Dec 03

War freaks (updated)

My column for today (after a long absence due to illness) is War freaks. It features this photograph courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (update: so this is who he was!). Talking about photos, there are truly amazing panoramic shots (from right after the end of the whole thing) here (note the curious sight of bananas and a water bottle hidden in the wheel well of a Philippine Marines APC), and here (with everyone, media, cops, and soldiers, texting with wild abandon), and here (with Ricky Carandang looking dazed), in Inquirer.net.

Two stories I heard:

First, an anxious Filipino called up Singaporean business contacts who were in Manila, expecting the Singaporeans to be freaked out. The Singaporeans were, apparently, nonplussed: “We went into a meeting when it began and when the meeting ended, it was all over.”

Second, one person apparently overjoyed over the mayhem was someone who, a few months back, had had his laptop stolen out of his car while it was parked in the Peninsula parking lot. Upon inspection of the CCTV film, the person determined that the break-in into his car had been taped from beginning to end. The hotel refused to reimburse the man for his stolen laptop. So when the APC smashed into the hotel’s lobby, the person and his lawyer exchanged gleeful texts.

Let me repeat what I’ve said often enough in this blog and elsewhere. After the Marine standoff in Fort Bonifacio last year, a colleague said to me, “the country can’t afford more of this.” Much as it involves consciously tying one’s hands when officialdom feels no such qualms, I do think a national consensus of sorts exists. It’s a simple one: whatever resolution to the political problems of the country takes place, it can’t involve force of arms. The corollary to this is that even if it places an unfair burden on the opposition, the public’s expects that if the President is to go (and no, I don’t think many will really weep for her), she must be made to leave according to constitutional means. If that can’t be achieved, then by all means, hem her in, keep her on her toes, and narrow her options so that even if she wants to prolong her stay, she can’t. Anything beyond these parameters and a national consensus not only doesn’t exist, but no one will budge (the consensus being built on the understanding that the majority of people think they have better things to do than be engaged actively on either side, anyway).

You can either be impatient and rail over the limits this consensus has imposed, or take the longer view that well, maybe we have to wait until 2010 when the President will either leave no room for doubt she intends to stay, or she’ll go, and that relentless pressure on the president and her people will make it much more likely she will go in 2010 than try to stick around. In which case after six years of lost opportunities maybe the country can actually accelerate its improvement. That’s the price of democracy, no? Some may want to move faster, others, slower, but in the end we all must move at the pace the majority dictates.

So my first reaction to Trillanes’ move was, we can’t afford this sort of thing, again. I understand why he did what he did and why it may be that he had to do what he did -think of the scorpion and the frog. As Ricky Carandang wrote in his blog,

In the above cases, the systematic suppression of mechanisms to peacefully resolve legitimate grievance led people to look for extralegal solutions. As the grievances accumulate, the demands for restitution escalate. In cases where the processes provided resolution quickly within the law, the public was largely appeased and extralegal solutions were not resorted to.

But I don’t like it, I think he betrayed his mandate as a senator, which was to take his fight from the periphery into the heart of government, and I think he was foolish and those with him did the President a favor instead of doing anyone else any good. But I am equally upset with the fire-breathing statements of people who refuse to see why the clusterfuck was inevitable, and that the whole thing could have ended up far worse, if some cooler heads somewhere hadn’t prevailed.

I think the Inquirer editorials had it right: in saying Trillanes committed political suicide, but also, that the administration’s proven itself incorrigible. In his blog, Mon Casiple points out something interesting:

Oakwood has now come a full circle. However, the political context of the present Manila Pen is different than the one in 2003. Then, GMA was at the height of her power, with a comfortable positive public opinion, the support of the majority of the middle class, and with considerable international goodwill. Now, she is facing an increasingly lameduck presidency, a deep distrust of her government among significant sectors, including the middle class, and buffeted by accusations of human rights violations abroad.

The country has entered the period of the transition to the post-GMA political situation. The immediate struggle revolves around the question of who will manage this transition. Logically in our democracy, the president–holding the reins of power–presides over this transition. However, in GMA’s case, this is forfeit because of her political weaknesses.

The Manila Pen incident follows closely on the heels of dramatic and violent events such as the Batasan bombing. A case can be made that incidents such as these fit into the present context of the political transition. Including nonviolent political events such as the LP and NP mediamatic non-proclamation of presidential candidacies, these collectively affirm that relevant political forces in the Philippines are on the march and are staking out their various positions.

I do not think the Manila Pen incident itself meant the end of the military rebels’ own plans; it may be the beginning. However, a much more interesting possibility is the use of their movement for political maneuvering vis-a-vis the contest for the role of transition manager.

On hindsight, what Senator Trillanes and company did in Manila Pen was either a stupid and unrealistic bid for a people-powered downfall of the GMA administration or a brilliant probing attack in a much more complicated strategy. There were simply many disconnects in the event that prevented the achievement of the announced objective to topple the current power in Malacañang. Firstly, there was no evident pre-synchronization of various potential or actual sympathetic forces. Secondly, there was no provision–either in warm bodies or logistics–for a long-drawn siege. It seems, they want to end the drama as it actually did–when the government forces started its counterattack in earnest. Thirdly, there were no observable mobilization of sympathetic military forces beyond the small group that accompanied Senator Trillanes to the Manila Pen. AFP chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon’s assertion of having prevented this from happening cannot simply be be taken at face value given the extent of discontent and ferment in the camps (as shown in the Trillanes protest vote in the last elections).

Let me jot down some notes about what took place last Thursday. A good digest of the day’s events, and various reactions (official and private, including the statement of Manila Peninsula’s PR guy; what no one will say on the record, is that the hotel only got control of the property back on Friday morning, and there are allegations of the cops looting the hotel and partying it up in the rooms: the rebels had occupied only one function room and brought along their own provisions of bread and sardines; it would help if the authorities could debunk these shocking allegations) can be found in Wikipedia’s Manila Peninsula mutiny page. Entertaining live blogging took place at Uniffors. Minute-by-minute account in The Philippine Experience. A journalist’s account is over in Newsbreak.

1. WTF?

So, as reason is the reason eloquently asked, WTF was Trillanes thinking? After the fact, it’s easy to think it was a cockamamie scheme, but I’m not so sure it was, at least from the start. Definitely, it unraveled quickly.

The whole thing could have been nipped in the bud but it wasn’t. A week before (November 20, page A18 of the PDI and also, in the Star) , full-page ads had been taken out in the papers by a certain “Filipino Democratic Nationalist Reform Movement” which has a website and which basically urged the armed forces to rise up; and ominous statements were issued the day before. So no one can doubt there was premeditation here, but that unlike previous efforts, the whole thing was cooked up by a relatively small group, which managed to remain uncharacteristically tight-lipped until the walkout actually began.

Definitely, what Trillanes and Lim were after was the tearing down of the constitutional order, and its replacement with a junta. And they seem to have done pretty complete staff work in that regard (see also Transition group eyed had Trillanes succeeded, says document). The problem is, their plan scared the bejeezus out of people in 2006, why wouldn’t it scare the bejeezus out of people in 2007? And it seems obvious enough that if they wanted to score publicity points for taking something over, why didn’t they take over the Batasan Pambansa? Or hole up in the Department of Justice? See The Journal of the Jester-in-Exile with regards to the tactics (or lack of them) demonstrated that day.

Anyway, as I wrote in my column, the moment I saw that guy with a wig, I knew it would fail, and when some friends texted me at the time, I told them as much. But there were two or three things that made me wonder if Trillanes and Lim actually had some sort of method behind their madness.

The first thing that struck me was something virtually unprecedented, and that was, the eery silence on the part of the military’s top brass. Never mind Esperon seemingly being caught by surprise, and having to rush back to Manila (the President, too). It was the hours that passed without the expected parade of generals vowing loyalty to the government taking place on TV. At the height of it, the best that government could do was allow reporters to broadcast from an unusually quiet Camp Aguinaldo to basically say, the armed forces could be counted out of the whole thing.

This was something Randy David caught onto, in his Saturday column:

But, if indeed they were alone in this doomed and foolish adventure, how do we explain the fact that, at the height of the standoff, no military commander, apart from the chief of staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., came out or was presented to reiterate support for the Arroyo government? Why did the government rely exclusively on police forces to deal with what was openly declared as a bid to remove the existing government? Was Ms Arroyo afraid that, if compelled to declare their loyalty, a good number of the nation’s soldiers might actually side with Lim and Trillanes?

In short, what did the silence of the camps during this six-hour siege signify? I doubt if General Esperon or Ms Arroyo knows. Perhaps if they know anything at all about the state of mind of the soldiers in the camps today, it might be something that is likely to give them sleepless nights in the next few weeks or months. Could this be the real reason for the sudden imposition of a midnight curfew — that they are seriously spooked by the possibility of troop movements quietly taking place in the coming days?

For it is hard to believe that the soldiers barricaded in their barracks would not care less about what was going on in Makati City last Thursday. If they saw what the rest of the nation saw, and they remained silent, I would consider that a meaningful silence. In a time like ours, when images from live media pack more power than the most stirring statements, what might the silence of citizens and soldiers possibly indicate? Are their senses stunned and their will paralyzed? Or are their souls shaken and courage awakened in their hearts? Who knows?

Whenever an event of this sort takes place, the public takes a wait-and-see attitude, but what’s unexpected is for the military to so obviously adopt the same posture. And it was a posture that, on the whole, they maintained: permitting the military to do so betrayed the disquiet and unease the government felt. Loyalty checks are par for the course; what’s not is that no obvious result could be announced until crucial hours had passed. This is significant because of something I’ll get into, in my next point.

2. War freaks

The President herself is reported to have insisted the hotel should be invaded by 2:30 pm; I can only surmise that people within the administration undercut their commander-in-chief and calmer heads prevailed. Utak pulbura is objectionable whichever side succumbs to it: if you will castigate Trillanes and Lim, then castigate, too, all the chest-beating people demanding that the whole thing should have ended in gunfire. For if it had reached that point, then a vicious spiral would have been the inevitable result. We should recognize that if reports are true, that the President was demanding a swift and violent end to the whole thing, the armed forces declined to do so, and that the police, despite their bravura, also held off using maximum force and allowed things to deflate on their own.

As Roby Alampay, a Filipino journalist based in Bangkok wrote,

Trillanes is not the charismatic personality that the international media may have perceived. For someone who graduated near the top of his Philippine Military Academy class, he’s perceived by many Filipinos as reckless, unthinking, and – worst yet for someone who holds hotels hostage just for the moral victory of having a press conference – he’s fairly inarticulate.

It takes everybody who appears around him – priests, actors, the media, activists – to express the moral campaign that Trillanes offers himself up for, but ultimately cannot lead. Given this assessment, the government made a quick call based on the bet that, even in the worst case scenario, Trillanes, who may have the sentiment of certain junior officers, has never been able to muster crowds, was not going to be martyred…

…Trillanes on the campaign trail represented pure unadulterated contempt for her administration and everything that makes people exasperated with her presidency: corruption, ambition, a thick hide to criticism.

To this day, that’s what Trillanes stands for, and in the aftermath of Thursday’s events that’s all he still represents. Regardless, however, of how small a player Trillanes really is in the grand scheme of things – at best, he’s been seen as an unwitting pawn – what he does symbolize is nothing to totally scoff at. Indeed what makes him dangerous is that he’s the stubborn voice for what people have frankly gotten tired of wailing about.

And yet most Filipinos are now simply resigned to riding out her term until the next elections are held 2010. Two impeachment attempts against her have failed thanks to the corrupted politics and politicians she’s co-opted – some say threatened – in Congress. Last week former president Fidel Ramos, formerly an Arroyo supporter said for all to hear: “Nobody likes Gloria, but what choice do we have?”

Many Filipinos grudgingly take that as a valid point. There are indicators that Arroyo has the economy – or at least the business community – on her side. The Philippine peso is the second strongest performing Asian currency this year, next only to the Indian rupee. The day after Trillanes was arrested, the government announced that Philippine gross domestic product growth for the whole of 2008 would likely hit 7%, overshooting all predictions at the start of the year.

What festers, however, is the feeling that democracy-crazy Filipinos are selling their souls for long-missed stability. Trillanes will never be the center or leader of any new People Power movement. But whenever he’s on the news, Filipinos are reminded that as inconvenient and unsophisticated as this soldier is, the people’s bigger moral issue will still be with Arroyo: the president who they believe was caught red-handed rigging her own election; whose husband they believe was caught red-handed rigging his own multi-billion-peso government contracts; whose government has shown contempt for free expression, human rights and, yes, democracy.

To be sure, it was appropriate and necessary, from government’s point of view, to keep up the pressure, and it was a brilliant move to send in the APC’s to trundle around the Peninsula lobby while refraining from spraying the lobby with high-caliber bullets. The use of tear gas was, tactically speaking, absolutely correct, too: if you can smoke ’em out, why expend ammo? Not least because, if anyone had died, the fence-sitters in the military might just have decided to move, either way.

Yet the inconclusive results of the government inquest also points, I think, to insecurity on the government’s part, it’s still feeling its way to see how far public opinion will let it go. To be sure, I think even during the whole snafu, attempts were being made to lay the case for the prosecution: the firing of warning shots complete with claims the rebels fired back, established the basis for charges of rebellion and not just sedition to be filed.

What was truly frightening was that on one hand, Trillanes and Lim obviously believe a junta is desirable, but also, that the pressure to bomb the rebels to Kingdom Come or have sort of slaughter to end the whole thing, was so intense on the government side. Even more discouraging is that at the moment of success, the administration set about skillfully snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It flexed its muscles, against easy targets (the media, by rounding them up; the public, by imposing a curfew) when the lesson of the day was how a senator, a general, some loyal soldiers and some geriatric fans, had the entire country guessing if the government might fall like some overripe fruit from the tree.

Amando Doronila I think has it right, when he wrote, today,

The Peninsula insurrection may have collapsed, but the grievances that drove the rebels to desperate action remain smoldering underneath unless addressed seriously. The crisis has revealed Malacañang had lost control of coping with emergencies to security forces which determined how to crush rebellions their own way.

There are more than enough grievances to feed plots inside the military to seize power. The more serious plotters have learned the lesson that they can’t seize power by turning their guns at hotels. The next time around, the guns will be blazing at Malacañang.

That’s what the failures of Trillanes and Lim at the Oakwood and Peninsula mutinies have taught us. Ms Arroyo is hostage to the guns of her praetorian guard which she had unleashed at Peninsula.

Doronila’s warning can be made, because cooler heads prevailed and prevented a blood bath; had any killings taken place, there wouldn’t be time or opportunity to even make such a warning, an insurrection would already be taking place. And it’s worth pondering just how eagerly not just some officials, but members of the public, wanted it to come to that. Though Torn and Frayed says maybe the hard-liners have a point:

Yet, although I’m glad that Ayala didn’t run with blood yesterday, maybe the “hang ’em high” mob at Carlos Celdran’s blog has a point. If life in the Philippines was more “serious”, if people faced real consequences for their actions, perhaps they might think twice before doing these things, and surely you wouldn’t have to think more than that to realize the how absurd and ridiculous yesterday’s events were.

Tales of a Backpacker said it well:

The Manila Peninsula siege has elevated civil rights violations to a higher degree, and we all forgot to raise our voice against it because we were so busy demanding a state-sponsored human rights violation – the killing of Sen. Antonio Trillanes and his supporters. We even heckled the media for crying foul over their arrests. Crybabies! Wimps!

We all lost our freedom to travel for five hours (or imbibe alcohol till the wee hours on a Friday night), and none of us complained.

3. On the media

Everyone loves to hate ABS-CBN and nothing riles up the public more, than to be reminded by the media, how essential media is. All the grousing about how media overreacted -or that government overreacted to media’s stubborn refusal to vacate the Peninsula- is essentially an insular discussion. Even if ABS-CBN had left, there would have been, at the very least, up to ten journalists affiliated with foreign news organizations who’d have stuck it out to the bitter end. They included, the Philippine correspondent of the Japanese NHK, of Bloomberg News, a member of a TV news crew of the Associated Press, etc. This is a crucial point: even if the natives had fled, the natives working for foreign media outfits would have remained, which only goes to show their staying was, from a newsman’s point of view, anyway, the legitimate thing to do. By all means, if you have a bone to pick with media at home then what about those who operate according to international standards of the profession? They stayed. See Torn and Frayed’s thoughts on this score:

The original response to the latest stunt from Trillanes and his Magdalo group could easily be justified–meeting violence (and despite what Trilllanes claims, armed men taking over a hotel seems like violence to me) with overwhelming force. If the government had allowed Trillanes to dictate terms–as Gringo Honasan has so often tried to do during similar capers–it would have been disastrous.

Ramming a tank into the hotel entrance and firing off rounds of machine gun fire that could be heard a mile away seems over the top, but the officers charged with ending the siege had to make a lot of difficult on-the-spot decisions so perhaps they deserve the benefit of the doubt, especially as the three main objectives–the end of the siege, the arrest of Trillanes, and no bloodshed–were achieved.

However, the government’s reaction since the ending of the siege a couple of hours ago seems loopy. What is to be gained by arresting and handcuffing a bunch of journalists and members of the ABS-CBN technical crew and carting them off to Bicutan? No-one on TV has come up with a plausible explanation for why such an apparently counterproductive move might be a good idea. As Maria Ressa just said on air, these arrests were illegal and inconsistent with democracy.

If that was bad, Interior and Local Secretary Ronaldo Puno’s announcement of 12 midnight –5am curfew is incomprehensible. All it will achieve is to invest Trillanes’s weak and self-centred band with much more importance that they deserve and to add to the feeling of uncertainty in the capital, rather than helping to dissipate it as soon as possible.

But did media cross the line, in going from covering the story, to becoming the story? And what about the obvious sympathies held by some media people there, for the rebels? Here’s a memo Hunter S. Thompson wrote in 1972, and recently republished in Harper’s Magazine (November 2007):

I still insist “objective journalism” is a contradiction in terms. But I want to draw a very hard line between the inevitable reality of “subjective journalism” and the idea that any honestly subjective journalist might feel free to estimate a crowd at a rally for some candidate the journalist happens to like personally at 2,000 instead of 612–or to imply that a candidate the journalist views with gross contempt, personally, is a less effective campaigner than he actually is. Hubert Humphrey, for instance: I don’t mind admitting that I think sheep dip is the only cure for everything Humphrey stands for. I consider him not only a living, babbling insult to the presumed intelligence of the electorate, but also a personally painful mockery of the idea that Americans can learn from history. But if Hubert meets a crowd in Tampa and seventy-seven ranking business leaders each offer him $1,000 for his campaign, I will write that scene exactly as it happened-regardless of the immense depression it would plunge me into. No doubt I would look around for any valid word or odd touches that might match the scene to my bias. If any of those seventy-seven contributors was wearing spats or monocles I would take care to mention it. I would probably follow some of them outside to see if they had AMERICALOVE IT OR LEAVE IT bumper stickers on their cars. If one of them grabbed a hummingbird out of the air and bit its head off, I think it’s safe to say I would probably use that-but even if I did all that ugly stuff, and if the compilation of my selected evidence might persuade a reader here and there to think that Humphrey was drawing his Florida support from a cabal of senile fascists, well, I probably wouldn’t get much argument from any of the “objective” journalists on the tour, because even the ones who would flatly disagree with my interpretation of what happened would be extremely reluctant to argue that theirs or anyone else’s was the flat objective truth. On the other hand, it’s also true that I will blow a fact here and there.

That being said, was media being petulant? Yes. But only if past precedents shouldn’t matter; not in 1987 or 1989, or in 2001 or 2003 was media rounded up in this way. But of course government can change its mind, the way it’s kept scrapping all the past conventions on what was permissible behavior -but since it unilaterally scrapped the old rules, don’t expect anyone from the profession to thank government.

Might, after all, makes right. That’s the only lesson here. It would be wrong, I think, to confuse that with the “rule of law,” because the official excuses were insulting to the intelligence (much as media’s screeching was offensive to the law-and-order types who later hailed the curfew because, God darnit, it kept them thar people from goin’ a drunkin’).

If the idea was, as proclaimed by the police, to separate the rebels from the everyone else, then by all means round up all the men, but there was really no reason to round up the women and confiscate everyone’s cameras and tapes. Again, obviously the government was frustrated it couldn’t control information, and part of it was it’s own ambivalence over what to do. A kick-ass president would have sent shock troops to the stations to deliver an ultimatum, and quite possibly the public would have cheered; a more sagacious president would have thanked her lucky stars and crowned victory with sending biscuits to the reporters; a flip-lopping president leaves the law-and-order types frustrated that the media simply weren’t exterminated, and the media with its hackles raised: and, in terms of government p.r. purposes, the story being sidelined by media’s very public exploration of its navel.

Anyway, with the New Order it’s just as well Gov’t, media to meet over ‘rules of engagement’ in coverages.

4. My personal view

Something I quoted from Rizal in my column on May 1, 2006, comes to mind:

All the petty insurrections that have occurred in the Philippines were the work of a few fanatics or discontented soldiers, who had to deceive and humbug the people or avail themselves of their powers over their subordinates to gain their ends. So they all failed. No insurrection had a popular character, or was based on a need of the whole race, or was fought for human rights or justice; so it left no ineffaceable impressions … when they saw that they had been duped, the people bound up their wounds and applauded the overthrow of the disturbers of their peace! But what if the movement springs from the people themselves and based its causes upon their woes?

What strikes me is not that the enterprise ended up failing, but that there seemed a moment when they actually seemed poised to carry it off. Personally, much as my instincts were that it was doomed, in retrospect I think the thing wasn’t doomed to failure until it became obvious that what Gen. Lim et al. had in mind was a junta. At that moment -when Gen. Lim made cryptic comments about a new leadership arising- the scheme’s chances for success, already slim, swiftly collapsed. If national salvation, as Lim and Trillanes saw it, would be in the vanguard hands of the armed forces, then no one had any further incentive either to risk their necks or offer support: live by the sword, die by the sword. As far as this is concerned, I think Uniffors said it best:

I didn’t go rushing to Makati to demonstrate my support for the group because I don’t support juntas. And both Trillanes and Lim were strangely quite about what sort of government would replace Mrs. Arroyo had they succeeded in overthrowing her yesterday.

The presence of junta advocates like former UP president Dodong Nemenzo at the scene turned me off.

The most dangerous threat to democracy is a coalition between ideologues and men in uniform, no matter how pure of heart they are.

When a group like that takes over government, civil liberties and human rights take the back seat…

Trillanes and Lim could have drawn the crowds if only they used the occasion to call for a snap election following the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo and Noli de Castro. Unfortunately, they chose not to.

Of course this is just my opinion, but my column stemmed from my belief that there’s a lot of after-the-fact chest-thumping from born-again supporters of the administration: born again, because they were shitting in their pants when things seemed unclear. Kudos to those who made up their minds for or against, early on, and have stuck to their guns, whether in derision or admiration for Trillanes and Co. But I don’t think they represent, either way, the majority view. And that was: while no one moved to support the rebels, no one moved to defend the administration, and for the hour or so things could possibly have gone either way, the overwhelming public response was a deep ambivalence.

As The Economist commented,

In hindsight the mini-coup seems ridiculously ill-considered, but its failure to pose a real threat was mostly due to public disinterest rather than any dramatic improvement in the government’s popularity….

But it would be a mistake to interpret the failure of the mini-coup as a popular vote of confidence in the government. The problems facing Ms Macapagal Arroyo have actually increased significantly over the past couple of months, largely owing to allegations of corruption surrounding the negotiation of a contract for a national broadband network. For reasons that have not been fully explained, an agreement between the governments of China and the Philippines awarded the contract to the ZTE Corp of China–even though companies from the US and the Philippines submitted substantially lower bids. Ms Macapagal Arroyo cancelled the contract in October, but the negotiations raised questions of possible graft that still have the potential to trigger her removal from power.

The failure of what was probably their final bid to remove the president from power using legal means has also infuriated the president’s opponents. In October a third attempt to impeach Ms Macapagal Arroyo fell at the first hurdle–as did the two previous ones, in 2005 and 2006. The administration, through the dominance of pro-government parties in the House of Representatives (the lower house), has a comfortable majority on the justice committee that vets any impeachment file before it is presented to the full lower house. Owing to the fact that the constitution bans consideration of more than one impeachment charge within a 12-month period, the president will not face another charge until October 2008.

With their legal avenues of opposition now effectively blocked, increasingly frustrated opposition groups may be more likely to take to the streets. Eventually, one such attempt could pose a serious threat to the government. For now, though, the failure of Messrs Lim and Trillanes to spark a popular rebellion suggests that the country is far from being a dry tinderbox of discontent.

Disquieting, too, are murmurs that the problem was not what Trillanes did, but that he literally jumped the gun. As Asia Sentinel reports,

But as silly as seizing power via hotel lobbies may seem, it was not a spur of the moment action, but rather a well planned move, political analyst Earl Parreno told the Asia Sentinel, judging from the fact that the detained soldiers found quick access to high-powered guns.

“Their goal was the same as their goal during the mutinies of 2003 and 2006 — a military action supported by civilians to topple the government. People power, in other words,” says Parreno.

However, “the move was premature.” The analyst says that, based on his informants, an action such as what took place Thursday was being planned for the first quarter of 2008. This would have given the opposition time to create further social unrest so that their move would generate sufficient civilian support, which would, in turn, encourage the military top brass to withdraw their support from the government — the tipping point in Philippine-style uprisings.


5. Other views

And there’s a kind of raw nerve the failed caper struck: my choice for book for the week suggests that we’re not far off from the Japanese, in at least admiring those who fail but go down, guns blazing. In a country starved for heroism, Trillanes couldn’t even commit hara-kiri, and I think quite a lot of people are madder about that than over anything he specifically did.

Tongue in, Anew, however, takes a different look at the whole thing (and a fascinating exploration of the military mentality, too):

Any marketing professional knows his AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. The four stages are carefully designed, complete with fall-backs, auto-responses and scripted pitches very much like those annoying telemarketers who drive you crazy because they are saying all the right things you are left with just all the lame excuses, if not buying their products right then and there! In the end, you may not realize it but you find yourself agreeing with them.

This is the pattern I read in these activities. Why repeat where you failed before? The idea is not that you are expected to act immediately, the Trillanes-Lim plan works much like a raingauge. It is a method of measurement, at the same time it rubs in, or more significantly, nails in, in a calculated manner the ideals of the movement, what it aims to achieve, how it plans to get there. Later, it provides the details how your personal involvement will make it necessary for the movement – the social transformation of the country – to succeed with everybody else in. Not just the elite politicians.

The reactionary government saw it the way I did, they know the unheeded call to gather at Manila Pen was not the end of it. They knew the act had to be sustained by forces not limited to the incarcerated officers or the commands they previously held. The “A” has been achieved and the “I” is about to begin. What keeps Malacañang guessing is the timetable of the execution. Is the “Interest”-soliciting group coming out hours after Peninsula? Or the next day? Or the next month? They didn’t have many choices so they took the more conservative option, also the less-riskier one: to assume that the next wave will happen in the next hours or probably coincide with the next day’s Bonifacio Day rallies, hence, the declaration of curfew and setting up of roadblocks and intensified checkpoints.

It would be foolish to assume Trillanes and company didn’t know how gov’t would react, blockade of absolutely all roads leading to Manila Pen IS the elementary response!

What they didn’t know is that, in the ongoing word war between the incarcerated officers in Fort Bonifacio and Tanay on one hand versus Esperon and his camp on the other, it was jellyfish Esperon who will turn sissy first and hide his tail between his legs.

A few weeks ago, Esperon had been provoked by the Tanay group of Querubin, Miranda and Lim to tell all about Hello Garci and his cheating participation as a response after he tried to scare them that he will come out with the video of Lim’s supposed announcement of declaration of their withdrawal of support in February of 2006. Nakakalalaki na ang hamunan. Who will blink first?

Lim did it again, this time live on national TV while clueless Esperon was watching (adoring?) his new recruit, Manny Pacquiao, on the latter’s first military service day somewhere in Mindanao. Lim’s act in Peninsula, therefore, was a continuance of their challenge to Esperon to come clean with the charges of cheating in Hello Garci. Lim et al have done their part, it was now up to Esperon to do his. Esperon defaulted. As far as Lim and Trillanes are concerned, their score with Esperon has been settled, they are the macho soldiers, Esperon was the weakling. And they did it even if they were under heavy guards. A big open-palm slap on Esperon’s face.

Anyway, a roundup of other bloggers’ opinions is in Global Voices Online.

And for those upset with Trillanes, here’s not one, but two, online petitions: Expel Tonyo Trillanes From The Senate (42 signatures) and Condemn the Mutiny at the Manila Peninsula (132 signatures), via Now What, Cat?. Get clickety-clicking if you’re mad, because so far many more signed the Calling for the immediate resignation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noli de Castro and for the Holding of Special (“Snap”) Elections within 60 days petition (3,469 as of this posting; apparently. Ang Kapatiran added its voice for resignation around the time of the Peninsula Caper).

And a student leader’s view: Ateneo de Manila Sanggunian President: Statement on the Manila Peninsula Siege.

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  1. cvj

    It seems like there are similarities between CVJ’s and your thinking on how our society should evolve into. – Benign0

    A commenter over at Ellen’s did accuse me of being “Benign0’s brother”.

    Yes I do. It is blatantly obvious that Pinoys tend to abuse most priviledges, least of which is our sacred “freedom”. – Benign0

    Silent Waters, i think Benign0’s statement is indeed relevant to our previous discussion. As i told you, my first preference is genuine popular democracy. However, if Philippine Society decides to go the authoritarian route, then the next thing we need to consider is whether it is more beneficial to have a dictatorship which leads to greater social equality (my preference), or have one which preserves the status of the current elites.

  2. cvj

    My question is simple: what should each of us be doing to prepare for the 2010 elections, assuming it is the future that awaits us? – micketymoc

    I suppose the first question the ‘move on’ crowd should ask themselves is whether they would continue to turn a blind eye to cheating just to make sure their favored candidate(s) would win (or at least to prevent a ‘Jinggoy win’) or will they do everything to ensure the integrity of the process.

  3. Jeg

    I also read somewhere (not in this blog) that some people are willing to give up some of their political freedoms in order to attain economic propsperity.

    Who said that? A vast majority of pinoys dont have political freedoms to give up in the first place. Freedom to travel, freedom of speech, freedom of the press? These are generally freedoms that only the middle class and higher strata have, so I suppose the statement came from someone in the middle class and up. The right to privacy? The freedom from unlawful search and seizures? Are those some of the things theyre willing to give up? Our poorer fellows dont have those freedoms to give up, too. The thing I find wrong with that statement is it’s mostly directed at the ‘others’, as in: “Im willing to give up some of HIS freedoms to attain economic prosperity. Just dont touch my freedoms.”

    To attain economic prosperity, I think the focus is on making sure everybody gets to enjoy those freedoms, but that requires economic prosperity in the first place. Where should we begin? The elite won’t give up what they think is theirs just so everybody gets to enjoy their political freedoms. The poor can’t fight for a fair share because they dont have the resources. That task belongs to the State, but theyre allied with the elite. So where do we go?

  4. micketymoc

    the ‘move on’ crowd should ask themselves is whether they would continue to turn a blind eye to cheating… – cvj

    Haha, “continue to turn a blind eye”, I like that one, it’s like “how long have you been beating your wife”! Nice rhetorical trick there.

    I suppose the “talsiks” should decide if any of the “winnable” politicians (not necessarily opposition) share their platform, or if any are willing to see that platform through after winning Malacanang. But what’s the platform in the first place?

    I also believe the “talsiks” have not been doing enough homework to see their plans through, and have counted mainly on a “people power” situation to get their way in the end. Problem is that Gloria has consistently outflanked them in every way. I wish the “talsiks” would find better lawyers to see them through the courts.

    The “talsiks” have spent the past weekend claiming to be all for “genuine popular democracy”. I hope the “talsiks” would put their money where their mouth is by supporting or creating a viable party with a provably pro-people, anti-corruption slate of candidates.

    Of course that’s assuming the “talsiks” do want “genuine popular democracy”, not just hypocritically paying it lip service. 😉

  5. Jeg

    But mick, are you saying that cheating in elections doesnt exist? The general impression is that the ‘move on’ people think cheating is OK just as long as their candidate wins (and their candidate is the one that will save us all). It’s the relativism that cvj objects to if Im not mistaken.

  6. Silent Waters

    Read this from the “Ang Tagal Naman” site. This kind of reflects my sentiments. Sorry if people don’t agree with it. Written by a Ben C.

    “The ‘Wala na bang iba?’ Manifesto

    People who want change: hear us.
    • We scoff at the actions of Trillanes and other stupid politicians, celebrities, church figures et al BUT we are not necessarily pro-GMA.
    • You are making a big mistake if you assume so.
    • We are also frustrated at how things are going but doubly so thanks to your bumbling idiocy. To the various oppositionists we say– hello? Can you see how funny you appear to us? Do you even know and hear us? Do you know that we just want to live a peaceful life here?
    • By criticizing those who don’t care, you fail to win us over.
    • Making stupid Trillanic and Guingonic moves doesn’t help either.
    • It also doesn’t help that there are too many opposition leaders but all with the collective IQ of a door knob. At least yung door knob may silbi.
    • The more you squabble and bungle, the more GMA looks smarter than you. You don’t deserve to lead us if you can’t even lead yourselves.
    • Ano pa nga ba ang pwede naming gawin? Sino mang ipapalit nyo ngayon all looked puny compared to how GMA has handled the crisis you’ve been trying to stir since day one. Nung una, okay lang. Pero you guys have all proven your incompetence.
    • What really miffs us is every time you disturb the peace, di naman kayo ang immediately affected eh. KAMI!
    • So please– we won’t even ask you to get your act together. We’ll just wait. We advice na tumahimik din kayo at baka sakaling may lalabas na better leaders than all you selfish brats.”

  7. anthony scalia

    silent waters,

    you must be referring to bong austero’s

    “We are prepared to lose our freedoms and our rights just to move this country forward.”


    many people are ‘allergic’ to the statement of Washington SyCip that the problem of the Philippines is too much democracy

    they even deny the fact that during the hypergrowth years of the East Asian economic tigers, authoritarianism prevailed.

    (of course equally undeniable was the fact that these countries had effective economic policies and a substantial number of entrepreneurial companies during those years)

  8. mlq3

    mickety, on your question.

    i am concerned with the problem that if we do manage to have an election in 2010, instead of finally making progress possible, we’ll just go down the tubes and things will get worse. so indeed, let’s ask, how can we put the present behind us, and move towards something better.

    in my case, this is why i accept invitations to talk to students throughout the country, and i make a conscious effort not to promote my views about the president. not only because the kids won’t be interested, but it won’t do any good considering most of them are only now gearing up to be voters for the first time. if you believe, as i do, that they have within them the capacity to solve problems our generation and our elders obviously haven’t been able to solve, how can we help?

    my column before i fell ill explains my attitudes and what i try to tell them: what leadership ought to be about, and how leadership is best approached by determining what individuals, should seek whether as potential leaders or those whose followership will make leadership effective. and that is, something that’s escaped us so far: finding consensus.

    this involves a lot of explaining how, ideally, the interplay between governors and the governed ought to work -checks and balances, how change is achieved both working within the existing rules and how, from time to time, those rules ought to be challenged (peacefully, of course).

    i think if you encourage a more discerning attitude -and this includes appealing to people to please understand the logic that governs things like our three branches of government, how they work, and the roles each plays vis a vis the rest and the public- it will naturally help people work out, for themselves, what matters to them and who can represent those things.

    in other words, get people to start thinking of themselves as part of a constituency, and how constituencies, in turn, can find like-minded groups; coalition building. so far, the coalitions we have win, by default, because they are engaged while others only engage too little and too late to matter, at least in a democratic framework.

    personally i’m not too keen on parties, as primarily, to my mind, parties operate on the spoils system; then again, better a party affiliation then being disengaged; better yet, to join organizations that can represent one’s interests, ally with others, and offer up to the political process what’s needed: significant numbers.

    together with that, a lesson that was made clear by the may 2007 elections: ngo’s and other groups almost, but not quite, prevented the elections from going down the tubes, and the comelec and operators discovered they had a tough fight on their hands from groups working for clean elections. there were spectacular failures (such as zubiri “winning”) but on the whole, the batting average was good, it will be harder to circumvent national results with monkey business in mindanao, imagine if the lessons learned are more fully applied in 2010 -and i think they just might.

    so this means, even as we encourage people to start thinking of alliances they can be part of, to select and support candidates they like, we should also focus on the supreme manifestation of consensus, which is, to have a credible election so that even if candidates win whom we don’t like, the process was fair and credible enough that we can live with whoever the public chooses. personally, to my mind this includes putting pressure on the politicians so we don’t have too many presidential and vice presidential candidates.

    i think people will demand a more substantial presidential campaign, and this will introduce an element of unpredictability to candidates who think they’ve got the electorate all figured out.

  9. Silent Waters


    Sobrang second the motion ako sa sinabi mo na allergic ang tao sa sinabi ni W. Sycip. I said something similar and everybody jumped on me….

  10. Geo

    In my opinion…

    The way to challenge and reduce the elites’ stranglehold on much of the economy is to:

    a) Open it up to foreigners…including land ownership,
    b) Continue to pave the way for SME businesses (low interest rates, reduced bureaucratic red tape, tax breaks, etc.).

    The way to challenge and reduce the elites’ stranglehold of many of the political offices is to:

    a) Rejig the system so that more power is decentralized, regionalized and localized (federalism, elimination of national seats, parliamentarism, etc.)
    b) Reinforce and implement anti-dynasty laws.

    There are a lot of reasons thrown around as to why the above can’t be pursued, but the only other approach to breaking the elites’ control is via extensive blood-letting…which is both inhumane and foolish.

    Enable the broad changes legally and non-violently.

  11. mlq3

    silent, the manifesto is pretty much correct.

  12. Silent Waters


    That was what I had been saying all along…that everybody must become more responsible and disciplined, not only for the elections, but for becoming good citizens. This will then make democracy work as it should, not the perverted democracy that we see operating now in our midst. It really takes a lot of critical thinking on EACH individual in our republic to make it work.

  13. cvj

    The thing I find wrong with that statement is it’s mostly directed at the ‘others’, as in: “Im willing to give up some of HIS freedoms to attain economic prosperity. Just dont touch my freedoms.” – Jeg

    That’s exactly what i’ve observed Jeg. A few months back, I got into an exchange in this blog with ‘Karah’ and ‘Bibeth’. They were willing to enter into Bong Austero’s bargain and at first it sounded as if they were giving up their own freedoms. After a few more back and forth, it turned out that they meant to give up the freedom of others as well.

  14. Silent Waters


    Agree. The problem though is that the people who makes the laws right now are also the same people with varied business interests. ..so medyo malabo yung opening up the economy to foreigners. Then you get the ultra-nationalists who does not believe in even giving up anything….

  15. cvj

    they even deny the fact that during the hypergrowth years of the East Asian economic tigers, authoritarianism prevailed. – Anthony Scalia

    It is undeniable that these countries started to prosper under authoritarianism. However, other countries also languished under authoritarianism. A key differentiator is what this authoritarianism is used for. The common element among the East Asian tigers including China and now Vietnam is that the State applied its authoritarian powers towards forming a more equal society. After this stage one was complete, then that’s the time they introduced market reforms which led to their economic takeoff. The problem with Washington Sycip’s call is that he does not address the issue of inequality. This will leave power in the hands of the existing elite and will just result in more of the same for the majority.

  16. Geo

    Silent W,

    OK, but — touching on what you and MLQ3 have just written — that’s why there needs to be a political force with such a platform to run in the next elections.

    The LP and NP (so far) look like the same old tried-and-failed approach as in the past — trapos and rich backers.

    Lakas and Kampi look like they will split up and be weakened.

    The messianic right and militant left clearly suck.

    If ever there was a time for a new party, with a new platform, it’s now.

  17. mlq3

    slient, an argument could be made that right or wrong, the ruling coalition has been better disciplined (whatever the incentives for it) than the opposition, which can barely muster the civility to sit around the table to talk, never mind actually plan.

    also, that in general the political professionals are lagging behind as far as the broader public is concerned. i do think filipinos are more disciplined now than before, whether in realizing it makes sense to line up to ride a bus, or appreciating the fact that exposure to the work ethics of foreigners means we can’t be the slackers we once were.

    as far as that goes, i agree with you. what i still don’t agree with, though, is the attitude that the incompetence of leaders justifies non-involvement, i’d have thought it should serve as an impetus to seize the levers of power from the pros.

  18. cvj

    Haha, “continue to turn a blind eye”, I like that one, it’s like “how long have you been beating your wife”! Nice rhetorical trick there. – micketymoc

    It’s not rhetoric. Bong Austero, whose Open Letter you endorsed, specifically said:

    While I felt outraged that she called a Comelec official during the elections and that she may have rigged the elections, I have since then taken the higher moral ground and forgiven her. – Bong Austero Monday, February 27, 2006

    ‘Forgiven’ = ‘turning a blind eye’

  19. mlq3

    geo and silent, i support opening up media to foreign investment, it might stop the departure of so much talent because it would offer up the prospects of decent wages to media people, which in turn would curb corruption.

    and this is what’s gotten my goat about some of the charter change debate. if the debate had been restricted to economic provisions, i think you might possibly have a situation where the public would support it.

    and if so, in turn, if the public saw the debate was free, open, the proposals limited to provisions meant to expand the economy, and the process ended in a credible referendum, then who knows, public confidence would be enhanced and the public could then turn its attention to the proposals for political changes.

    i’ve said it before, part of the problem is we have few opportunities for confidence-building exercises, and part of the blame must be placed, foursquare on the government. much as i oppose the parliamentary system, if it had come at the end of a two stage confidence-building process, well then if that’s the people’s will after a free and fair debate, then by all means we have nothing to lose by trying it out.

  20. Beancurd

    MLQ3, Silent Waters,

    I would not say that the Manifesto is “pretty much correct” although there is no disputing the fact that it was undeniably an honest rendering of one’s opinion.

    Some of things that were said are reasonable and sensible. But on the whole, it was just a reflection of where the writer was coming from — he is in a comfortable and convenient position right now and although he does not agree or approve with many things in the administration, he appeals to those uncomfortable, inconvenienced and impatient not to disturb his peace.

    But the course of action that he proposed shows his insincerity regarding his profession of concern at how things are going or his frustration with respect thereto, and betrays what I have been guilty of for many of my years in life and that is, to look to other people for leadership and deliverance when, nasa ating kamay and pagbabago at pag-asa. He may be doing something about it but that is certainly lost in his message.

    Now, since you are with black and white, why don’t you propose to your movement, to the oppositionists, to the well meaning critics and other vocal sectors, to just shut up and leave to the greater majority of the Filipino people, people who are concerned and frustrated like the one who wrote the manifesto, what to do or are capable of doing. You may want to call it the S

  21. micketymoc

    cvj, I’m not bong austero. I’m doing my best not to impute motives where none exist on your part, please extend me the same courtesy.

  22. benign0

    “i do think filipinos are more disciplined now than before, whether in realizing it makes sense to line up to ride a bus, or appreciating the fact that exposure to the work ethics of foreigners means we can’t be the slackers we once were”

    The ironic thing though is that I believe that Pinoys never WERE slackers. We are in fact a very hard-working people.

    The trouble lies in the QUALITY and EFFICIENCY of the work we do. And that’s because there is hardly any INTELLECTUAL INPUT in the work we do. We don’t work smart. We think small, aim small, and, as a result, EARN SMALL.

    – 😀

  23. mlq3

    benign0, i agree with you to the extent that one of my frustrations is that we put no premium at all, on intellectual work. too many organizations consider bureaucratic work as “thinking” hence an obsession with Gantt charts, etc. But that’s obviously my own bias considering my profession.

  24. Beancurd

    MLQ3, Silent Waters,

    I would not say that the Manifesto is “pretty much correct” although there is no disputing the fact that it was undeniably an honest rendering of one’s opinion.

    Some of things that were said are reasonable and sensible. But on the whole, it was just a reflection of where the writer was coming from — he is in a comfortable and convenient position right now and although he does not agree or approve with many things in the administration, he appeals to those uncomfortable, inconvenienced and impatient not to disturb his peace.Perhaps, the same is true with you two.

    But the course of action that he proposed shows his insincerity regarding his profession of concern at how things are going or his frustration with respect thereto, and betrays what I have been guilty of for many of my years in life and that is, to look to other people for leadership and deliverance when, nasa ating kamay and pagbabago at pag-asa. He may be doing something about it but that is certainly lost in his message.

    Now MLQ3, since you are with black and white, why don’t you propose to your movement, to the oppositionists, to the well meaning critics and other vocal sectors, to just shut up and leave to the greater majority of the Filipino people, people who are concerned and frustrated like the one who wrote the manifesto, what to do about their frustrations. Many avenues have already been explored and they have been ineffective so far that it is time to try something new and unconventional. I call it THE SILENT CAMPAIGN which I propose to start now.

    You see, the manifesto quoted by Silent Waters, is merely an expression of the frustration by the writer (and those like minded) at the lack of meaningful change despite the efforts of the opposition, trillanes, etc and lays the blame on the opposition, trillanes, et al. except on themselves. So when the time comes when the opposition, trillanes et al, senators, the church and various Christian groups, the left, etc. are no longer voicing out and riling against what the writer of the manifesto is frustrated about in regard to the present administration, it is then that you will see that the silent campaign works.

    You see, the vocal critics of the administration are the outlets of the steam coming from these frustrations of the ordinary folks claiming to be not pro-GMA. When that steam is bottled up because the vocal critics refuse to be used as outlets, then you can be certain that the bottle will break or burst. Give it a month or two. Start with your blog. Refuse to blog on anything political. After a few days, you and the regular visitors of your site will feel the effect of the silent campaign.

  25. mlq3

    beancurd, as you point out, of course such manifestos are an apologia for remaining uninvolved, and the bottom line is the marcosian belief that “nothing succeeds like success!” but that doesn’t mean that criticisms leveled by such people have no basis or usefulness.

    i won’t speak for organizations i belong to, because they operate by means of consensus. so you can vigorously debate organizational positions, but in the end you comply or leave. so far, i’ve seen no reason to disengage from any of the organizations to which i belong.

    that being said, i have my own views and let me share them with you. in opposition meetings, etc. i do speak out and one thing i say often enough is that we shouldn’t engage in fights for the sake of fighting. when the 3rd impeachment complaint was filed, for example, i supported efforts to fortify the complaint, and rescue it from the obviously administration-serving objectives of the complaint. but i also advocated that if there wasn’t going to be any chance for a fair hearing or for the improvements, which any fair-minded person could see were superior to the original complaint, to be entertained, then the opposition should be prepared to simply walk away.

    after all, to give credit where credit is due, on the whole the opposition learned from the unsuccesful first two impeachments and realized they’d have to do their homework well, because the public wasn’t interested in half-assed complaints. the problem of course is that the opposition got it coming and going -when they were beaten to the gun, people complained; if they’d tried to jump the gun, people would’ve complained, too. but better to show the opposition was prepared to hold its fire in favor of a substantial complaint, than simply join in the fray.

    obviously the discussion in opposition circles got heated; there were some who insisted that if any avenue opened up, seize it and milk it for what it’s worth. personally, i’m happy that on the whole, the opposition decided not to fall into the trap and after submitting a superior complaint, when it saw the administration majority had other priorities in mind, the opposition simply didn’t dignify the disreputable exercise.

    which leaves a year to compile the evidence for another complaint, the problem being of course that it also means that the first two complaint’s issues have gone stale and this year’s pretty meaty ones, too. not least, and this was something i also raised, because just when things were heating up, part of the opposition in the senate called off the hearings and so gave the administration a free pass.

    it is necessary to pursue confrontation but not for the sake of confrontation, particularly in a situation where too many defeats strengthens the enemy and allows it to summon support from those who believe that success is its own reward.

    then again, i also believe that you have to be in it for the long haul, and an elementary aspect of politics is going beyond preaching to the converted and gaining new converts. this means according the skeptical and the uncooperative a basic modicum of respect, including recognizing their desires.

    if this means essentially participating in a fight with one hand tied behind your back, because the public wills it, and doesn’t care if the irony is the government not only fights with both gloves but horseshoes in both gloves, then so be it. you’re after the long term and that means recognizing that eventually, all the excuses the tacit and overt supporters of the administration will be proven false. for example, all the yammering about “give her until 2010.” well, you can’t rush it until 2008, 2009 or early 2010 rolls around and they have no choice but to see that oops, she isn’t operating by that deadline, is she?

    at which point you have to bear in mind that people will be even more hostile because they were proven wrong, but it would be nice to be able not to wave fingers at them but to embrace them, even belatedly, as they join the fight.

    and even if she steps down, at least you kept her on her toes until then, and who knows, it might just be that keeping her off balance prevented her exploring extension options. so, no regrets, either. but at the same time, avoiding culpability for adding to the miserable condition of the country.

    so, for example, my advocacy of mailing postcards because first, you have to remind the power-that-be that there are those who dissent, but also, do it in a manner that doesn’t unduly antagonize those who prefer less traffic to checks-and-balances for whatever reason. and why my personal inclination was to denounce the peninsula takeover, regardless of the possibility it would antagonize other opposition forces; but that’s my view and at the same time, i don’t disagree with the position taken by black and white, when the thing was happening and since. there is also a strong point to be made that what trillanes did was brought about by the inflexibility of the administration and that foolishly or not, he let the chips fall where they may which is something other groups don’t want to risk.

    but also, that the move unduly antagonized a public already coming to see, via ZTE etc, that the administration has no moral standing and that the “let he who has no sin cast the first stone” is a bogus argument, which may suit the son of god but not participants in a secular political culture. you don’t have to be blameless to cast the first stone, innocence is irrelevant when pursuing such issues. either the issue on its own has merit, regardless whose pursuing it, or the issue is irrelevant, period.

    for now, as i’ve pointed out, there is a consensus that governs political action. it is a consensus that serves the administration best of all but for now, we ought to respect is as a sign of good faith and submission to the principle of majority rule. keep it peaceful, keep it constitutional, but knowing that disobedience and defiance can be constitutional too, again, so long as its peaceful… when the rationales run out, then people will know you gave them the benefit of the doubt and then they’ll be prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt too.

    again, this is my view and one not necessarily shared by other people opposed to the president and her people.

  26. DevilsAdvc8

    manolo, if you mean by putting a premium on intellectuals as defined by verbosity and high-fallutedness, then you’re correct. most filipinos idolize memorization more than critical thinking. they’d rather have politicians who knows which RA# is so and so, rather than politicians who appreciate the law’s spirit rather than just mere numbers and letters.

    empty politicians is the description.

    the BnW movement insofar as asking for reforms, can initiate it by offering us as early as now, alternatives to these TRAPOS. id like to see your group complete a whole slate of candidates for 2010. down to the lowest local elective posn. and id like to see leaders who’ve never held an elective posn before but has been in public service for years, either through NGOs or cooperatives.

    bec, my posn as of now, is to vote all ABSTAIN if i see the same faces in 2010. i won’t disengage. id still vote. id just show my unhappiness at all the choices by showing that i choose none of them at all.

  27. sparks

    The trouble lies in the QUALITY and EFFICIENCY of the work we do. And that’s because there is hardly any INTELLECTUAL INPUT in the work we do. We don’t work smart. We think small, aim small, and, as a result, EARN SMALL. – benigno.

    I wonder why Manong Benig keeps saying “We” when he no longer belongs to “We” and probably has no clue that “We” has changed since he left decades ago.

    This sounds like my Australian professor saying the reason why the Chinese didn’t conquer the world as his ancestors did was because the empire, run by small-minded bureaucrats, chose to retreat behind their Great Wall. The reason why Europeans conquered and enslaved so many was because they had BIG dreams and BIG ideas. I sat there thinking, What a racist pig.

  28. cvj

    cvj, I’m not bong austero. I’m doing my best not to impute motives where none exist on your part, please extend me the same courtesy. – micketymoc

    No malice intended, i just call it as i see it. We are discussing on the basis of broad oppposing categories to which you and i are members of, what you call the ‘talsiks’ vs. the ‘move-ons’. At this level, you are in the same camp as Austero. I can accept that you may not be 100% in sync with him, but it is up to you to tell me that.

  29. mlq3

    beancurd, re: silent campaign, i proposed something similar ages ago in 2005:


    but you know, she was like the energizer bunny and kept going… and going… so…

  30. mlq3

    devils, bnw might, after all we had our black and white list for many positions in the may elections. but right now, in baranggays for example, people are just recovering from that exercise. in the case of alternative parties like ang kapatiran, i think they’re engaging in grassroots activities, such as going to baranggays to explain to people what the local government code provides for, while firming up their membership (i understand dr. bautista will be expelled, or is in the process of being expelled, for his independent position on population control), so they can’t firm up slates if they’re firming up their criteria for membership.

    and as for the lp and np, they’re still recruiting, while the other parties have the organization but are shopping for candidates.

  31. mlq3

    devils, also, what i mean is, that in general, knowledge and talent in non trade-specific knowledge workers (by which i mean, in contrast say to i.t. people and so forth) gets nowhere near the remuneration the work’s entitled to. writers are generally underpaid and treated like crap, which is a disincentive to attracting talent. our media, print, specifically, is getting increasingly geriatric, for example. and of course to me it seems what i get paid to write and research a show like the one i have on anc is in no way fair -but then again, better to have a show than none at all, right? so i don’t complain most of the time.

    but then this is the market at work; is it an artifical market? i tend to think so, in that why is it pretty much the same skillset and talent gets far better remuneration elsewhere, whether in our own region or the west? one reason there can be such disincentives is precisely, protectionism. maybe, if you opened up the media to foreign investment, it would send such a shock to local media it would both elevate it, forcing it to approach international standards, or perish.

  32. DevilsAdvc8

    i’ve wondered this before, but if all those who dislike the admin and the opposition equally should consolidate their forces, we’d have enough to beat both camps. and i think people are ripe to the idea of this.

    we have to give independents a chance. and the only way to do this is to band together.

    re remuneration and flight of talents, i think its fair to say that low salary or not, talented people leave bec they are hemmed in by bosses of smaller minds. not given enough credit, and stunted (intentionally and unintentionally)

    our culture has its own version of the peter principle, esp this one:

    entry-level jobs that are detail oriented and restrictive favour detail-oriented workers, yet hinder creative and innovative workers. By definition and necessity, entry-level jobs are the assembly line of an organization, and thus the most creative and innovative employees start in positions of incompetence. The detail-oriented persons are thus promoted over the creative employees. Often these creative employees are incapable of showing their work strengths because of the structured and restrictive assembly line environments, and then are tagged as bad employees.

    compounded by the fact that in Filipino corporate settings, getting employed largely depends on who you know, and not what you can do.

    so yes, perhaps opening up our market to foreigners will open our labor economy to internationl standards.

  33. Beancurd

    mlq3, that was a long one and very diplomatically said.

    But as you said, she was like the energizer bunny and while the action to be silent has been proposed, i really do not know what happened to it after it was proposed. Did it get going? I have not heard of it, while the energizer bunny just gets on going and going and will probably frustrate any move any other group does until we see another trillanes event, and another because this incorrigible government and the writer of the manifesto have not learned the lesson on how terrorists are made, that when all peaceful avenues have been tried and blocked and tried and blocked, the only other road there is is the path of violence (unless you choose to leave the country) and they will certainly strike however way they can, whenever they can and whereever they can without regard for the consequences on themselves.

    The trillanes incident last week is a warning to us all and we may see more of it in the future unless …

  34. BrianB

    MLQ: “also, that in general the political professionals are lagging behind as far as the broader public is concerned. i do think filipinos are more disciplined now than before, whether in realizing it makes sense to line up to ride a bus, or appreciating the fact that exposure to the work ethics of foreigners means we can’t be the slackers we once were.”

    Yes, yes, absolutely yes. Politics is decades behind our middle class and even our masses. Many of these governors and mayors and even Congressmen still behave like old school Tatays as an object of fear to their constituents. Politics is definitely rule by conservatives or, based on cvj’s poll, the Authoritarian-Right. The center, however, the administration is so unprincipled we have no idea what its politic is.

    I take issue, though, on the word “slacker.” Compare a typical Filipino worker to an Italian or French worker and you will not call the Filipino slackers. They just need more creative work. Hell, I’ll slack to if all I have to do all day is routine, mindless stuff.

  35. cvj

    i understand dr. bautista will be expelled, or is in the process of being expelled, for his independent position on population control. – mlq3

    Oh sh*t! I was about to suggest that BnW tie up with Ang Kapatiran to come up with alternative Congressional, Gubenatorial and Mayoral candidates. My only worry was that they should arrive at a modus vivendi on Population policy. Oh well.

  36. mlq3

    beancurd, nothing happened because she wasn’t interested in unity, and sad to say, unity has eluded the opposition, though there have been times when people came close to getting their act together. still, better to squabble but keep up the fight, than not fight at all. but it also explains why not as much as could have been done, has been achieved.

  37. mlq3

    good point, brian. if the ruling culture in companies is subservience and paternalism, then who can blame employees for spending hours on minesweeper and friendster?

  38. mlq3

    cjv, much as i respect ang kapatiran and i think some of their new advocacies are in the right direction (such as going to baranggays to inform people on their rights under the law), i can’t agree with their population policy, but hey, that’s why they’re the catholic party.

  39. mlq3

    cjv, incidentally, there was a debate within bnw about whether it should become a party and field candidates, and i opposed it, on the argument that it would discredit the organization and it wasn’t where the organization could remain effective. it functions best as an ngo with political advocacies and which can lend its support to parties, if necessary.

  40. cvj

    mlq3, i agree with your position on not making BnW a political party. Doing that will take it away from the Public Sphere and bring it back into the State. However, something like an expanded BnW List similar to the one that your group published last May 2007 would be good.

  41. DevilsAdvc8

    i disagree. i think more in terms of what Randy David wrote in his column sometime back. that if all NGOs do is blunt the ravaging effects of an icompetent govt, then they might as well be more effective in entering politics, rather than insist on continuing to be a marginal factor in politics.

    providing a list? what in effing hell can that do if you can’t even fill that up with names? good leaders have always been present in our country. the problem is in finding them, convincing them to run, and then providing the logistics to give them enough exposure to win. and i think BnW is capable enough to do that.

    and no convenor should run.

  42. ay_naku

    MLQ, about your 12:41pm comment, excellent exposition, kudos to you. Must be hard to keep fighting with “one hand tied behind your back” especially when things can get so galling. When having exchanges with the “tacit and overt supporters of the administration” sometimes the urge to trade barbs and hostilities can be strong. And with regards to the GMA administration itself, as Randy David said, “bear in mind that the regime is methodically drawing us into a brawl we can only lose. If we use violent means, Ms Arroyo and her minions will feel even more justified to deploy the coercive powers of the state against us. We have to respond non-violently to the extent that we can, using what is left of the avenues prescribed by the law. But more importantly, we must begin to tap the moral resources that belong to us as a community.” (However, most such avenues have already been co-opted, corrupted, or rendered inutile by the GMA administration. Oh the debased times that we live in!)

  43. sparks

    so yes, perhaps opening up our market to foreigners will open our labor economy to internationl standards.

    But isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last 2 decades?
    And in the last 2 centuries capitalist development has been state-led and protectionist. Britain, US, Japan, Germany, the Asian NICs. Unlesss, by some miracle, we can create another developmental model all our own…

  44. mlwnag

    Opposition will have their chance if
    -there are long queues in gasoline stations waiting for next tanker delivery,
    – rice, cooking oil, detergents and other essentials are not available in the markets and supermarkets
    – frequent brownouts
    – no water supply
    – SMS service not available
    – No medical service in health centers

    Corruption, poverty and human right issues cannot trigger EDSAn anymore

  45. DevilsAdvc8

    Michael Tan on his column today:

    The incident certainly exposed all the weaknesses of our political system, foremost the unpopularity of the Arroyo presidency. And while the military didn’t respond to Trillanes’ call, I hope Ms Arroyo and her advisers aren’t being deluded into thinking they still have the overwhelming support of the soldiers. Each new scandal makes the soldiers, who’re paid dismal salaries to risk life and limb out in the front lines, wonder if they’re defending a country we all love, or a President we all loath.

    (emphasis mine)

  46. BrianB

    Guys, search this keyword on google

    “RP wins gold in 2007 World Robot Olympiad.”

    Now if we can only get seed money to support inventors and innovators like dem young thangs we’d be a rich nation. I mean, local investment, not foreign investment.

  47. BrianB

    “writers are generally underpaid and treated like crap, which is a disincentive to attracting talent.” -MLQ3

    He, he, if I hadn’t found investors on my tech blogging sites, I’d be in Singapore right now.

  48. ace

    Elections in 2010?

    I think I will defer to entertain the question not until after the first quarter of 2008 especially the month of February.
    It is in February, 2008 that GMA needs to appoint a new chief of staff of the AFP, a new Comelec chairman (I hope with credibility and integrity). If GMA will spearhead another Charter change attempt through “peoples initiative”,no legal impediment will prevent her from doing so the second time around and as retired chief justice Panganiban pointed out:

    “After February next year, three of the eight Supreme Court justices who thumbed down “Sigaw” would have retired. In 2009, six incumbents would also hang their black robes and could be replaced by GMA with “friendly” magistrates.”

    The EDSA 2 anniversary in January and the EDSA 1 anniversary in February must also be considered. Indeed, critical first quarter of 2008.

  49. Mita

    there are so many who comment here who maintain blogs of their own. whether or not you update regularly, it’s there for the whole world to see. we come from different parts of the world with different professions and views. however, opposing views doesn’t mean our goals for the country are so different….so….

    before the 2010 elections, may i suggest bloggers try to get together and start an online campaign for electoral reforms or maybe just a semblance of reform? that way, the time we spend online from now till the next elections is put to good use and our energies channeled to something productive that can actually help the country?

    how about SMB – samahang manunulat (or mambobola) na blogista – or something stupid like that to start?

  50. BlogusVox

    Mita, SMB would be fine… it reminds me of my favorite pastime.

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