Monday, July 28, 2003

Waiting for Part 2

Dean Bocobo makes a compelling case for regarding the recent military mutiny in the Philippines as an incompleted act.

This was never a serious bid to overthrow the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The reasons so far given include (1) graft and corruption in the AFP, including charges, (not news to anyone), that a trade in government arms and ammo exists with separatists and terrorists in Mindanao; (2) that the Davao Wharf bombings earlier this year ought to be investigated for involvement by military intelligence officials; (3) inaction by the higher ups on a wide variety of injustices, unfair policies towards soldiers, and specific incidents of abuse and dereliction of duty. This enumeration is unsatisfactory. There are deeper reasons these men, all promising young officers from the elite Philippine Military Academy laid everything on the line this past weekend. The thing that sticks in my mind is their passionate discourse--at times incoherent, sometimes alarming, during the Press Conference yesterday. THEY ARE TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING that hasn't yet come out!

Alternatively, something happened between the time that the mutineers seized the Oakwood building in Makati commercial center at dawn on July 27 and their incoherent press conference at 15:00 that same day to change their minds. Or maybe something didn't happen.

The what happened is:

  • the US rejection of the mutineer's legitimacy
  • the overt support by former President Ramos, himself a former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, of the Presidency of Gloria Arroyo.

What didn't happen was a show of support from senior officers and former military figures, like Senator Gringo Honasan. The obvious possibility is that the mutineers, publicly led by Navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes were waiting for a supporting movement which never materialized. Realizing that they had been hung out to dry by co-conspirators who had chickened out or misled them about the extent of their support, the Trillanes-led mutineers cut their losses and blew smoke. That would explain the rambling, bull-session nature of their press conference. Aware by then of the failure of Plan A, the mastermind of the mutiny, who is almost certainly not Lieutenant Trillanes, must now go to Plan B to survive.

Some of the mutineers are probably being offered full pardons or even promotions in exchange for handing over the identity of the the rebel Mr. Big. In all probability, the ringleaders have been separated and are being questioned by friends in happy surroundings with unlimited quantities of Scotch whiskey ready to hand. Good liquor, "friendly company" and good food coming on the heels of 24 tension filled hours will do wonders to loosen the tongue. The Belmont Club has often reviled the pancit strategy, but here is one instance where it might actually work. Especially in the gangland atmosphere of the Philippine Armed Forces, where an awareness of the penalties of being a loser are always uppermost in the player's minds.

But somewhere in the fatigue-fogged brains of the plotters is the awareness that Mr. Big may yet win the day, in which case the confidences exchanged over Johnny Walker Black will prove very expensive indeed. So half-truths will be exchanged, interspersed with the expostulations and irrelevancies so characteristic of such conversations. Gloria Arroyo and her Cabinet will be out of the tactical loop; as this is the affair of the professional low-lifers. Arroyo and her coterie of civilian assistants will simply await the edited assessments delivered by that former Communist worthy and now military chief of intelligence, Colonel Victor Corpus. All they can hope for is that, in the wilderness of mirrors that is Philippine politics, Corpus himself is not part of the plot.