I’ve been up into the wee hours trying to come up with some kind of input on this situation in the Philippines. Other government officials have called the “grievances” of these soldiers “legitimate” — accusations of military corruption and government schemes to maintain power through Martial Law — but these simply do not strike me as credible, especially in the sense that they demand President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s immediate removal for complicity in these plots.
First, we can acknowledge that rampant corruption is a given in the context of the various dealings of Philippine government and military, so the allegation that the military has been selling weaponry to various rebel groups is easy to believe — considering prior reports of collusion between ranking soldiers and the Abu Sayyaf. What doesn’t ring true is the idea that this is being done with Gloria’s blessing, as this would be inconsistent with her whole political strategy of — to be frank — sucking up to GWBush and the War on Terror.
Second, the idea that Gloria has been complicit in plans to instigate bombings and unrest in the city, in order to provide a pretext for extended martial rule, simply smacks of outlandish conspiracy-theory craziness. No one in current or previous administrations since Ferdinand Marcos has had the gall to try and pull that kind of power stunt, precisely because of Ferdinand Marcos’ own example. That’s why the 1987 Constitution imposes limits on certain executive powers and makes the President fully accountable to the legislature for the declaration of Martial Law, thus cutting back on the risk of a return to a military dictatorship. (See Article 7, Sec. 18.) It’s also why Gloria came up with the “State of Rebellion”, which grants the president limited emergency powers, without invoking the public dread of Martial Law.
Regardless of how legitimate these rebels’ problems may be, any sympathy I may have for their grievances is completely eclipsed by the brazen threat of force with which they forward their case. One must wonder what they must have been thinking:
“We will show the Philippines and the world the righteousness of our cause by stringing explosives around major malls and hotels, threatening innocent civilians and foreign visitors! That will convince them of how devoted we are to National Recovery!“
This line of thought indicates one of two things: overpoweringly passionate stupidity; or what I think is more likely, a deliberate intent to intimidate the Philippines, its business district, and the business district’s visitors with a frightening show of force. They don’t need to push through with those explosives or an all-out gunfight with loyal government forces to accomplish the latter goal: the damage has already been done. Tourists, foreign investors, and key economic decision makers from all over the world will never feel safe in the Philippines, knowing that a ragtag team of “demoralized” soldiers could plant C4 all over Makati and hold them hostage in their buildings so easily.
I think this is a blatantly public attempt to sabotage the country’s government and economy. The result: continued exodus of capital from a country whose industry is overly dependent on foreign investment and tourism, pushing the Philippines ever closer to — or over — the brink of economic collapse. The final outcome will not matter; these terror tactics have already accomplished their goal, and I would not be surprised if we see them surrendering before the 5pm deadline is up.