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Oct 01st
Home Columns Reinventing the Philippines Anatomy of a Filipino Coup (Part 5 of "Reinventing the Military" Series)
Anatomy of a Filipino Coup (Part 5 of "Reinventing the Military" Series) PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Reinventing the Philippines
Saturday, 19 May 2007 05:16

Part Five of "Reinventing the Philippine Military" Series

According to as my sources in the Philippine military, it is only a question of “when” (not "what" or "why" or "how") a coup would finally succeed. But for us to discuss the anatomy of a Filipino coup, let us talk of the reasons (why) the “Oakwood Mutiny” failed. 

The now-infamous Oakwood Mutiny was an uprising that happened on July 27, 2003. A group of 321 armed soldiers, as led by Army Capt. Gerardo Gambala and Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes IV, took over the Oakwood Premier apartment tower at the Ayala Center in Makati City.

The mutineers called themselves the “Magdalo” (force) and wanted to show the people the alleged corruption of the Arroyo Dispensation. They said also that they were preempting the President, who they alleged was going to impose martial law. The mutineers feared that it was just a pretext for imposition of a dictatorship, as supported by corrupt generals. The mutineers were junior officers (Young Turks) and youthful enlisted men from all branches of the Philippine military. By occupying a business center, they intended not to damage, if not destroy, the business confidence, especially of the foreign investors but hoped to create uncertainty over the administration's ability to manage the economy. Among their demands were the resignation of top-ranking officials of the AFP, the Secretary of National Defense, as well as of the President herself. 

The Mutiny Became Like a Soap Opera

The mutiny became like a Moro-Moro or a Comedia.

The bloodless mutiny ended within 18 hours when the soldiers failed to rally support from the public or the military itself. In short, the top brass of the AFP short-circuited support for the uprising because many of the top generals would have been dismissed or even jailed if it succeeded.

All soldiers involved in the Oakwood Mutiny surrendered peacefully and were charged in a general court martial.

Actually many of the Young Turks refused to help the mutiny leaders because a majority of them decided that the rebels did not do their homework. The mutineers failed to secure support from well-meaning and honest civilian leaders and mass-based groups. Many of the Young Turks expressed the belief that for a new government (as installed by the coup) to be recognized by foreign governments, it should still be run by civilians who are honest and untainted by political scandals.

More than a year after the mutiny, its leaders apologized to the President for the aborted military rebellion. President Arroyo accepted the apology. She ruled out, however, immediate pardon and said their trial would proceed. The officers face sentences up to life in prison for the mutiny.

The press critcized the mutineers for their immature and amateurish conduct and judgment. Critics also laughed at the mutineers’ political understanding, especially their belief that the President was going to declare martial law. The business sector lambasted them for destabilizing further the nation's unstable democratic institutions and sabotaging the already-weak economy.

However, public polls taken after the mutiny showed that 55% of those surveyed believed that the mutineers’ grievances were justified.

President Arroyo ordered in November 2004 the release from custody of 133 of the 321 soldiers. She reasoned out that their officers deceived them into joining the mutiny. But impeccable sources said that the “deal” was made possible through backchannel negotiations as a condition for the Magdalo leaders' apology. 

Is a New Coup Attempt Inevitable?

This writer’s sources said the conditions that led to the Oakwood Mutiny remain like festering sores in the fabric of the Filipino nation. There is even more corruption in the national and local levels than in July 2003. 

The Young Turks despise the present practice of many elected politicians in paying “revolutionary taxes” to the New People’s Army (NPA) and/or Muslim rebels. The junior officers say that actually part of the pork-barrel funds are being used by many congressmen and some senators in “donating” resources to the NPA and/or Muslim factions to allow them to remain unharmed as public officials. In the recently-concluded election, almost all politicians, including incumbent provincial governors, mayors and legislators paid various fees to the NPA to be allowed to campaign in the rural areas.

They allege that politicians and the corrupt generals divert -- to and for their personal use -- funds originally earmarked for the welfare of enlisted men. They cite instances when foot soldiers are forced to sell part of their ammunition or even guns to fences, so as to have money for food and supply. In turn the fences sell for a profit to the communist and/or Muslim rebels the ammo and military hardware.

The AFP’s junior officers cite other cases in which the soldiers ended up losing what was supposed to be their share of the national patrimony. They mentioned the sale of lands that were supposed to be part of military reservations. For instance, major portions of FortBonifacio in Metro Manila were supposed to be used to build subsidized housing for the soldiers. Instead the land was sold to real-estate speculators, including foreign developers, and politicians pocketed billions of pesos in "commissions and finders' fees."

There is more to report on this series of articles about “Reinventing the Philippine Military.” This writer feels that his sources are airing cries for help in doing fundamental structural reforms that can be done without bloodshed and within constitutional parameters.

Yes, the Young Turks respect civilian authority but the chosen leaders have to abide with Sen. Nene Pimentel’s Three-Cs formula: “Competent, Clean and Courageous Leadership.”

(To be continued . . .)

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2008 11:47

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