Why No One Came By Antonio C. Abaya Written on Dec. 05, 2007 For the Standard Today, December 06 issue In my previous column, *Son of Oakwood, *I had arguedMessage 1 of 1 , Dec 5 7:38 PMView Source
Why No One Came
By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on Dec. 05, 2007
For the Standard Today,
December 06 issue
In my previous column, Son of Oakwood, I had argued that the police and the military had chosen the correct tactical move when they sent an APC crashing through the front door of the Makati Peninsula Hotel to put an immediate end to the stand-off.
Allowing the "situation" to drag on to the next day, as Navy Lt. (now Senator) Antonio Trillanes and Brig. Gen.. Danilo Lim had apparently hoped to happen, would have allowed their civilian supporters – scheduled to mass in Liwasang Bonficaio in a protest rally organized by the Communist movement – to migrate to the Pen and the nearby Ninoy Aquino statue and present the authorities with a possible People Power crowd not seen since February 1986.
Tens of thousands of middle-class office workers, who have no love for President Arroyo, would have flocked to the center of gravity at the end of the workday that afternoon, either out of sympathy for Trillanes et al. or just out of curiosity. It would have swelled the crowd to several tens of thousands, even to hundreds of thousands, against which military muscle would have been rendered useless, as it was in February 1986.
Imposing a curfew from midnight to 5 am was also a correct and logical tactical move since the rebels had bragged that they were expecting military units from Northern Luzon and Mindanao to arrive and join their ranks in the Pen. What were the police and the military supposed to do, just sit back and watch their problem literally grow larger and more intractable before their very eyes?
But the police erred in their handling of media, even granting that half of the journalists present were conceivably sympathetic to Trillanes and Lim, and that some Magdalo soldiers had indeed melted into the ranks of journalists to escape detection.
But by rounding up all the journalists present, tying their hands with plastic tie-wraps (the kind the Americans use for terrorist suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan), and bundling them off into police vans like common criminals, for interrogation in a police camp, the police made enemies of the entire media community and have created an unnecessary public relations disaster for themselves. .
If there was really a need to weed out the impostors among the journalists, the processing could easily have been done in the hotel itself, using the hotel restaurant – whose name I cannot recall - that exits into Makati Avenue, where credentials and IDs could easily have been checked and the few impostors detained, while everyone else was allowed to exit into Makati Avenue, without any fuss and without any humiliating tie-wraps.
The most important question that the Pen Revolt raised is: why, after winning the votes of 11 million Filipinos only six months ago, when Trillanes called on them to come out and support the revolt that he and Danny Lim had just launched, no one came?
This is not an isolated phenomenon. Only last month, the Black and White Movement, a solid middle-class anti-GMA group, launched an online petition asking President Arroyo to resign. In less than two weeks, more than 50,000 signed up.
But when BnW asked petitioners to line up at the Makati post office to mail an "eviction notice" postcard to the occupant of the "House of the Big Briber" – a play on the popular TV program "House of Big Brother" - only 200 to 300 did so. Actually, BnW drew more warm bodies from 50,000 online petitioners than Trillanes and Lim did from 11 million voters. Why?
Partly because of protest fatigue. Partly because most of the 11 million voters were willing to support him in an electoral contest for the Senate, but apparently not in an extra-constitutional grab for presidential power. And partly because he was not seen, even by the millions who had elected him to the Senate, as a moral alternative to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the way Cory Aquino was seen in February 1986 as a moral alternative to Ferdinand Marcos.
The Filipino electorate has matured substantially. In the 2007 senatorial elections, movie stars fared badly and candidates who spent lavishly were not necessarily elected. Voters no longer attended political rallies to get to know the candidates. Instead they listened to public affairs talk shows on television to see and hear what the candidates had to say about the issues of the day.
Trillanes was the exception that proved the rule. Despite his almost total absence from the talk shows – because he was in detention for the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny – he was elected because he was young, he was good-looking, and he had the credentials of a rebellious underdog, all of which connected him with the generally young electorate.
But after that, he settled into relative obscurity, once in a while issuing predictable statements against the corruption in the Arroyo government, without really emerging as an exciting new force in Philippine politics. Unlike his glib kuya Gringo Honasan, Trillanes never mastered the art of public speaking and his oral statements, even during the stand-off, came out flat and uninspiring.
Together with two friends, I had the opportunity to talk to Trillanes for more than an hour in the Marine brig in Fort Bonifacio about five months ago. I tried to sense what it was in him that enticed 11 million Filipinos to vote for him last May, and frankly I am still not sure I know.
I did not expect the 35-year old rebel with a cause to be a deep political thinker or an economics whiz kid or a profound social philosopher…..and I was not disappointed: he wasn't. He was and is no budding Che Guevara.
What he had and has is youthful idealism and a sincere abhorrence of the moral bankruptcy of the present order, but which, however, are fatally tarnished by his lead role in the Oakwood Mutiny of 2003, which was meant (didn't he know?) to restore to power the then accused (now convicted) plunderer Joseph Estrada.. If he did not know that he was being used then, has he grown any wiser since? How does he reconcile this moral dichotomy?
Not having any original ideas of his own – other than generic ones about corruption and poverty and injustice – he would be totally dependent on his advisers in the highly unlikely event that he became head-of-state of this country. And who would these advisers be?
Judging from the civilian company that he chose to keep during his Moment of Truth, this would include lawyers J. V. Bautista and Argee Guveara, who are identified with Sanlakas, part of the rejectionist (meaning anti-Joma) faction of the Communist movement. The two were also active during the Fort Bonifacio stand-off in February 2006, trying, unsuccessfully, to choreograph a mini-EDSA people power uprising.
And there is Dodong Nemenzo, former president of UP and former associate member of the Politburo of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas. During the heady days of 2005, when the Hello Garci scandal fanned expectations of an insurrection, Nemenzo actually drafted a Blueprint for the Philippines and stitched together a revolutionary junta in the event of a successful power grab by his comrades. In a Trillanes revolutionary government, Nemenzo would likely be the chief ideologue.
But during the inquest on the Pen Revolt, Nemenzo denied involvement in rebellion, saying with a straight face that he was in the Pen merely to do academic research on military rebels. Did you hear the joke about the priest who was caught in a whorehouse during a police raid? He also said he was doing academic research. When asked how deep his research went, he replied, "About seven inches…"
Not to be left behind, the Communist Party of the Philippines issued an unsigned statement in its website ( www.philippinerevolution.net), supporting Trillanes' seizure of the Pen and warning that there will be more "coordinated" attacks and protest actions in the future. (Standard Today, Dec. 01)
The bottom line is that playing at rebellion is a risky gamble, and any miscalculation can be fatal. Nothing succeeds like success. But nothing also fails like failure.
In my article Fidel Castro Trillanes (June 11, 2007)
I wrote: "For the next three years at least, Trillanes faces an uncertain future, to escape which the only way out seems to be a daring escape from prison, followed by a popular revolt led by him against a very unpopular lame-duck president, which might succeed this time.
"I am sure…Dodong Nemenzo's Laban ng Masa are by this time working on how to package and project the New Fidel Castro or the New Hugo Chavez….."
Well, he did escape from detention, momentarily, last week, but his popular revolt turned out to be not so popular after all. No one came. Perhaps some lessons in public speaking are in order. There would be ample time for that in the Muntinlupa (not Makati) Pen. *****