Despite the silly official claim that President B.S. Aquino 3rd is “unaffected and unmoved” by the mounting calls for his “stepping down,” his own inner official and family circle apparently believes his exit cannot be indefinitely postponed. They seem to believe the only way to save Aquino could be to stage a “Palace coup,” to allow him to hold on, at least as a figurehead, through a “revolutionary government.”
Highly reliable sources say this is one of the options being mulled inside Malacañang as the call for Aquino’s ouster intensifies, in the wake of the unexplained January 25 massacre of the 44 Special Action Force commandos under his direct operational command in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, and as the “commemorative spirit” of the 1986 EDSA “people power revolution” begins to draw crowds at the usual politically sensitive venues within the nation’s capital.
Yesterday, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao and Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, both identified with the National Transformation Council, presided over a Mass at the EDSA Shrine, with some of the NTC founding members in attendance. The NTC is leading the call for Aquino’s stepping down on moral and constitutional grounds. Several other groups, including some on the Left, have echoed its call since.
The EDSA Shrine was built by the Archdiocese of Manila in honor of the Blessed Virgin whose “intervention” was believed to have played a decisive role in the first EDSA “uprising” that ousted then-President Ferdinand Marcos and installed Corazon Aquino, PNoy’s late mother, as “revolutionary president,” without any violence.The Shrine also played a role in the ouster of then-President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2000, which installed in his place then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who served until 2010 when Aquino took over and jailed her on a series of charges, for which she has not been tried.
A “palace coup,” if Malacañang could pull it off, would allow Aquino to step aside without completely losing power, while an alter ego, said to be Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, runs the show. Then Aquino’s apprentice dictatorship would turn into a full-blown dictatorship. Probably still brainless, heartless, and incompetent, but a full-blown dictatorship in any case.
This is obviously based on the assumption that such a move would not create the very problem it is trying to prevent. But this is possible only if the military, the police and the general public consent, and do not rise against it. I cannot for the life of me imagine what makes the reported palace coup planners imagine they could pull it off. Every available sign indicates the exact opposite.
Neither the military nor the police nor the public seems to have any sympathies left for the beleaguered president. Aquino’s last Malacañang meeting with top military generals proved disastrous: it gave them a clear picture, up close, of a commander-in-chief who was probably as raving mad as England’s King George 3rd.
His last meeting with the SAF widows at Camp Crame was worse than his earlier ones—it had him saying to the widow who was demanding justice for the fallen commandos: “What justice more do you want? You want me to personally fingerprint the MILF?” “My father was also assassinated, so that makes us even!”
It instantly brought back his remarks to the Tacloban businessman who was worried about possible violence emanating from the looting that had broken out in areas hardest hit by super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan: “Buhay ka pa naman, di ba?”—“You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
We are still waiting for feedback from his last meeting in Baguio with the Philippine Military Academy cadets. They are known to be highly idealistic and are not likely to be misled by any fairy tales. As for the general public, Aquino has not given them one good reason to treat him with greater kindness.
The “palace coup” plan, if true, is the clearest proof that Aquino is now a drowning man clutching at straws. The plan is not even an original one; it was put together by some members of the Arroyo Cabinet in a failed effort to reverse the sinking fortunes of the former president. Some Cabinet members had wanted to use it to procure a graceful exit for Arroyo, who should be succeeded by a sympathetic successor. But others had wanted to use it to extend Arroyo indefinitely in office.
This created suspicions and animosities within the Cabinet. Some members tried to tell Arroyo that the plan was being hatched not for her own benefit, but rather to allow certain ambitious members (shades of the Hyatt 10 conspiracy) to take power for themselves. This prevented the project from being implemented. Ultimately, the plan was abandoned. But the relevant document was left in the files of then-DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno. It was here presumably where Roxas or his people unearthed the project.
There was no chance it could have succeeded during that fatal stage of the Arroyo administration. There is no chance it can possibly succeed now, at this stage of Aquino’s endangered and fading rule. The long deluded Filipino public has finally awakened, all illusions about our de facto boy-president and his family whose history is tainted with unbridled opportunism and treason have been shattered. With all the blinders off, everyone now sees that the country has allowed itself to be run for four years by a megalomaniac, and that it is time to expel him from his illegitimate office.
There seems to be a general feeling, supported by signals from the international community and even the equity markets, that an anti-Aquino victory is now imminent and inevitable, and welcome to all. Thus, all sorts of kibitzers and copycat groups, with all sorts of harebrained ideas, are coming out of the woodwork, maneuvering to preside over the “victory parade.” This challenges the NTC, the original proponent of regime and system change, to spell out, finally at some detail, its precise proposal for regime and system change. An earlier assembly has called on the NTC to organize an alternative “caretaker” government. But the NTC has held back on this proposal. It may be time to consider doing it now.
The inclusive character of the NTC’s proposed change assures all those who are sincerely echoing its call for change of their own place in the transitional and transformational program. But it should prevent any group from claiming as their own something that is clearly not theirs. There is some danger that they could be used to destroy what the NTC is trying to build. All authentic groups must work together to prevent Aquino’s secret agents, or agents of foreign interested parties posturing as patriots from trying to hijack this great initiative.
Beware of impostors and false prophets. Keep tuned in to the NTC as it meets in Lipa, Batangas this week.
Personal. I wish to share my personal delight over the election of Jamil Maidan Flores as Eminent Fellow of the Development Academy of the Philippines. Poet, essayist, fictionist, playwright, publicist and technocrat, Flores was a classmate at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Sto.Tomas, and chief of planning and Assistant Secretary/Minister for Operations during my ten years as Secretary/Minister of Public Information. For the past 23 years, he has lived in Indonesia and during all this time has been writing all the speeches of the Indonesian Foreign Minister and President. He also writes a regular Friday column for the Jakarta Globe. Thirty nine years ago, he declined the Class Ring for graduating career officers under the DAP executive leadership program for personal and objective reasons. This was like Jean Paul Sartre rejecting the Nobel Prize in Literature a few years before.