How do you ‘peacefully’ oust a President?

BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven -
Yesterday’s rally by largely leftist and militant groups, including Akbayan, which was dispersed by the police after much scuffling and a series of baton charges by the riot cops when the demonstrators angrily tried to push on, reveals that the aggressive " Oust Gloria" battalions apparently intend to continue provoking violent government response by insisting on marching without approved permits.

The leaders and forward phalanxes of the demonstrators who battled it out with the police were arrested. Apparently, charges will be brought against the alleged organizer of the illegal rally, labor leader Joshua Mata, etc. The other professed organizer, Party List Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel of Akbayan was released after initial detention owing to what the police admitted as her "parliamentary immunity". I saw her on television being interviewed by ANC-ABS CBN’s Ricky Carandang in which Congresswoman Hontiveros-Baraquel fumed that they were only exercising their right of peaceful assembly, her group for instance commemorating International Women’s Day. I don’t know what women’s day has got to do with kicking La Gloria out of the presidency, but okay. What stunned me was the Akbayan representative’s next declaration that they were only invoking the citizens’ right to "oust the president peacefully".

Now, this brings up the question: how do you oust the president "peacefully"? By shouting her out of office? By embarrassing her to the extent that she flees Malacañang? Or by inciting more mobs to rush into the streets to overwhelm the police guardians, riot shields and all? Frankly, I don’t see anything peaceful about that. Risa argued that the group had applied for a permit with the Office of the Mayor of Quezon City. The rallyists allegedly "presumed" that since they had received no response after three days that it was all right to proceed with the demonstration. Obviously, this will be the argument their lawyers will utilize.

When TV newscaster Carandang rang up police Chief Superintendent Nicasio Radovan of Quezon City, the police chief said that his commanders in the field had been shown neither a permit, not even an application for a permit from the Quezon City Mayor’s Office. In short, they had not shown any document at all, Radovan averred. "Why then did the police not contact the mayor’s office to check whether there was any permit or application for a permit to rally?" Carandang asked Radovan, literally badgering him for an answer. How do you answer such a question? When a surging mass of demonstrators is pushing and hammering on the shields of the policemen, shoving their way through, you can just imagine the police officers grabbing their cell phones or radios to ring up city hall to inquire whether this mob had a permit. What if the line was busy and by the time they got through the demonstrators had already pushed their way through? By golly. I’ve covered riots in Seoul, South Korea, in Tokyo, in Mexico City, in Saigon, and some other cities in this troubled planet, most of them extremely violent, but I’ve never seen the demonstrators bring along so many lawyers and afterwards counter-attack with counter-charges in court. In this country too often those who break the law later invoke the law and make the law enforcers look like bullies and villains. I’m surprised our policemen are not yet totally intimidated. As a non-partisan civilian, would you like that to happen?

There was a rally in Makati, too, festooned with red banners. It was carried out successfully by the militants because it had a mayor’s permit – of course from Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay. I guess these Kick Out Gloria demonstrations will continue long after Women’s Day. That’s one woman these militants want to topple.

Finally, there’s the case of the so-called Batasan 5 in which five left-wing party list congressmen including former NDF New People’s Army leader Rep. Satur Ocampo along with Teodoro Casiño, Joel Virador of Bayan Muna, Liza Maza of Gabriela and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis barricaded themselves in Congress to resist being arrested.

No wonder the international ratings agency, Fitch has announced that political turmoil threatens economic growth in the Philippines. A nation in constant revolution isn’t considered a safe haven for foreign investment or international commerce. What if our economy goes down? I’m amazed that a lot of people don’t seem to care.
* * *
Further details of the aborted February coup have begun to emerge, thanks to insider information reaching this writer. Its true that almost the entire Philippine Scout Ranger regiment had been on stand-by in full uniform and equipment to move, stirred up by persuasive elements, as well as certain units of the Marines and the PNP Special Action Force.

However, I don’t go along with the demolition job which was mounted against the Scout Rangers’ Commander, Brigadier General Danilo Lim, who is now incommunicado, under house arrest and not being permitted to speak to media. Lim has told intimates: "Hindi totoo ang pinalalabas nila. Walang coup. Wala akong kinalaman sa Magdalo at Oplan Hackle. Imposibleng pumasok ako sa alyansa sa kaliwa." (What they are announcing is not true. There was no coup, I had nothing to do with the Magdalo and Oplan Hackle. It’s impossible that we entered into an alliance with the leftists).

What’s possible, but this remains to be verified, is that Danny Lim, one of our youngest generals and a graduate of West Point, a veteran combat leader, might have blown the whistle on himself in a move to preempt the coup "move". Anyway, what’s intriguing is how some of his superiors appear to be trying to frame him, they’ve already arrested another officer who was more active in whipping up the rangers into going against the government. The Scout Rangers are now back in line.

As for the Marines, you already know what happened last Sunday.

It’s not over yet, and La Presidenta must do more to regain the trust and loyalty of the young officers, not only in that elite regiment, but in other units of our armed forces. Eloquent plotters are still moving through them, hard at work to whip up resentment. The ploy used by some is that the Armed Forces had to move to head off a take over by the Left. Another group sought alliance with the Leftists and militants in overthrowing GMA. A so-called People’s Council – as former UP President Dodong Nemenzo revealed in an interview – had even been formed, dominated by civilians, to give the movement a "popular" color.

I was intrigued by our own front page story in which our friend, Senator Loi Ejercito, decried reports linking her husband former President Erap Estrada to the coup plot. My sources have confirmed that at least one officer was going around assuring others in the military of "funds from The Ranch". You get my drift. Oh well, in time everything will come out in the wash.

Many of the coup "thinkers" came from one or two classes of the Philippine Military Academy – I hasten to add not the 1995 Class of the "Oakwood" Magdalo mutineers. They can still be won back, but again I won’t venture any suggestions. What is vital for La Gloria, the Commander-in-Chief to know is that key to retaining the loyalty and support of the AFP lies in the young captains, the idealistic and sometimes ambitious officers who command troops who are battle-ready. Alas, she’s usually surrounded by their generals and their toadies. Even the much-touted increase in the housing budget for officers and personnel are going to the favored aides and ass-lickers of superior officers. This is not to disparage the merits, combat experience and importance of senior generals, but it’s the younger officers from captains to majors, who count.

As for the "conspiracy", any alliance between the military and the Left is like playing with fire. It cannot prosper - and is cynically being used by self-seeking power grabbers for their personal ends. In the end, it will be the military who will find themselves stabbed in the back.

What GMA has to show in this crisis is firm but understanding leadership. She already knows what this implies. She must have the will to do it. It's evident, from the recent pugnacious manner in which she and her men are reacting, that she is fighting back. It may be a hackneyed expression, but "winning hearts and minds" must be the accompanying step.











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