MANILA, NOVEMBER 8, 2003  (STAR) The rally season is upon us, and the campaign period hasnít even started yet. The object of the rallies, as we all know, is the controversy over the impeachment of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. Yesterday a lightning rally stopped traffic in the heart of Makatiís business district. Today the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai will hold a rally in Rizal Park ostensibly to pray for an end to the instability and divisiveness resulting from the crisis.

This is a free country, so we will all just have to grin and bear it, slogging through traffic jams and being bombarded with even the most inane arguments on the controversy. What we must not ignore, however, are the opportunists who are waiting to exploit this unrest and foment further instability.

Because President Arroyo herself has sounded the alarm about these opportunists, there are people who refuse to believe there is a real threat. But the nationís sad experience has shown that certain individuals do take advantage of periods of great social unrest to advance a particular agenda. These individuals, among whom are moneyed politicians, prey on anyone with a beef against the government Ė which means there is never a shortage in this country Ė to stoke unrest.

Among the most vulnerable to this kind of exploitation are overworked and underpaid military personnel. Even before Davideís impeachment, there were already rumblings about a brewing coup that was supposedly meant to take advantage of the "Jose Pidal" controversy. That scandal was overtaken by many other events, however, and the coup rumors subsided.

Now the stories are percolating once more. It could be nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of the plotters. But it has happened before, and there is always the possibility that political opportunists could recruit enough people for another ruinous power grab. Filipinos have a stake in preventing another coup attempt; we have seen what even a comic mutiny such as the one last July 27 could do to the country. In a nation of mischief-makers, it pays to be vigilant.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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