Skip to main content

Not Again!!!!

Botched Manila coup a warning to would-be plotters

By Carmel Crimmins 2 hours, 29 minutes ago

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine government prepared fresh charges on Friday against the leaders of yet another botched coup and hunted for others as public apathy and a show of force sent a strong message to serial seditionists

Senator Antonio Trillanes, one of the nation's best-known coup plotters, believed opposition politicians and the public would flock to Manila's Peninsula Hotel after he and a small group of renegade soldiers declared mutiny from one of its plush conference rooms on Thursday.

But no one came.

"I think the public is as much disgusted with the opposition as with the government," said Scott Harrison, managing director of risk consultants Pacific Strategies and Assessments Ltd.

"There is total regime change fatigue in the country. People don't have the stomach for it."

A few thousand anti-government protesters took part in a rally in Manila on Friday, a public holiday, but the numbers were a fraction of the tens of thousands that protested in the past.

In Thursday's drama, bizarre even by the soap opera world of Philippine politics, Trillanes simply walked out of the courthouse where he was on trial for a previous coup in 2003. Then he, his co-accused and the guards supposed to prevent them from escaping marched to the Peninsula in the heart of Manila's financial district.

But after such an embarrassingly easy start, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, breaking a long tradition for administrations' to go soft on renegade soldiers, ordered elite troops to storm the five-star hostelry.

An armored personnel carrier battered down a grand glass door, and troops sprayed tear gas and bullets into the lobby.

There were no casualties but the heavy-handed tactics shocked the plotters who, as in previous mutinies, chose a plush hotel because they thought the location gave them protection.

"It's a pretty significant development," said Harrison. "I think the government have probably learned the lesson that if they don't tighten things up they are going to encourage more of these bush fires."

The Peninsula, which had to billet its 400 or so guests in other hotels and will not reopen until Monday at the earliest, was aghast at the damage to its newly renovated lobby.

"We are quite unhappy about that. Heart-broken to be exact," said spokesman Mariano Andres Garchitorena.


Despite its deep dislike of Arroyo, the Philippine middle class, instrumental in two previous "people power" revolts, is weary of any upheaval that would trip up a reviving economy.

Although continually plagued by corruption allegations, Arroyo is seen as secure because of the jaded electorate and her strong majority in the lower house.

The Philippines has endured more than a dozen coup bids since the overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and the disgruntled officers behind these plots have traditionally been lauded as folk heroes.

Trillanes won a Senate seat this year despite being behind bars. But while the public rewarded his previous adventurism they did not want a repeat performance.

"The majority do not want any more trouble. It affects the economy. We want to change the government in a peaceful way," said Andrew Cruz, a call centre worker in Manila.

Trillanes, about a dozen soldiers and civilian supporters including a retired bishop and a former vice-president, were taken to the main police camp early on Friday.

National police chief Avelino Razon warned that the coup plot was still active and said the search was on for three other groups who had not been at the hotel. He said they were investigating how many of Trillanes' guards had switched sides.

A midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew was called off.

Authorities were expected to file sedition and rebellion charges against Trillanes and the soldiers on Monday when courts reopen.

The sentence for sedition is life imprisonment but erring soldiers have never been subject to such harsh punishment. Rebel troops have typically been dismissed, sometimes promoted and in one case in 1986, given 40 push-ups.

Analysts said Arroyo would be tougher on Trillanes' group this time around but they did not expect the leadership to impose draconian punishment for fear of upsetting the rank and file.

(Reporting by Carmel Crimmins, additional reporting by Manny Mogato, editing by Roger Crabb)

AFP, PNP launch manhunt vs Capt. Faeldon

Philippine security forces have launched a manhunt for Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, one of the hardcore leaders of the Magdalo who remains unaccounted for since Thursday's six-hour standoff at the Manila Peninsula in Makati City.

Radio dzBB reported that Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman, said Faeldon could not be found since Thursday night.

Pagdilao said operatives are now following some leads but he declined to elaborate, saying this may jeopardize operations.

But the counsel for Faeldon is herself worried over the whereabouts of her client.

"I am worried...there is a distinct possibility that (Capt. Faeldon) is under the custody of the Armed Forces. They should tell us if he (Faeldon) is already in their custody," said lawyer Trixie Angeles.

Angeles said the last time she talked with her client was during the march from the Makati City regional trial court to the Manila Peninsula.

"He agreed to my recommendation that he will return to the Marine Brig in Fort Bonifacio," she said.

But when she went to the Brig about 2 p.m. to check on her other clients, Angeles said there was no word on Faeldon. "The military is saying he is unaccounted for but he was supposed to return to the barracks. I am very concerned."

For his part, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr said the military will revise its way of securing soldiers in court hearings.

"There will be some revisions how we secure hearings," Esperon said.

Esperon added they are hoping they can re-arrest Faeldon the same way they did last year.

"We are still looking for him. The manhunt is on, he has done it before, we hope we can repeat the arrest of Faeldon," Esperon said at a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

Faeldon escaped in December 2005 and set up the Pilipino website to call for civil disobedience against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but was recaptured in January 2006.

Meanwhile, Esperon said they are also looking into the possibility that politicians may have backed Thursday's standoff.

"We are looking into that. As you have seen, some civilians were brought to Bicutan for questioning. We will continue to look into this, especially on the involvement of some other civilians or politicians," he said.

When asked to elaborate, he said, "Meron kaming tinitingnan pero di namin sasabihin ang pangalan (We are looking at some names but we're not divulging names)."

Esperon also said they have started debriefing the escorts of Trillanes when he walked out of a Makati courtroom Thursday morning. - GMANews.TV


More Philippine Defense News

DND wants frigate with 'surface-to-air' missile power

MANILA, Philippines - Defense spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez announced on Friday that one of the frigates to be acquired by the Philippines will have "surface-to-air" capabilities. That is, the ship will have the capability to fire missiles, guided by radar or heat sensors, at airborne targets.
"Aside from this, our latest frigate will have heavier gun armament and other equipment that will make it very effective in patrolling and securing the country's waters," Galvez said in Filipino.
He declined to state the particular country the Philippines will acquire this ship but stressed that acquisition will be done through a government-to-government transaction.
The Philippines has taken on a new sense of urgency to upgrade its naval capabilities as tensions continue to rise around the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). US President Barack Obama's announced "pivot" for America towards the Pacific has stirred greater naval activity on the p…

No reduction in AFP manpower size

THERE will be no reduction in the number of soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines when it implements the streamlining of commands by 2013, a senior officer told the Manila Standard in an exclusive interview.
“Under the Force Structure Review, there will be streamlining of units but this does not mean reduction in terms of the number of soldiers. In fact, the FSR calls for more recruits in the future,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.
At present, the military has a total of 125,000 soldiers, of which almost 85,000 are in the Army and the rest in the Navy-Marines and Air Force.
The FSR calls for an in-depth study of the AFP history in reference to pertinent laws of the land in conjunction with the challenges of internal and external defense.
The study also calls for the establishment of a strategic command that will focus on external defense where the main force would be the Air Force and Navy.
On instructions of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former military ch…

Duterte visits Pakistan navy ship docked in Manila - CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte toured a Pakistani naval ship Thursday and extended an open invitation to its crew to visit the country any time.

The Navy Ship SAIF, one of the four F-22P or Zulfiguar-class frigates of Pakistan, is on a three-day goodwill visit. It will stay in the country until December 17.

For more about the CNN Philippines article.

According to the Naval Technology website:
The F-22P or Zulfiquar (English: Sword) class frigate is a 2,500t multi-mission, conventionally powered frigate built for the Pakistan Navy. Design and construction of the F-22P started after a $750m deal was signed in 2005 between Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) and China Shipbuilding Trading Co (CSTC). It is equipped with a 76.2mm main gun, an 8 round FM-90 Surface-to-Air Missile, C-802/CSS N-8 Surface-to-Surface Missile in 2 containers each containing 4 missiles, 2 Type-730B 30mm Close-in Weapon System, and 2 Triple ET-52C Torp…