“Historical events occur, as it were, twice: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
– Karl Marx
What if you staged a coup and nobody came ?
In most instances, this would be a good thing. All coup plotters need to succeed is to capture a few strategic targets and consolidate power while the populace does nothing except stay home and wait for events to unfold. This does not hold true for the Philippines, where everything is topsy-turvy. The failure of expected military defections and the civilian “people power” component to show up doomed Trillanes and company’s attempt to topple President Arroyo.
The day after the failed “revolt” at the ritzy Manila Peninsula (only in the Philippines will an overthrow start NOT with the storming of the centers of power but with the take-over of a plush hotel), there are obvious winners and losers.
1. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon and other senior military and police officers who now have Arroyo in their collective pocket. At the very least, they can expect immediate financial and other rewards and cushy directorships in government corporations, even ambassadorships, when they retire. This is a major boost to their careers and (for some) political ambitions .
2. ABS-CBN, which clearly scooped rival GMA Seven in what may be the biggest story of the year. ABS-CBN had T.V. and radio crews, with senior reporters and anchors on the ground from the get-go, with Ces Drilon tailing Trillanes from the start of the courtroom walk-out until detention. GMA Seven had to play catch up all the way.
3. The cops and Marines who led the assault, particularly the drivers of the armored personnel carriers who crashed through the Manila Pen lobby. How often will you have a chance to shoot up a 5-star hotel and literally drive through it without paying for the damage ? Not even rock stars can do this.
4. Gloria Arroyo, who lives to rule (nominally) another day.
5. Antonio Trillanes IV, who made the loudest political splash of the year and guaranteed, despite being a jailbird, that he won’t disappear from the headlines anytime soon. It was a calculated risk and you have to admire the man’s arrogance and chutzpah. He is acutely aware, from personal experience, how quickly reversals of fortune can happen in this benighted country. From coup plotter to Senator, from convicted plunderer to elder statesman and so on. He obviously thinks that once GMA is out of the picture in 2010, his future will look promising.
6. Lawyers J.V. Bautista and Argee Guevarra, who looked good and sounded even better on T.V. Argee, in particular, was eloquent, intense and convincingly defiant. Way to go, guys.
1. Gloria Arroyo, who is now, more than ever, beholden to the military and, to a lesser extent, some of her stronger-willed political advisers, like Ronnie Puno, who was at the frontline during the crisis. She owes everybody now, from Congress to the armed forces, and is a lamer duck than ever before. Enemies and pseudo-allies will be nipping at her heels until 2010.
2. Antonio Trillanes IV, who showed that, deep down, he lacks the character to lead. Aside from the usual blustery posturing he learned in the P.M.A., he was incapable of making a coherent call to action. He fell back on tired clichés and, come crunch time, was on the verge of crumbling. Shortly before the assault, he made a panicked and aimless walk around the hotel, apparently trying to gather his wits. He could not project the intense, determined, do-or-die demeanor that came naturally to erstwhile putschist, now Senator, Gringo Honasan. Trillanes, sad to say, is not a warrior.
3. All of Trillanes’ coup pals.
- Gen. Danny Lim, whose weak attempt at throwing out a sound bite (“Dissent without action is consent”) fizzled out. Danny, dissent properly expressed and lived by, is action.
- Former Vice President Tito Guingona, who walked through the whole exercise like the resident zombie. Clearly, you cannot come back from the dead and expect to be taken seriously.
- Bishops Tobias, Labayan and running priest Robert Reyes, who could not even muster a half-baked seminarian to join them at the Pen. The Catholic Church is, for the nonce, a spent political force and will not play a significant role, as for example, the Buddhist monks in Burma, in the country’s immediate political future. Fr. Reyes was particularly whiny, complaining self-righteously that people should follow his example and show up.
- Former U.P. President Dodong Nemenzo, who spoke not a word. He looked pensive and resigned, even as everyone was in near-hysterics all around him. What was he thinking ?
- Bibeth Orteza, who made a tearful but ineffectual plea to civil society to join them for coffee at the Pen. Leah Navarro was out playing golf.
4. Mayor Jojo Binay, who is usually the first on the scene during any potential photo opportunity. Not a peep from him, leading to speculation on his complicity in the affair. Its not like Jojo to miss out on a chance to strut before the cameras. What’s up ?
5. Magdalo soldiers, who, as usual, will bear the brunt of and suffer the most from, their leaders’ ineptitude.
6. The Manila Peninsula, now closed for repairs.
7. The Filipino people. I agree with the good Senator Trillanes that GMA remaining in power is tragic for us all. However, the tragedy is compounded by the fact that the alternatives (namely, him and others in the opposition) appear to be no better.
One final word on the whiners. Trillanes proved to be the biggest whiner of all, admitting, in effect, that “it’s all about me”. The reason he gave for his tantrum, as quoted in the Inquirer, was :
“I entered politics, The people voted for me, but what did they do ? They disrespected the more than 11 million votes I got. They did not give representation to the people who voted for me.”
I actually voted for Trillanes.