A Philippine civil war is now a real possibility
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2006-02-25
AS OF this writing, the events of the first 11 hours of Feb. 24, 2006, have brought the country closer to the brink, thereby increasing the prospects that all this can escalate into a civil war. Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may have removed a serious threat to her tenuous hold on the presidency but there is reason to believe that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of the crisis that the "Garci tapes" unleashed.
What I am sharing with my readers in this article is the benefit of insights, sources and perspectives that I have gained from my own experiences as an EDSA People Power I and II veteran, as a member of the Cory Aquino administration that had weathered violent coup attempts in 1987 and 1989, as chairman of the Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA) and as a political writer and analyst. My political background has equipped me with the ability to see through psychological warfare tactics and recognize the real strategic movements that make the important events happen as well as the real players who direct the course of these events.

In previous columns, I had predicted that the festering issues surrounding the alleged stealing of the 2004 elections would mobilize more than just the political forces that are affected by it but also the citizenry and a now very politicized military. I had warned against the increasing rumblings in the military among its junior officers over the issues of corruption within its own ranks and the unsettled issues regarding the 2004 presidential elections. In the 11 hours from 1:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon of Feb. 24, all these forecasts came to pass.

From all the people who I have talked with in the past 36 hours, from my contacts in the multi-sector groups (ranging from the right to the left of the political spectrum) who I’ve met when I was COPA chairman, from my interpretation of events and announcements of the key players involved in this national drama -- I have drawn the following conclusions:

1. There are two groups involved in the military that are seeking the ouster of Madame Arroyo. The Palace may not be aware of it or may be conveniently using the line that these are officers and soldiers belonging to just one group.

2. It appears that there is the “Hackle” group that was discovered a week or so ago, the group that is suspected to be led by Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and the group associated with the dog tags. Then there is the group that is now being linked with Brigadier General Danilo Lim.

3. The “Hackle” group has generated a lot of publicity, which is why there is the tendency to associate with it everything that has come to fore. But it is obvious that it is the group associated with General Lim that commands the bigger threat to Malacañang. Certainly the Malacañang reaction tends to support that deduction.

4. It is the Lim group that appears to have the support of the two key units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Scout Rangers and the Marines. These were the groups that were immediately neutralized in the early morning counter operation of the pro-Arroyo forces. It must be recalled that the 1989 coup attempt against the Corazon Aquino administration almost succeeded with the participation of these two units, which are considered the elite forces of the AFP.

5. There is reason to believe that the administration was confident only of the support of the Northern Command during the crucial early morning hours. The move to neutralize the suspected military players was undertaken only after troops and armored units of the Northern Command arrived in Metro Manila.

6. From the very lips of AFP Chief of Staff General Generoso Senga, what they thwarted was not a coup -- at least not by the group associated with General Lim -- but an attempted withdrawal of support, which means that there was no plan to forcibly remove Arroyo from Malacañang. The coup is more applicable to the supposed plan of the “Hackle” group. And yet, when the “Hackle” plot was discovered, there was only breast beating on the part of the Arroyo regime. But the simpler, non-violent plan of the Lim group to withdraw support resulted in a Declaration of a State of National Emergency. That shows which group presents the greater threat, regardless if this is only perceived or real.

7. The threat became all too real to Malacañang because of the now confirmed substantial civilian support. No link has been established between the military group and the civilian groups that have rallied since 9:00 a.m. of Feb. 24 (and were later dispersed) to indicate that they coordinated their actions. Whether or not there was coordination, there is now the all-too-real possibility that this can escalate into a civil war. Two political opponents with their own military components leads to civil war -- what the late Jaime Cardinal Sin once described as the greatest scourge that can afflict a nation.

Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has survived another threat to her claim to the presidency. Has she effectively eliminated these threats? I doubt it. Arroyo merely won a battle but not the war -- far from it. On the contrary, the events of the 11 hours from 1:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon of Feb. 24 reinforced the existence of very serious threats to her regime, which time and again the administration tried to pooh-pooh as “isolated cases of dissent without a substantial support base.”

The involvement of Brigadier General Danny Lim proved that senior officers are in league with the junior officers in wanting closure to the "Garci tapes" issue and the system failure in the country. Now, there is reason for the administration to fear just who else and how many more among the senior officers are in unity with the group of General Lim.

Just days ago, recaptured Lieutentant Lawrence San Juan claimed that very senior officers had joined the Magdalo group of rebel soldiers. Events corroborated the claims of the Young Officers Union of the New Generation (YOUng) and debunked all the boasts of the regime that it still enjoys a loyal chain of command in the AFP.

Expect the economy to be severely affected by these developments. Investors are not easily taken by claims of an upbeat economy by an administration that does not enjoy credibility. Investors possess acute sensors for ferreting out hidden risks and the serious risks that they’ll face here are not hidden at all and have with no solutions in the horizon.

Madame Arroyo’s Declaration of a State of National Emergency does not provide an effective means for diffusing the threats to the regime. In truth, the Declaration of a State of National Emergency will just intensify the resolve of her opponents to employ more drastic means in order to succeed.

When President Ferdinand Marcos was about to declare martial law in 1972, Senator Jose “Pepe” Diokno got wind of it and warned him: “You can make a throne of bayonets. But you can never sit on it.”

You may e-mail William M. Esposo at w_esposo@yahoo.com.

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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