POSTSCRIPT / December 2, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pen siege: Shameless display of cowardice

COWARDICE: If Antonio Trillanes were still an officer (he lost his commission when he ran for the Senate last May), he should be charged with cowardice for running away from a potentially bloody showdown at the start of the rebellion that he and his armed cohorts launched Thursday in Makati.

In addition, Trillanes as a freshman senator should be censured and taught a lesson by his seniors for unruly and destructive, if not criminal, activities that had brought shame and dishonor to the Senate.

Contemptuously storming out of a court hearing, he marched with his armed escorts to the Manila Peninsula hotel, where they broke down a glass door to gain entry.

With armed accomplices, he converted the second floor into a command post for holding hostage the national capital, challenging the government, and directing what he thought would catch fire as a rebellion.

But the 36-year-old former navy lieutenant-jg failed to stand up to the looming bloody showdown. At the first whiff of tear gas and the clink of falling glass splinters, his tail dropped between his legs and he gave up.

He was lucky the plucky press was in the hotel covering the six-hour siege. Trillanes seized the presence of the media, whose safety he conveniently invoked, as an excuse for aborting what was obviously another doomed misadventure.

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U.S. STAND: Trillanes runners in the coffee shops and elsewhere were boasting that the unfolding revolt had the blessings of the United States, whose support they conceded was crucial to the success of any extra-constitutional grab for state power.

But the US government, through its embassy in Manila, doused such loose talk and reiterated its support for the Philippine government. It said:

“The United States and the Philippines are long-time democratic allies, and the US Embassy wishes to take this opportunity to reiterate our government’s support for the rule of law, constitutional order, and the government of the Philippines. (US) Ambassador Christie Kenney has spoken with officials at Malacañang Palace to reiterate our confidence that this incident is swiftly and peacefully resolved by the Philippine National Police, supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in accordance with Philippine law.”

* * *

PUNO NOT BITING: Another item on the Trillanes script was that Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno would fly in from Guam, where he was visiting, to be installed as head of a transition government.

Puno arrived on the same day all right, but promptly distanced himself from the caper. He said he would not head a caretaker government if President Gloria Arroyo were removed, and that he wants to insulate the judiciary from politics.

Based on his previous pronouncements and his critical attitude toward military adventurism and excesses, especially as they infringe on human rights, the Chief Justice is not likely to collaborate with a military-led rebellion. Yet the Trillanes plotters used his name.

* * *

BUSINESS DISMAYED: Big business groups were alarmed at the unfortunate repeat of the Oakwood incident of 2003 that left a black mark on the Makati business district as the best place to do business in the Philippines.

Donald Dee, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an umbrella organization of 20,000 small, medium and large firms, denounced Trillanes and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim by name.

He said: “Trillanes and Lim are just saving their own skin in causing a commotion. That is just so irresponsible. This will definitely have an effect on our economy and the foreigners’ perception on our country.

Some people were surprised that General Lim, a former Army Scout Ranger commander schooled at West Point, kowtowed to Trillanes, very much his junior, and allowed himself to be used for an obviously ill-planned operation.

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NEGATIVE VOTES: Many people have been impressed, misled actually, by the claim that Trillanes enjoys the support of 11 million Filipinos.

He himself has been mesmerized by the 11 million votes credited to him in the May senatorial election. I would not be surprised if he is now suffering from delusions of grandeur.

As he marched from the Makati court to the Manila Pen about three kilometers away, where were the 11 million warm bodies? Okay, let us place the number at only one million in Metro Manila. Where were they?

The reality is that most of those 11 million votes were negative votes. They were actually cast against President Arroyo, to tell her something. Trillanes just happened to be the beneficiary.

* * *

DAMAGE: The damage to the Manila Pen, still being assessed, is expected to run into several millions. The lost business alone, expected for several days, has been estimated at around P3 million for each idle day.

It was thought that the insurance company would pay for the damage. But it has not been ascertained if the policy has a clause excluding damage resulting from public disorder such as riots, mass action, rebellion, and Trillanes-type mayhem.

Even if the insurance company advances payments, it is expected to run after the party responsible for the damage.

All indications point to Trillanes et al. since they started all that trouble, with government forces only responding to the threat to public safety in a calibrated manner.

But paying up would not be a problem to Trillanes, since he has his P200-million pork barrel. This means that the damage will be shouldered ultimately by us taxpayers.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 2, 2007)

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