Antonio Trillanes IV, one of the leaders of the 2003 Oakwood mutiny for which he and the other members of his Magdalo group are facing criminal charges, just couldn’t resist joining, even fronting, for groups using extralegal means to oust President Arroyo, this despite his having been elected senator in May this year.
Trillanes and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, another Armed Forces official facing charges for launching a coup attempt, this time last year, led a motley group that took over the Peninsula hotel in Makati City last Nov. 29 and demanded the resignation of President Arroyo. They also called for the formation of a caretaker government.
Like the other coup attempts against President Arroyo, this one failed to get popular support and looked more like a caricature of the Oakwood mutiny. In that incident, heavily armed junior officers of the Armed Forces, calling themselves Magdalo, took over Oakwood hotel, ringed it with explosives and demanded for President Arroyo’s resignation. They ended up surrendering without a fight.
The Peninsula hotel standoff, on the other hand, featured soldiers that didn’t have much firepower to speak of. Worse, only personalities like the aging former vice president Teofisto Guingona and 81-year-old retired bishop Julio Labayen openly supported Trillanes and Lim. I was not surprised, therefore, that when government troops moved in (see photo) and lobbed tear gas canisters at the hotel lobby, Trillanes and company gave up.
It was a pathetic undertaking all in all, which only shows that the feet of whoever planned it were not planted on the ground. They thought that holing up in a hotel would have a chunk of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police rushing to their succor. They thought that big-name leaders of the political opposition will be at their side, and that a crowd would gather for another people power display.
No units of the military and the police broke away from the chain of command. Former president Joseph Estrada and even Rambotito himself, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay was silent. The other opposition leaders either made sure the effort will succeed before coming out or they frowned on the endeavor. The so-called civil society and cause-oriented groups? They could not escape the reality that the number of people participating even in ordinary rallies have dwindled.
I say people power is not something one can conjure in a snap of a finger. People power is a confluence of many factors, including people’s hatred of the incumbent president coupled by their belief in the leaders who will take over the reins of government once the existing one is toppled. The latter factor, it has been pointed out time and again, is one of the main reasons why efforts to whip up another people power won’t fly.
—Bong Wenceslao, Dec. 1, 2007