Thursday, November 29, 2007

What next Philippines?

What next Philippines? Now that the siege of the posh Manila Peninsula Hotel is over and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, BGen. Danilo Lim and their cohorts arrested, what now? As we wrote earlier, popular support and mobilization for their call to overthrow of the Arroyo administration will not happen.

Although their actions seemed premeditated,
it didn't seem well planned. The expected support from military sympathizers or leftist-recruited mass supporters did not materialize. Importantly, no credible and legitimate potential leader or replacement to President Arroyo stepped forward. Arroyo has learned from past events and was prepared to crush any extra-constitutional and conspiratorial action. Military and police units immediately overwhelmed them.

The main issue is the legitimacy of President Arroyo, weakened by serious allegations of election fraud and systemic corruption. Yet, despite several coup d'etat attempts, exposes, demonstrations, and personal insults, she has managed to stay in power.

The singular failure of the opposition is to present a legitimate alternative.

The tacky jokes at the losers have emerged. One comment at the Philippine Star website lamented at the country's coup d'etat hobby, which has become too expensive. A reporter quoted an Arroyo official on the possible criminal charges against 78-year old, ex-Vice President Teofisto Guingona. The official said they won't probably file charges against him because of his age. After all, "The Filipino is worth wheezing for...", referring to how teargas flushed out the Peninsula plotters and the VP's frail look.

The failing of civil society, or parts of it, is to ally with discredited politicians or inept ones like former President Estrada in the hope that he would delegate the management of the country to them. Well Estrada took them for a ride and let his corrupt friends and (some) members of family enrich themselves.

Some of the politically-inclined religious leaders have proven themselves to be politically inept.

While Philippine pre-colonial history is replete with strong, charismatic, warrior-leaders, the emphasis was always on their track record (or lack of it) of charismatic leadership, performance (in war and providing for the well-being of their followers), and integrity.

Who among our visible crop of leaders have these traits?

There will probably be more attempts to overthrow Arroyo, but until someone steps forward who is considered a potential legitimate national leader, these attempts will continue to fail.

In the meantime, let us be wary of efforts to curtail civil liberties. This is non-negotiable.

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