Trillanes, Lim et. al. Attempt to Bring Arroyo Down

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, together with Gen. Danilo Lim and a number of their comrades on trial for attempting to overthrow the Arroyo government, simply walked out of the courtroom during their coup hearing earlier today, demanding the resignation of President Arroyo. Trillanes and company, with guards in tow, and accompanied by a number of military and civilian supporters, strolled the three kilometers or so from the Makati Regional Trial Court to the Manila Peninsula Hotel, apparently unhampered and unchallenged by the police authorities. Once safely ensconced at the plush establishment, they called on the people to rally around them and support their call for Arroyo to step down.

President Arroyo, caught flat-footed, hastily convened the National Security Council to assess the situation.

There is now a classic Philippine stand-off, with each side watching and waiting how things will unfold while making blusterous statements, neither side wanting to be the first to precipitate a violent clash.

I caught some of the T.V. coverage this afternoon which showed Trillanes walking around the hotel lobby, the media following him around like a flock of chickens, Vivaldi playing in the background. The police attempted to serve a warrant of arrest against the group but were blocked at the entrance by a crowd of paparazzi and whoever else was there. They were reduced to escorting out hotel guests hurriedly leaving. Surreal.

Trillanes and company are not behaving like your regular coup plotters , who usually make a well- planned and executed grab for power by ensuring that they control, or at least have the sympathy of, enough political forces and segments of society to force the ruler out. Independent, highly-mobile armed units are supposed to seize designated targets during the active phase of the coup, later to consolidate their forces after enough power centers (radio and T.V. stations, government buildings etc.) have been captured.

The Trillanes crew seems content to simply play it up in the media.

At this point, it looks like another half-assed attempt to generate enough public sympathy for another “people power” event which might hopefully drive Arroyo out. In the meantime, what better place to wait it out than at the Pen ? At the very least, you’re guaranteed good coffee.

Not that there’s no chance of it happening. If enough military or police components turn their back on Arroyo, she might just be toppled. However, the Peninsula putschists should be aware of the two principal considerations for a successful overthrow: 1) the need for speed in gaining military and civilian support, before the government forces can rally; 2) the need to neutralize the forces set to oppose them, either by turning them around or convincing them to do nothing and just “wait and see”.

Power grabbers don’t have the luxury of time.