Two military actions had their own transition councils
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-03-15
THE Inquirer and ran a very interesting series that gave insights into the events surrounding the Feb. 24 aborted military action and the imposition of Proclamation 1017, which placed the country in a state of national emergency. The first of this “now it can be told” series, which ran from March 11 to 13, was written by TJ Bergonio. The second and third parts were written by my friend and former associate editor, Fe Zamora.
The contents of the three stories jibe with the information I had picked up from my own sources in the various civil society groups and the military -- sources that I’ve developed during my incumbency as chairman of the Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA). I relinquished my chairmanship and membership in COPA in November 2003 in order to focus on projects that are closer to my heart, which I’m now undertaking with the Focolare Movement. But the experience with COPA has provided me with invaluable and very reliable sources of information that I now benefit from as an columnist.

COPA had put together the broad coalition of forces that staged what eventually led to EDSA People Power II -- a coalition that spanned the forces of the Right (police and military) all the way to the forces of the Left, with the exception of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army. Joseph Estrada’s scandalous presidency and now Madame Gloria M. Arroyo’s regime of lies, repression and obfuscations are themselves the biggest factors in welding even diverse sectors to unite against the perceived evil before them.

Fe Zamora’s “Who’s who in the council” article of March 12 told about a plan for a transition council that was to be composed of (though not necessarily limited to) former vice president Tito Guingona, former executive secretary Rene de Villa, former senator Gringo Honasan, Senator Ping Lacson, former Cory Aquino Cabinet member and Pangasinan provincial governor Oscar Orbos and evangelist Brother Eddie Villanueva.

My own sources say, however, that there were two different courses for two separate military actions that were coming from two different groups. Each group had its own plan for a transition council. I believe that the transition council mentioned in Fe’s March 12 article was the one that pertains to the military action associated with Honasan.

There was another transition council that was planned by various civil society groups. I believe that this is the transition council that would have been aligned with the aborted military action of Feb. 24, the action that is now being linked with Brigadier General Danny Lim and Colonel Ariel Querubin.

This is also the transition council that was recently discussed over Ricky Carandang’s “The Big Picture” public affairs show on cable channel ANC, with former University of the Philippines president Dodong Nemenzo and Representative Risa H. Baraquel as guests.

The resistance to Madame Gloria M. Arroyo’s regime has developed into a very wide spectrum of opposition forces. There are the forces of the Right, the Moderates and the Left. The Left was notably absent when Ferdinand Marcos was removed. Then there are those who prefer to use constitutional processes in ousting her as well as those who are willing to take the extra-constitutional route to attain the same objective. Add to that the consistent 80 percent of respondents in surveys who believe that Madame Arroyo stole the 2004 presidency and the over 65 percent of survey respondents who want her ousted.

Contrary to claims of the Arroyo regime enjoys the support of the silent majority because of the absence of massive People Power protests, there is an overwhelming number of Filipinos who want Gloria M. Arroyo removed. The only reason this has not taken place is that people are wary about what and who will fill up the void once she is gone. Government is so blatantly and patently corrupt and people tend to think that anyone coming from government assures only that there will just be more of the same. On the other hand, nobody has emerged to provide acceptable leadership that can make a difference, given the present circumstances.

The political players opposed to Madame Arroyo know how many Filipinos want a regime change and are thus encouraged to press for her ouster. However, they fail to provide an acceptable package that the country will want to rally behind. This package includes the answers to the what, the "who" and the "how" questions that are foremost on people’s minds. People are seeking a genuine reform package, under a credible leadership via an acceptable change process.

Thus, it is not surprising that two separate military actions developed, with each having its own prescription for the composition of a transition council.

Ricky Carandang’s discussion with Nemenzo and Baraquel provided very good insights on the other transition council, which had the following features:

1. There will be no politician in the transition council.

2. The objective is not just leadership change but also system reform. The University of the Philippines' "Blueprint for a Viable Philippines: was cited as a starting point for the system reform.

3. The transition council will be civilian in nature and will not be a junta.

From these three features alone of (let’s call it the ‘No-politico transition council’ for identification purposes) the No-politico council, it is easy to see that this is distinct from the transition council with former politicians de Villa, Orbos, Honasan, Guingona, Villanueva and incumbent senator Lacson (De Villa and Villanueva ran in the 1998 and 2004 presidential elections, respectively, and lost) as members.

I have also good reason to believe that the junior officers gravitate towards the No-politico council rather than the Honasan et al. council. In all the previous pronouncements of the junior officers, they were consistent in stating that:

1. They want system reform.

2. They want to end not just the Arroyo regime but also the reign of the traditional politicians who are integral to the Philippine elite’s current monopoly of political and economic power.

The Arroyo regime has benefited from people’s general lack of understanding. This includes members of the middle class who should really be the pivotal force in steering the nation into meaningful system reforms. It is not surprising too that the regime appears intent in adding to the confusion by calibrated obfuscations.

Most notable of these ‘programmed confusions’ are as follows:

1. No distinction is made from that “Operation Hackle” military action that was exposed in early February and the Feb. 24 planned soldiers' protest march and withdrawal of support. I doubt if the regime is not aware that these are two different plans with different players behind them. I think that the regime purposely combines these threats, passing them off as one, in order to justify their overreaction in issuing Proclamation 1017 and the continued repression.

2. While there are many leftist groups opposing Gloria M. Arroyo, the regime intentionally links the armed CPP-NPA extreme Left with these civil society groups. This adds fuel to most Filipino’s knee-jerk panic over anything that hints of Communism. Majority of Filipinos do not realize that most of the leftist groups that operate legally are espousing ideas that are also accepted in many Western democracies and have been integrated into Western government policies. In truth, most of those who are considered Left are not communists. But most Filipinos do not know this and the Arroyo regime, just like the Marcos regime before it, capitalized on this ignorance.

3. Just as the regime points to all Leftists as Communists, they also attempt to make it appear that all military actions are coups. The Feb. 24 planned military action was not a coup, and it had nothing to do with the CPP-NPA. Generals Generoso Senga and Hermogenes Esperon Jr. have confirmed this.

The Feb. 24 plan was a "non-coup" and if ever the proponents of it are guilty of something, then it is of non-coup plotting.

The Feb. 24 plan had all the features of the EDSA People Power II script that placed Gloria M. Arroyo in Malacañang and was ruled then as constitutional. The Feb. 24 plan called for civil society groups and the military to converge at the EDSA Shrine and there the military would announce their withdrawal of support for Gloria M. Arroyo.

The same process was legal when it was used on Jan. 21, 2001, to install Gloria M. Arroyo as president. But the same process is now considered illegal when it was to be used last Feb. 24 to remove her.

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