals" when they were urgently needed for their evacuation, the looting of the RSBS pension funds by military big shots, the prevalence of favoritism and the lack of "meritocracy" in the process of promotion and so forth.

They even trotted out two documents which they claimed revealed a vicious government "plot" to create havoc, such as the Davao bombings, the destruction of power pylons, and so on, so these atrocities could be blamed on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order that the MILF, they insisted, could be tagged as a "terrorist" organization.

Trillanes even claimed that one of the damning documents had been signed by the President, GMA, herself. That disgusting scheme, which they alleged had turned them against the government (and which they "rejected") was allegedly called "Oplan Greenbase". Where had they acquired those documents? Trillanes replied they had been received from reliable intelligence sources, or something to that effect.

"Oplan Greenbase", of course, has already been repudiated by the President herself, and all the DND, military and security top brass, as being nonsense, and the documents as false. Frankly, in my own opinion, no President would be so stupid as to affix a signature to any such document – and I’ve covered six of them. (Not even the Supreme Dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos, would have been so foolish.) The only guy who, it seems, signed anything was "Jose Velarde".

As for Trillanes’ fantastic insinuation that P20 million had been paid to DND Secretary Reyes so he could push the newly-installed Navy Flag-Officer-in-Command (FOIC) to his position, namely Rear Admiral Ernesto de Leon, this is complete rubbish. I know for a fact that Reyes – for all his other shortcomings – was relentlessly plumping for another candidate, one of his own personal favorites. As for De Leon, he’s always been honest and tough, not one to curry favor or "buy" promotion. (Sure, being FOIC could be very lucrative, but where in hell could Ernie have gotten that kind of money? It doesn’t go with his character and reputation – and I won’t vouch for some of the others in the Navy, whether Seadogs or Seacats.)

Remember, by the way, that De Leon was the man who mounted the operation which deep-sixed that most notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnap-killer, Abu Sabaya, and captured his Oakley sunglasses. C’mon, Sonny Boy. You may be right on the nose in many of your allegations, but in this one you’re blowing wild.

* * *

When all is said and done, though, the boys from Oakwood are doing maximum damage to the government. Don’t underestimate the power of their litany of grievances. Their complaints and their youthful frustrations are striking a responsive chord in the hearts and consciousness of many radio listeners, TV viewers, and newspaper readers. Those graphic images on television, naturally, have the most impact.

The most perilous aspect of all is that, through its eagerness to demonstrate "transparency", appease the curiosity of the public and the appetite of mass media, show devotion to free speech, and give the detained officers the opportunity for a "hearing" (fueled, most of all, by the publicity hunger of our politicians), the government has given the putschists a forum.

The message from their convenient TV bully-pulpit is being sent to our soldiers in the field, and the Oakwood boys’ supporters still in hiding, or concealed within the military, that this is "their fight", too. That the mutineers, by their own TV testimony, had "sacrificed" themselves so their complaints and grievances could be heard – not swept under the rug. They may be planting the seeds of a future mutiny, rebellion, or wider putsch.

As for their bluster, like Trillanes’ rude remarks about his Commander-in-Chief, the President, it is typical of their "backs to the wall" syndrome. They said the things they aired yesterday to us when we were negotiating their surrender inside the Oakwood last July 27.

Trillanes has gone one step further. Yesterday, he claimed that they hadn’t broken the chain of command. Above the President and Commander-in-Chief, he maintained, there was the Filipino people and the State. He declared that the Constitution had designated soldiers as "protectors of the people and the Republic."

Sanamagan. Mao Zedong was right when he blandly stated that "political power grows from the barrel of a gun". Last July 27, the mutineers/rebels/putschists didn’t have enough gun. (Nor, any visible popular support either.) Trillanes’ brag may be a warning that he believes there will be a next time.

Let me just go back to the headline which I ran above my frontpage column last July 28, written just before the Oakwood Mutiny ended with the putschists’ surrender and the dismantling of their explosives. It read: "A chilling message from a hopeless ‘coup’ the rebels knew could not succeed."

I know it’s a bore for a columnist to quote himself. But I’ll have to remark that this message was repeated yesterday.

It’s time to conclude, if our authorities are wise, all those public investigations, inquiries, and media-slaphappy inquisitions. Let justice be done, as was pledged the rebels as the condition for their surrender and "return to barracks", through the Articles of War and the military justice system. That’s what honor on both sides dictated.

With all the theatrics now ongoing, our government and our politicians have fallen into their trap.

* * *

I went to visit imprisoned former Deputy Executive Secretary Ramon "Eki" Cardenas in Camp Crame yesterday, and found him in reasonably brave spirits, but worried sick over the pain his incarceration has inflicted on his ailing 89-year old mother, Nana Ching.

His lawyers, led by former Senator Rene Saguisag, have filed an Omnibus Motion to quash (for lack of jurisdiction over the person of the accused), and, ad cautelam, the search warrant on his Dasmariñas property – by the way, not the home where he actually lives – and, in general, the Criminal Case No. 03-2678 filed by Gen. Reynaldo G. Wycoco, Director of the National Bureau of Investigation, against him. While not discussing the merits of the case, I think the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 132, should act on the motion to fix "bail" so Cardenas can be released from police custody pending the resolution of the case of alleged "rebellion under Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. No. 6968".

It seems, incidentally, that when the case was raffled off, it fell on a vacant sala now being temporarily handled by what legal practitioners call a "pairing judge", who is known to be one of good reputation. Let him rule impartially but fairly, then, in the matter of "bail".

Eki told me he is being well-treated and the hospital room assigned to him by PNP Director-General Hermogenes "Jun" Ebdane in the PNP’s 300-bed hospital, which appears quite neat and efficient, is both comfortable and airy, as compared to the dingy cell in the PACER detention compound where he was originally dumped. In sum, Monching Cardenas is okay – for a man who continues to declare he never knew of any plot, never permitted his Paraiso house (he lives elsewhere, on Palm Avenue, Dasmariñas Village) to be used by any conspirators or rebels, and is completely innocent.

There you are. I’ve already said, time and again, that Eki is my cousin. The President, who graciously allowed me to visit him the first time, has also acknowledged this on television. As always let justice be done. But justice must be just.

* * *

THE ROVING EYE... What a day yesterday was! On my cellphone (tapped naturally), I received a call from Senator Greg "Gringo" Honasan, who repeated what he had said to TV earlier. "Tito Max," he declared. "I never had a hand in that plot, I never investigated it, I never participated in any blood compact. Those photos were faked!" I’m beginning to sound like a Message Center. Now that Captain Gambala and Captain Maestrecampo have asserted in the Senate that there was no group which met anywhere to make that blood compact, but it started with two of them making the compact, then Gambala making a blood compact "with five or six other classmates," one by one in other places, this testimony seems to bear out the Honasan denial. Seems, I repeat. Who’s lying in this affair (such as possibly our government sleuths and intelligence/psy war experts) remains still to be proven. Honasan, indeed, averred that he had only met Trillanes about a year ago when he had led a group of his PMA class to the Senate to ask Honasan to donate some funds to a class project. He said he had not seen Trillanes since then. As for Camp Tecson, in San Miguel Bulacan, the last time he visited there, Gringo insisted, was two years ago. Oh well. Hopefully, in this middle of charge and counter-charge, truth will prevail.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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