Almost exactly a year ago, in the wake of the botched rescue attempt of Chinese tourists held hostage by a cop inside a bus at the Luneta, a previously unknown group that called itself Solidarity 4 Sovereignty published a manifesto demanding that, because of the “unconstitutionality” of that year’s May 10 elections, all elected positions should be declared vacant, including the presidency, which by then was on its fourth month under the reins of Benigno Aquino III. The group’s members, while appearing to have come from different political fronts, affixed their signatures to a screed whose main beef against Mr. Aquino, other than the alleged illegality of his ascension to Malacañang, was his “plunging” popularity at the time in the wake of the bungled and much-criticized Luneta rescue attempt. More ominously, the statement also called on members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “fulfill (their) constitutional mandate” by, in effect, stepping in to resolve the imagined impasse in government.
Nothing came out of the manifesto, and the public made its derision known by its complete indifference to it, though the attempt at rabble-rousing did goad law enforcement authorities to caution that the group behind the manifesto might be out to “destabilize” the fledgling Aquino administration. What the incident merely showed, noted Inquirer columnist Amando Doronila, “is that there is seldom a lack of disgruntled Filipinos agitating for military intervention to change government over the flimsiest excuse. This indicates that the coup mania continues to run deep in the Philippine political culture as a means to change leadership capriciously, both among serious coup-makers and crackpots.”
The Aquino administration subsequently recovered from the humiliation of its first major crisis, and by last month appeared to be enjoying a rebound in net satisfaction ratings among the populace, according to a couple of surveys. That spike, however, may take a hit once again with the recent Basilan debacle involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Despite an ongoing ceasefire with the government, the rebel group wasted 19 soldiers in merely the first of a series of bloody attacks across Mindanao. The cry for retaliatory all-out war against the MILF has been immediate, along with loud fretting at what some quarters have charged as Mr. Aquino’s insufficient expression of support for the beleaguered troops. He preferred to berate the generals for the operation’s glitches, it has been said, rather than go after the MILF with hammer and tongs for its treachery. Morale in the AFP has reportedly slumped.
Predictably, the perceived slight against the military and the resulting talk of dissatisfaction with Mr. Aquino’s resolve have led to fresh rumors about coups and “destabilization” plots mushrooming on the political horizon. An unnamed group is reportedly taking advantage of the Basilan incident by “spreading misinformation” and “trying to arouse the emotions” of the people, including the troops, against the government – an allegation that has merited an official statement from Malacañang, and a denial of involvement from the AFP itself.
Former putschist Danilo Lim has even gone so far as to identify the plotters as loyalists of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, out to exact their own pound of vengeance for what they see as Mr. Aquino’s vindictiveness against the former dispensation.
This rigmarole has become all too familiar by now. The government lurches into a crisis that leaves the public hot and bothered, or at least one sector of it that has the wherewithal to make noise, and the rumor-mongers go into overdrive, fanning some supposed undercurrent of monumental grievance that, in their minds, justifies calling for redress of a radical, perhaps extra-constitutional kind. Hurt feelings? Let’s mount a coup! Or pretend to.
One has to wonder if, by its almost comic predictability, that touch-and-go disquiet is in fact a pretext for something else – in this case, a means to pressure the Commander in Chief, for instance, to resort to actions that are more to the liking of the people behind the manufactured agitation, to force his hand imprudently and reorient government policy on the basis of smoke and mirrors.
Enough. Whoever riles up the country and stirs up its baser instincts at a time when it most needs clarity, candor and fair-mindedness is guilty of the same traitorousness exhibited by the republic’s enemies. In fact, they’re worse – for being enemies from within.
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