WHAT happened in Thailand on Tuesday—a military coup d’etat, despite the army bosses’ denials—could happen here. We would even hazard the guess that right now the Aquino-Liberal Party-coalition strategists are already planning for it.
We must make it clear that the Thai and Philippine political situations are immensely dissimilar. But they are alike in one thing: both countries are controlled by a minority, the elite in wealth, educational attainment, cultural achievement, and business and industrial power, who undemocratically want what they think is best for themselves and their country to be the national policy. The elite of both the Philippines and Thailand hate it when authentic electoral democracy interrupts their hold on political power and allows populist economic policies to disturb the rise of the GDP—even if stellar rates of GDP growth do not result in job creation and poverty reduction.
Here’s a quick summary of the Thai situation. The old battle between the Bangkok-based elite, on one side, and the rural-sector poor plus their cousins the urban poor, on the opposite side, became more confrontational in 2001 when a man who really belongs to the elite (a businessman and industrialist engaged in among other things information technology and telecommunications, who had been, like our Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a chief of police and earned the fame of a crime-buster) defeated the coalition of elite political parties and became prime minister. Thaksin Shinawatra won because his party chose to be populis—championing the interests of the farmers and the rural poor as well as the indigents of Bangkok.
The Bangkok elite, known to be quite close to the military and the police, and most of all to the revered King of Thailand, just could not abide Thaksin and his policies. They thought of him as a corrupt person. The Bangkok elite’s distaste for Thaksin is similar to the Makati elite’s dislike of Erap Estrada and Jejomar Binay. In 2006, they persuaded the Thai military to declare martial law after ousting Thaksin and his popular government in a coup. They used the courts to ban Thaksin’s and his allies from participating in Thai politics.
But when you have the masses on your side, they can’t put you down indefinitely. Thaksin’s farmers and urban poor supporters held demonstrations to protest the elite government’s pro-business, pro-industry, pro-elite policies that kept the poor poor. When the protests became unruly the military and police backing the rulers who supplanted Thaksin used extreme police brutality.
In the elections of 2011, Thaksin’s allies, who had formed another party, made Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s US-educated and able businesswoman younger sister, their leader. She and her party mates won by a landslide and she became Thailand’s prime minister.
She ruled well, as a populist who spent a great part of the budget supporting the agricultural sector and the urban poor. But the Bangkok-based elite would not let her govern in peace. Their Red Shirts demonstrated and made Bangkok a city of chaos for six months until the constitutional court ordered her to resign on May 7. Her party’s commerce minister became the caretaker PM. But the elite’s Red Shirts continued to demonstrate, asking for the remaining Thaksin and Yingluck friends to step down so that an undemocratic council, chosen by the elite, could be appointed to govern Thailand. Then last Tuesday, the elite friendly military seized power again—the 20th time it has happened in Thailand.
Palace-military coup the next time we have a typhoon?
Now, back to our consideration of a coup in our country.
It is a fact that the Aquino administration has been violating the Constitution and allowing the rule of law to be trampled upon by his friends and allies. We have detailed how contrary to the Constitution, the telecommunications industry, the power and water utilities have been allowed to fall into foreign ownership. The justice secretary has been giving a bad example of how the country’s highest law-enforcement official can break the law in such important matters as the affidavit of Janet Lim Napoles about the P10-billion PDAF/pork barrel scam and possibly another affidavit on the multi-billion Malampaya Fund scam. Mr. Aquino has tolerated scores of such malfeasances. And he himself is said to have been responsible for bribing the senators sitting as impeachment-trial judges so that they would find former Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty.
It is also well-known that as far as Mr. Aquino is concerned, he has been running the government with utmost probity. And that he and his key men and women truly believe that his policies are what have made the Philippines the new economic miracle.
Can they bear having someone other than Mr. Aquino’s anointed win the presidency in 2016 and undo their economic miracle?
And if anyone other than his chosen candidate for president in 2016 becomes president, Mr. Aquino will surely face charges in court for the violations of the law and the Constitution that he himself committed–as well as for tolerating all the wrongdoings of his Cabinet members and other officials.
They have, it appears, the police and the military command solidly behind them. And the world’s political leaders—Mr. Obama in America, Mr. Abe in Japan, Mr. Lee of Singapore and Mr. Najib of Malaysia, to name a few—as well as the leaders of business and the economy, such as those who are now here attending the regional World Economic Forum on East Asia, would most likely give Mr. Aquino their approval if he declared martial law the next time we have a typhoon.