The Philippines ponder coup possibility

Following the military coup in Thailand there was some speculation similar events could occur in the nearby Philippines. But for the first time in a while it seems revolution is not in the air.

Opponents are hoping Arroyo will be the next to go
Opponents are hoping Arroyo will be the next to go

The archipelago is a likely coup candidate on paper with the president, Gloria Arroyo, being forced to defeat several attempts to impeach her in the last couple of years and also thwarting numerous alleged coup plots.

She has consistently faced questions over her leadership, with many accusing her of corruption and fraud in securing a second six-year term in 2004 and a number of opponents have called for her resignation pretty much ever since that victory.

In February she declared a week-long state of emergency after foiling an alleged plot involving what she called “military adventurists” and senior army officers.

And only last month the country’s supreme court overwhelmingly dismissed an impeachment complaint against the president from her opponents.


Unsurprisingly the military and the government have responded calmly to Tuesday’s coup in Bangkok, with Arroyo calling for democracy and the rule of law to be reinstated as soon as possible.

The head of the armed forces, Hermogenes Esperon, played down any similarity between the two countries’ situations, saying the 117,000-strong military was fiercely loyal to the president and the constitution.

Arroyo’s position is lookingincreasingly secure

Arroyo’s position is looking
increasingly secure

However, an army spokesman still felt compelled on Thursday to warn any “restive” troops or officers fancying their hand at a coup d’ etat would be met with “the full force of the law”.

Political analysts, such as Conrad de Quiros of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, think such an outcome is unlikely.

De Quiros told Aljazeera that the military does not currently have the capacity for a coup and that the moment for action may have already passed.

“If a coup such as the one in Thailand had happened in the Philippines in February or March, then I think it would have been a very popular thing.”

Support and the ability for a coup within the military has subsided greatly since earlier in the year with Arroyo assuring loyalty from key officers and after charges of rebellion and attempting a coup were brought against 16 people in March.

Much of the military’s resources are also tied up in combating a violent insurgency by Muslim insurgents in the country’s south.

Opposition hope

De Quiros says that campaign has allowed Arroyo to project the image that she is the only choice for upholding the country’s security and that in a way “it is a very cynical war because the rebels only threaten a small part of the country”.

Opposition parties have stopped short so far of trying exploit the Thai coup for political gain but have reiterated their desire to see Arroyo removed, accusing her of increasingly “totalitarian” measures and of being linked to a series of political killings.

“We want through peaceful or democratic means, either constitutional or extra-constitutional that we organise and mobilise civilians citizens to force her from power”

Risa Hontiveros Baraquel, opposition MP

Risa Hontiveros Baraquel, an MP with the opposition Akbayan party, says it is a shame that military action was required to oust Thaksin Shinawatra and hopes a People Power movement such as the one that forced Thaksin to step down temporarily in April, can be replicated in the Philippines.

“We want through peaceful or democratic means, either constitutional or extra-constitutional, that we organise and mobilise civilians citizens to force her from power,” she told Aljazeera.

However, indicating that the history of Filipino politics often comes back to military muscle, she also says “if genuinely progressive and democratic portions of the military wished to support such a People Power movement, then well that is up to them.”


But rousing such a civilian movement is another matter.

For one, the opposition, in a country of more than 100 political parties, lacks a unifying figure and coherent agenda.

There is also a high-level of public apathy and lack of faith in the political process. With many social problems, including corruption, many simply see no alternative to Arroyo and regard their choice as better the devil you know.

Aljazeera’s correspondent in Manila, Marga Ortigas, has described Filipinos as a people “drowning in their own apathy”.

Certainly the coup in Thailand has failed to capture the public imagination.

Thousands took to the streets on Thursday to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the imposition of martial law, and while banners could be seen showing an image of Arroyo next to Thaksin reading “you’re next”, they were much in the minority.

There has been coverage of events in Bangkok in the media, with The Daily Tribune using the occasion to describe Arroyo and Thaksin as “two peas in a pod”. But regional interests rarely play big among ordinary Filipinos or indeed the administration, with foreign policy and public opinion alike often taking their queue from the US rather than the neighbours.

Source : Al Jazeera

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