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The Short-Lived Coup

Updated On: Dec 04, 2007

It was not third-time lucky for those attempting a coup against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Both Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy lieutenant, and Brigadier General Danilo Lim, a former Army Scout Ranger commander walked out of their trial at a Makati regional court on Thursday, where they were being tried for attempting coups in 2003 and 2006.

They then took over the five star Peninsula Hotel in Manila, and called for the resignation of Arroyo. About 30 other supporters joined them.

However, their stay at the hotel was short. Within seven hours, the hotel was retaken by government police officers and SWAT teams. Most of the coup plotters were arrested. Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, who also took part in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, escaped. The government has since placed a million peso bounty for his capture. 

Trillanes was quoted as saying, “If there's a loser here, it's the Filipino nation because she's [Arroyo] still there.” However, a Philippines political analyst Earl Parreno noted that, if there’s a winner in all this, it is Arroyo. Arroyo’s firm and successful handling of the coup has meant that there is unlikely to be other coups till the end of Arroyo’s term in 2010.

Responses to the attempted coup have been mixed. A Filipino journalist based in Bangkok, Roby Alampay noted in an article in Asia Times, the failed coup suggested that ‘democracy-crazy Filipinos are selling their souls for long-missed stability.’

Amando Doronila wrote in the Inquirer.net, ridiculing the coup plotters for launching a coup attempt from a five star hotel. He noted, ‘The Peninsula insurrection may have collapsed, but the grievances that drove the rebels to desperate action remain smoldering underneath unless addressed seriously.’ He warned that there are ‘more than enough grievances to feed plots inside the military to seize power.’

The Australian reported that the ‘overkill’ response of Arroyo in sending so many police and military units to deal with the small rebellion as well as the strong economic growth meant that the Thursday coup had little chance of success.

The economic impact of the coup is expected to be minimal. Ironically, the fact that the coup was attempted by a group of ‘old-timers’ was a source of reassurance for the business community as it meant that there was no new group of disgruntled officers.

Arroyo’s confidence is evident in her decision to leave for Europe this week. One of the participants in the Thursday coup attempt, Emeritus Infanta Bishop Julio Labayen was released from police custody on Friday (30 November). 

Her confidence seems to be well-placed. A protest scheduled to take place on Saturday (1 December) fizzled out. Three bishops who were supposed to participate did not do so. Would Arroyo be fourth-time lucky? (3 December 2007)

Sources:

President hostage to guns of gov’t troops (Inquirer.net, 3 December 2007)

Arroyo approves bounty for fugitive hotel coup plotter (South China Morning Post, 3 December 2007)

Rebellion crushed, Arroyo for Europe (The Australian, 3 December 2007)

Aging Guingona and Labayen released from police custody (Manila Times, 1 December 2007)

Filipinos unruffled by failed coup bid (Straits Times, 1 December 2007)

Bishops' rally fizzles out (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1 December 2007)

Failed 'coup' sends a strong message (Asia Times, 1 December 2007)

Philippine ‘Coup’ a Putsch of the Absurd (Asia Sentinel, 30 November 2007)

Rebel Officers Surrender in Manila (New York Times, 29 November 2007)