International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

July 30, 2003

July 30, 2003





**  Dailies concur with the rebels that "endemic, systemic" corruption plagues the Philippines.


**  The coup dramatizes the feebleness of "a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism."


**  President Arroyo and her "failed Philippine political system" face new questions of stability.


**  Philippine papers decry the "dire economic consequences of the mutiny."




The aborted mutiny is a 'wake-up call regarding the long-festering rot in the military'--  The "bugaboo of corruption" is prevalent in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), according to most writers.  The conservative Australian lent credence to the coup leaders' "gripe...that weapons have found their way from the army to Muslim and communist insurgents."  The independent Philippine Daily Inquirer admitted that "graft and corruption at the level of the generals is an open secret."  Other dailies, noting the "allegedly incompetent generals" in the AFP, treated the "corruption within the military as a given."


The coup reinforces Manila's image as an 'international laughingstock'--  Manila was "already under criticism" for allowing imprisoned terrorist Fathur Al-Ghozi to "simply stroll away from captivity," so the coup was another "serious setback to the international war on terror."  A Thai daily predicted the incident "will hurt the regional effort against violent extremists," while an Australian writer termed the "feebleness of the Philippine state" the region's "weakest link."  Hong Kong's leftist Asia Times decried the "many seemingly insoluble crises besetting the U.S.' chief ally in Southeast Asia."  Writers from Spain and Hong Kong dismissed the Philippines as a country that is "unreliable, unstable and, very possibly, ungovernable."


'Substantial sympathy' for the rebels poses a threat to Arroyo--  The liberal Sydney Morning Herald echoed many in noting the "popular sympathy" for the rebels' sincerity.  Manila's liberal Today urged "sustained attention and zeal" for the rebels' "legitimate grievances."  Pro-opposition Philippine dailies blasted Arroyo's "panicky reaction" to the "open challenge to her borrowed presidency."  Other papers alleged ousted former President Estrada and former coup leader Senator Honasan were the "more sophisticated power players" seeking to "destabilize Arroyo's government."


'Rampant poverty, neglected infrastructure' and other ills loom--  Japan's liberal Asahi said the "true way to prevent future coup to more firmly strengthen social welfare."  The conservative Philippine Star labeled the real "major national crisis...rock-bottom poverty...crime and violence...and a demographic explosion."  Tabloid Pilipino Star Ngayon bemoaned the mutiny's "impact on the country's economy," while other Philippine papers said the coup's "incalculable damage" cast a "long shadow on our national life."


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 29 reports from 10 countries over 28 - 30 July 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




PHILIPPINES:  “Insights From The Oakwood Mutiny”


Amando Doronila contended in the widely-read independent Philippine Daily Inquirer (7/30):  “Last Sunday's failed military mutiny depicted the true state of the nation more eloquently than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's State of the Nation Address did....  It unleashed a new blizzard of uncertainty over the economic and political horizons....  The mutiny threw the spotlight on the infirmity of the democratic institutions restored by the EDSA People Power I uprising in 1986 and the vulnerability of the economy to political shocks and turbulence....  The rebels also misread the public mood. They failed to draw the extensive support they had hoped to get from the civilian population....  Apart from their grievances, the rebel leaders cited another flimsy reason for their rebellion. They said they saw signs that President Macapagal-Arroyo was moving toward declaring martial law to extend her stay in office. They wanted her to step down and called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Reyes. But these are political demands that went beyond the scope of their catalogue of grievances....  Their demand for the President's resignation gave a political color to their rebellion more than an expression of grievances. They did not even let us know with whom they wanted to replace President Macapagal-Arroyo.  The slipshod preparation of the mutiny should prompt the PMA to review whether it is producing effective military leaders."


“The People Have Chosen”


The government-owned People’s Journal said (7/30):  The public has been pounded with the fact that the rogue officers that led the adventure were young, brilliant, intelligent and idealistic. They may be but we doubt that these attributes were displayed in the mutiny.  One of them said that they expected the people to come to Makati to support them. This could be a product of their military intelligence, or they were made to believe that crowds could be hauled to back them up.  If they did, they have miscalculated despite their brilliance. As one of them had suggested, the people deserve the government they get. So, now they know.  The people have chosen.”




The independent, widely-read Philippine Daily Inquirer held (7/29):  "It was a coup attempt that was doomed from the start. It was doomed because it did not have the support of the people....  To be sure, the larger objective of the siege of the Oakwood apartment hotel building in the Makati business district was to bring down the presidency of Ms Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But apparently the great majority of the people did not believe the charges hurled against the President....  Most of the people who wanted Ms Macapagal-Arroyo replaced probably thought, why not wait for the elections next year?....  The mutineers did not even have the support of a sizable sector of the Armed Forces....  Graft and corruption at the level of the generals is an open secret. But apparently, the great majority of the soldiers believe that the issue could still be addressed through the normal, legal ways of fighting corruption....  The initial findings of investigators show that the mutinous officers used an apartment owned by former actress Laarni Enriquez, a mistress of Estrada, as a staging area. Now, in hindsight, the "excursion" of Estrada from and back to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center makes sense....  But the attempt to link Senator Gregorio Honasan to the mutineers, based principally on the mutineers' adoption of his National Recovery Program, may be a bit premature....  The investigations should not concentrate just on the culpability of the mutineers. They should look closely into the charges made by the mutineers....  If some generals are traitors, they should be punished to the full extent of the law.  The coming investigations should determine the culpability of the mutineers. If they are found culpable, the punishment should not be a mere 100 pushups. Stiff penalties should help put a stop to the cycle of coups that severely harm the nation."


"Gunpowder Brain"


Manila-based tabloid Tagalog-language Pilipino Star Ngayon stated (7/29):  "Viewed in whatever angle, the mutiny of the 296 soldiers two days ago showed lack of love for country. Their grievances or complaints against the government may be true but to address them through a mutiny is not reasonable. What they did was illegal and shows what they have gunpowder brains....  An uprising would become moral and successful if supported by the people.  The people have become fed up with this kind of uprising. The nation went through seven instances of coup d'etat, headed by former army colonel now Senator Gregorio Honasan, in 1987 up to 1989....  The economy crashed and has not recovered until now....  The Philippines is once again harmed because of the uprising. Although no one was killed or nothing was destroyed, the negative impact is on the country's economy, which has not yet risen from where it has slumped, there it goes collapsing again....  The citizens are the ones who paid for their education and what they returned to the people is something else....  What Trillanes did is an additional injury to the country and it will take time to heal. Like what Honasan did, their actions could not be accepted by the people. This country has no place for gunpowder-brain individuals who allegedly are seeking reforms."


"Comedy Of A Coup"


Business-oriented Businessworld editorialized (7/29):  "Rumors of a "coup" were rife weeks before the military malcontents pulled it off....  Honasan-like, the adventurers hostaged Makati, seized a pricey hotel and wired the approach with bombs. Even then, joggers and cyclists did their morning exercises in the area. Some families strolled before uniformed malingerers resting on Makati's sidewalks. Motorists avoided the streets, of course, but only to wait until the nuisance was over. Even government forces watched boxer Pacquaio knock out his Mexican challenger before the President's ultimatum was breached....  In less than two weeks, we made world news again. The first time was the escape of world-class terrorist, Indonesian al-Ghozi, now the 'coup'....  Nations worldwide are mobilizing for a bloodless contest in the efficient production of goods, for which the military has no training. Trillanes should not wonder, therefore, why military pay sucks. What's more, few, if any, military men have succeeded as heads of state. Even if he succeeded in grabbing power, there was no way he could govern without the people's support....  If he were made of sterner stuff, he could, like others who lost lives and careers before him, blow the whistle, arrest or cause the miscreants in the military to pay for the crimes against the very people they are supposed to protect. Capture al-Ghozi or eliminate the Abu Sayyaf. There is even a reward for that.  Otherwise, he can be an OFW or could enroll in a computer course. He has no business scripting sick comedies like the failed 'coup' that he attempted. Most were amused but no one laughed at his bungled caper that accomplished nothing."


"A Soldier’s Sigh"


Independent, liberal Today editorialized (7/29):  "The immediate universal reaction to the caper was “Oh, no, not again!” because certainly, the poor Filipino everyman didn’t deserve something like this, so soon after the escape of international terrorist Fathur Roman al-Ghozi...and somehow end up paying for the dire economic consequences of the mutiny, which lasted 20 hours but actually extends a long shadow on our national life.  And yet, and yet, for all the condemnation of the mutiny, everywhere one heard sympathy for the grievances raised about the foot soldier’s plight, as well as deep anguish over the ruins of such promising careers....  The unsightly spectacle of a mutiny may have been put away temporarily...but there’s no ignoring this closet and all that it contains. Obviously, the issues being deep and explosive and long-running, the problem will simply not go away. The problems have reached such cancerous proportions they require no less than an overhaul of the entire military systems for procurement, for logistics accounting, nay, even the priorities in allocation....  Indications abound about a political agenda by hidden forces, it would be the height of folly to just focus on this. No, equal, sustained attention and zeal must go to the legitimate grievances raised by the young soldiers."


"No Compelling Proof"


Independent Philippine SunStar declared (7/29):  "Keen observers of the mutiny led by young officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that ended Sunday night would note that the issues that supposedly drove them to do what they did were not well studied.  Either the officers were too rash to form a judgment, thus the rashness of their subsequent action, or what they did was but part of a bigger agenda that did not play out because of the mutiny’s failure to generate support from within and without the AFP....  Some of the issues were valid. Indeed, many consider corruption within the military as a given, so too the failure of government to address the military’s concerns. In fact, as an aftermath of the mutiny, changes should be in place.... Maybe one should not look at the purely military issues played up by the mutineers but rather on the non-military ones they downplayed—like their claim that President Arroyo’s assumption to power was unconstitutional and their pursuit of the so-called National Recovery Program drafted by Sen. Gregorio Honasan."




Alex Magno wrote in the independent, conservative Philippine Star (7/29):  "Were it not for the aggravation, the disrupted schedules and the incalculable damage it caused the economy, the escapade of a band of naïve young officers might be appropriately described as comical....  They did not seem to have a cause. Not one, at least, that people would rally for....  It was only after the mutineers occupied Oakwood that spokesmen for the young officers attempted to cough up a list of complaints. That list sounded totally incredible: that top officials of the AFP were selling arms and ammunitions to rebel movements; that the President herself was behind the Davao bombing; and that the President intended to impose martial rule....  True, there is a continuing problem with corruption in the military organization....  It is entirely possible that the young captains and lieutenants who plotted this mad adventure were misled by much more sophisticated power players. Maybe they were promised an outpouring of support from the streets and the greenhorns believed that. Maybe they were told that other military units would move as soon as they initiated something....  We have a distorted culture that allows people who indulge in forceful action to get away with it. Even those involved in previous coup attempts got away with light penalties--or were amnestied sometime after....  It is a relief that this government does not appear to be inclined to court that moral hazard. On the contrary, the President has made it clear that those responsible for this black coup-medy will suffer the full force of the law.  At least on this aspect, something right has happened."


"The Abuse Of Idealism"


The independent Manila Times held (7/29):  "The Magdaló Mutiny pushed back an economy that was just beginning to climb out of the pit.  There are varying estimates of the direct and immediate costs of the rebellion–and they are large–but they all pale beside the long-term damage that the mutineers inflicted....  The armed forces suffered the severest injury....  Before the people begin to glorify these rebels without causes, let’s look more deeply and critically at their motives for mounting their short-lived rebellion....  There’s now some evidence that they were supported by politicians–or “conspiring civilians,” to use President Arroyo’s words–to plan and mobilize for the mutiny. No doubt the money trail will be eventually uncovered....  All of them–every single one of them–should be charged with rebellion and punished to the fullest extent allowed by the Articles of War.  We do not have any sympathy or any pity for anyone who thinks that idealism is an excuse to commit a crime as serious as rebellion."


"What Lies Beneath"


The independent Manila Standard editorialized (7/29):  "The Administration can pat itself on the back for its judicious handling of the latest attempt at a military coup.  It was a tough test of wills, nerve and guts which President Arroyo and her Cabinet passed with flying colors.  But beyond punishing the young puschists....  the administration must seriously act on their one major gripe:  corruption in the ranks of the police and the military....  The recent escape of Indonesian terrorist Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, which the doomed coup wiped out from the news, was only one sign of corruption in the ranks....  Corruption is endemic, systemic; no coup, bloodless or bloodstained, can erase it without rooting out the causes--and they are as many as they are complicated, complex and confounding.  But this does not mean that the young officers erred in raising the bugaboo of corruption, however questionable their motives....  If the government can conduct a lifestyle check on top officials of the internal revenue and customs bureaus, why not do one on top officers of the military and the police?  A look-see could well reveal facts that the renegade soldiers may have sensed but failed to unearth and present to their civilian constituencies."   


"The Gathering Storm; Is There A Way Out?"


Teodoro C. Benigno wrote in the independent, conservative Philippine Star (7/28):  "In this instance, I am convinced the rebels will give up, surrender, for the odds against them are just too formidable. And yet, their uprising, even if aborted, is historically significant. It is a trigger to future events....  It swirls down to a great body that could one day rush to the surface and break into pieces and convulse the nation....  Today, there is some public, maybe even substantial sympathy for the military rebels. But there is hardly any widespread sympathy and support for the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo....  What is happening today is almost exactly like what we have forecast many, many months ago, even two years ago. We said then that democracy had copped out and taken flight in the Philippines. We said all of our institutions were faltering and failing, and the time would come when this would develop into a major national crisis. Rock-bottom poverty. Graft and corruption. Crime and violence. These and a demographic explosion had brought us to a narrow pass in the mountains.  Either we reformed or we fell. Either we tamed the social volcano or it would erupt and engulf us all in civil war or revolution.  Our great fear was that the military establishment was best positioned to take over if chaos and anarchy swept the land. Our other fear was that the communist Left would rampage....  What had brought the Philippines down more than anything else was its breezy, balmy tropical culture, lashed to the rocks even more by our own unique brand of Christianity which extolled infinite patience, earthly acceptance of pain, agony and suffering....  We are so different from many of our neighbors in Asia.  The Japanese, Chinese, Thais, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Koreans function as a community. Beyond his immediate family, the Filipino hardly cares for anybody....  The Philippines has ambled like a pack horse for over half a century and we are no different today from Burma or Cambodia....  The escape of Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi exploded in her face. The revolt of the young, idealistic army officers was a big slash in the President’s belly. In truth, GMA does not know who her political enemies are."


"We Are All Losers"


Ana Marie Pamintuan argued in the independent, conservative Philippine Star (7/28):  "What could be worse than the escape of an Indonesian terrorist to remind the world of the sorry state of our nation? Another siege in the heart of Makati.  The mutinous soldiers had such a miniscule following in the military and the motive for a putsch so ill-defined that even after President Arroyo herself had announced Saturday that there was a brewing coup, even some members of her own presidential guards dismissed the coup talk as disinformation....  There was suspicion that everything was for show, to divert attention from the government's failure to find escaped terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, and to muster a show of support for President Arroyo....  Investors having second thoughts about putting their money in this country made up their minds yesterday: Goodbye, Philippines! Thailand, China, Vietnam, here they come!  The Australians, who seem to have a knack for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, briefly considered sending troops to Manila to rescue their ambassador....  The mutiny could once again set back the economy by about one and a half years....  The renegades complained that the government had been selling bullets from the AFP arsenal to enemies of the state. But Congress had investigated that complaint and found it baseless. As some quarters pointed out, corrupt AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] officers don't bother with the penny-ante sale of bullets to Muslim and communist rebels; they prefer big bucks from fat defense contracts....  With all military units pledging allegiance to the chain of command, with opposition figures chorusing that they'd rather wait for the 2004 elections for a "regime change," thank you, and with no "people power" emerging...the mutiny was doomed....  The mutiny is a wake-up call regarding the long-festering rot in the military. A congressional investigation will be launched on the renegades' allegations, which raises hopes for reforms--although who puts much stock in congressional inquiries?  But in the long run, we are all losers in this ugly episode. The fuzzy objectives do not justify the means. Al-Ghozi's escape made us an international laughingstock. This mutiny can only reinforce that image."


"Reached A Point"


Privately-owned Tagalog-language Manila-based Kabayan editorialized (7/28): "The country, once again, went through another military rebellion. Young officers were behind the rebellion. They said that they did it after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself failed to listen to their grievances....  According to those who launched the coup d'etat, the ongoing corruption among their ranks is demoralizing the military. They directly referred to Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes' alleged involvement in the sale of arms and ammunition to rebels in Mindanao and the intelligence agency's link to the bombings in Davao City.  In accordance to the discipline they are following, the military will not speak on what they know....  Although we do not support the action of the young officers, in our opinion, the President erred in her decision to just brush aside the grievances of those who launched the coup d'etat. The situation already reached a point and it aggravated following her inaction.  We already avoided coups. We experienced in the past its effect on the economy. The 1989 coup d'etat was pointed as the cause why we further plunged at the tail end of countries belonging to the Third World.  The latest incident came at the worst time where almost no foreign investors are doing business in our country. We are worried over its severe effect on our economy in the near future.  We also do not know if aside from their grievances, did the junior officers of the military also consider this scenario?"


"Gloria’s Estrada Complex"


The independent, pro-opposition Daily Tribune editorialized (7/28):  "Malacañang has all but concluded that detained President Joseph Estrada is part of the coup launched the other day by young officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)....  The Palace ordered the transfer of Estrada from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) to Camp Aguinaldo, a move that he reportedly resisted--and rightly so, the law being on his side in this panicky reaction of President Arroyo to yet another open challenge to her borrowed presidency....  Her unlawful order also endangered the health, if not the life, of the man from whom she unconstitutionally grabbed power more than two years ago....  Mrs. Arroyo is obviously scared of her ''predecessor,'' coup or no coup, and what better occasion to cover up her fear than by tossing Estrada around to suit her political agenda....  If the coup dragged on, it would not be unlikely for Mrs. Arroyo to again order Estrada to take a tour of Metro Manila....  Mrs. Arroyo is suffering from the Estrada complex, which she cannot possibly survive for as long as she continues to flout the law.  This aberration is incurable and she knows she is in for a protracted battle.  Not to worry, though, because she knows if she can get away with legal murder, she sure can solve a problem like Estrada, Oakwood or no Oakwood, with the help of her courts."




The independent, widely-read Philippine Daily Inquirer maintained (7/28):  "Both Malacañang and Camp Aguinaldo have sounded the alarm over the involvement of certain politicians, with Interior Secretary Joey Lina even naming ex-coup leader and now opposition senator Gringo Honasan....  From one point of view, Honasan's fingerprints seem to be all over the place. The coup attempts of February 1986, August 1987 and December 1989 were fatally flawed in both concept and execution. The coup leaders had an insufficient idea of the vital strategic centers that must be controlled, and they failed to muster enough disciplined soldiers to carry out their already limited plans. Above all, their plans did not factor in the need for people's support....  Some of the grievances the military mutineers have raised are legitimate, but the method they have chosen to dramatize their concerns is illegal, immoral, inept-and ultimately un-Filipino. We denounce the mutiny....  The mutineers' cause has also sustained a mortal blow. Raising serious issues-including systemic military corruption, connivance with the enemies of the state, state-sponsored terrorism, and an alleged Macapagal administration plan to declare martial law in August--the mutineers have failed to present evidence aside from the testimony of their personal experience. By staging a mutiny and taking over a commercial center, however, the officers have knocked these issues off the pedestal they had themselves jerrybuilt.  Now the more stark: if military officers commit a crime, shouldn't they be punished to the fullest extent of the law?....  While the Macapagal administration must look into the officers' grievances, the chain of command must subject the mutineers to the maximum penalty under the law."


AUSTRALIA:  "Measured Response"


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald declared (7/29):  “It is...a relief that President Gloria Arroyo, in her state-of-the-nation speech yesterday, offered such a measured response. Dr Arroyo deplored the mutiny. She vowed that those responsible would feel the full force of the law. But her announcement of a commission of inquiry into reasons for the mutiny also must be seen as a concession to popular sympathy for the sincerity of the young officers involved....  As both Dr Arroyo and the mutineers agree, it was never a coup attempt. Rather, it looked more like a kind of dangerous play-acting seen before in the Philippines--not in itself very destructive, but damaging to the nation's internal morale and international reputation, and symptomatic of an underlying weakness in the system.“


“A Bitter Blow To The War On Terror”


Greg Sheridan commented in national conservative Australian (7/28):  “This bizarre shopping center coup in Manila is a savage blow to the Philippines and a serious setback to the international war on terror....  There is no doubt the soldiers have a gripe, in that too many government agencies in The Philippines are corrupt, and weapons have found their way from the army to Muslim and communist insurgents. But this lazy and brazen attempted coup can only aid the insurgents and bandits in the Philippines because it undermines the authority of the state....  The feebleness of the Philippine state has emerged as the weakest link in the anti-terror chain in the region. It is to try to remedy this that Washington has been pouring military aid into the country.“


“Manila Siege Threatens Hard-won Gains”


The national conservative Australian held (7/28):  “The tense standoff in the heart of Manila's financial district is a vivid reminder that it is not only terrorism that imperils security in our region. Throughout much of Southeast Asia, there is also corruption, cronyism, fragile systems of law and property rights, and a resulting lack of underlying faith in democratic institutions. Unfortunately, when reform stalls, and these factors are allowed to lead to instability, terrorists are waiting to take advantage....  Ms Arroyo must now assert her authority, as the legitimate democratic leader of The Philippines, to bring an end to this instability. And in the longer term, other countries in the region, including Australia, must do whatever they can to promote order and democracy in The Philippines, and to banish terrorism there. “


CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Absurd Coup Has A Sting In The Tail"


A Lin Neumann wrote in the leftist, Internet-only Asia Times (7/28):  "Sunday's shopping-mall putsch in the Philippines gave us just what we have come to expect from the failed Philippine political system:  absurdist entertainment....  At the conclusion of this soap opera, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on the eve of her annual State of the Nation address, asserted her claim to legitimacy and raised her hands in triumph, a broad smile on her face, when the rebellion ended....  Arroyo is dead wrong in saying the country's stability was not hurt...  At its core, the Philippines seems to be a country that remains unreliable, unstable and, very possibly, ungovernable.  This latest fiasco comes just two weeks after convicted terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, said to be a key link to al-Qaeda, walked out of a Manila jail cell apparently unnoticed by his sleeping guards. That a major terror figure jailed by a key US ally could simply stroll away from captivity pointed to the porous nature of the corrupt Philippine security apparatus....  Arroyo's government is reaping the whirlwind sown by its own popularly backed successful coup against the corrupt, but lawfully elected, regime of her predecessor, Joseph Estrada....  Arroyo will likely not be forcibly removed from office. She is unpopular but probably not that unpopular, and besides, the joint pillars of the Catholic Church and business that brought her to power have not entirely dropped their support for her....  Still, the laments of the dissatisfied and idealistic young officers resonate strongly and underscore the many seemingly insoluble crises besetting the U.S.' chief ally in Southeast Asia. That raising grievances through force of arms is considered a viable option by elite young officers is itself a dramatic example of how far the rule of law has been eroded...and how deeply corruption undermines confidence in the country's many failed institutions....  It is not only Manila's security relationships that stand to suffer from the further unraveling of confidence in the government. The Philippine economy, long in the doldrums, is likely to be pushed even farther off the radar screens of investors....  If these young officers represent a core of resentment in the fractious military, the stage could be set for the Philippines to return to the years of instability and negative growth rates that characterized the post-Marcos period....  The real loser in all of this, of course, is the Philippine public, already battered by rampant poverty, neglected infrastructure, overpopulation and a host of other ills. It does not look set to get any better any time soon."


"Questionable Legitimacy Leads To Instability"


Independent South China Morning Post remarked (7/28):  "Yesterday's attempt by nearly 300 soldiers to seize power should be condemned, as the Philippines is a democracy that allows for peaceful changes of governments through the ballot box. But the fact is that, regrettably, the constitutional legitimacy of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration remains questionable. It therefore is, and will remain, open to the same forces that led to the overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos 17 years ago....  Under [previous President Joseph] Estrada, the Philippine economy floundered. Since he was ousted, it has improved little, despite Mrs. Arroyo’s much-publicized efforts. Corruption at all levels of society remains endemic. The Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International last year ranked the Philippines 77th of 102 countries in its Corruption Perception Index, down from 65th the previous year. In the past month, Mrs. Arroyo’s government has been embarrassed by a series of high-profile scandals, among them the escape from supposedly the most secure prison in the country of a senior Indonesian member of the terrorist group allegedly behind the Bali bombings and two rebels with the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping gang.  Restoring investor confidence in the Philippines and turning around the economy will take time. Mrs. Arroyo’s efforts are welcome, but they need to be sustained with strong words so that the message filters through society. Lessening corruption and the greed of politicians, military officers and officials will help the process.”


JAPAN:  "Manila Coup:  Interrupt the Vicious Cycle Of Military Intervention"


Conservative Sankei held (7/29):  "The hotel occupation incident that took place in Manila...greatly shook up the Arroyo administration as it looks towards the presidential election set for May 2004.  The Arroyo administration should harshly punish the criminals, cut out the roots of the repeated military rebellions, and halt the vicious cycle through which worsening public insecurity results in a stagnating economy.  Since the Marcos regime ended in the Philippines, coup attempt incidents by rebelling elements in the military have not ended.  In particular, under President Aquino there were 7 coup attempts by former military allies of Marcos, inviting the destruction of national ethics, economic stagnation and public security.  In addition, top coup leader and army Colonel Honasan left jail, despite being repeatedly arrested, and eventually, afterwards, was elected to the Senate, and has continued to disrupt the political world....  Even in this latest coup too, in the soldiers' backgrounds aside from Senator Honasan's involvement was also that of former President Estrada's National Police Chief Senator Lacson visible.  Former President Estrada was forced to resign after demonstrations following his perceived guilt of bribery and gambling.  The Philippine public called this movement "People Power 2" and viewed it as if it was the second toppling of the Marcos regime, supported also by the military.  Vice President Arroyo then ascended to the presidency.  In that sense, it can be said that from its start Arroyo's administration owed a debt to the military....  Regardless of the aims of the soldiers, harsh punishment of coup plotters is the way to prevent future occurences of military intervention....  Through firm punishment, she should cut out the roots of coups." 


"Philippines--The Deepness Of The Sick Roots That Produce Rebellion"


Liberal Asahi opined (7/29):  "A part of the Philippine military rebelled...and demanded the eradication of corruption inside the military, but just 20 hours later surrendered....  Looking back at the process that led to the rebellion, this country that appears as if it has proceeded in an orderly way on the road of democracy has actually come to face large contradictions and distortions....  It has been proven that the system of civilian control of the military is still not confirmed.  In 1986 the Marcos tyranny fell, and the Philippine embarked towards democracy under President Aquino.  But afterwards, it seemed that every year a revolt broke out from inside the military.  The issue is, the problem of responsibility has always been made hazy and vague.  Coup leaders were seen as heroes by the masses who have dissatisfaction toward the government, and became senators.  Soldiers who participated in revolts were acquitted with just 'push-ups punishment.'  That type of thing permits repeated occurences over and over....  The police have arrested associates of former President Estrada, currently in jail on bribery charges, for being involved in the rebellion....  The rebellious forces declared they acted to stop military corruption.  Against both the communist forces in Luzon and the Islamic radicals in Mindanao, the military's top leaders are illegally diverting weapons and ammunition to boost their own private profit....  The Arroyo administration fully cooperated with Prewsient Bush after 9/11 in the war on terrorism, and has gained increased military aid.  In the Iraq war too, they received the U.S. requests and dispatched troops.  If it is true that military aid aimed at fighting terrorist groups has actually been snatched away by top military leaders, it cannot be said that the military body comprises much of anything.  Resentment towards this type of corruption, combined with the public's anger towards the country's existence where a handful of wealthy plutocrats and landowners control the wealth in the country, threatens the gradually developing democracy....  The true way to prevent future coup attempts such as this is to more firmly strengthen social welfare."


SINGAPORE:  "Mutiny In Manila"


The government-influenced Straits Times editorialized (7/29):  "One good thing that can be said about the mutiny by disgruntled Philippine soldiers is that the 19-hour stand-off ended on Sunday night without any bloodshed. That's some consolation but it is hardly the end of President Gloria Arroyo's troubles. Grave damage has been done....  President Arroyo's leadership has increasingly come under direct challenge from various quarters that are out to destabilise her government, if not foment a putsch....  This bodes ill not just for the Philippines but also reinforces the perception that South-east Asia is a crisis region....  The Philippines professes to be a leading Asian democracy but it is still prone to military coups....  The rebellion reveals disquiet over endemic corruption, poor military discipline and inept administration. The recent escape of Jemaah Islamiah terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi and the bombings in the southern Philippines, amid a communist insurgency and the military's failure to put down the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao, raise serious questions about whether the government is in full control....  While the rebellion posed no serious threat to the government, it was nonetheless a deep embarrassment for Mrs Arroyo. The revolt has jolted investor confidence along with the fall in the value of Philippine stocks and the peso, which saw its sharpest decline in a year, dropping by 1.1 per cent to a four-month low....  President Arroyo may face a crisis of confidence which could undo her government's success thus far in trimming a budget deficit and stimulating the economy....  Mrs Arroyo needs time to restore credibility to her government but she is running short of it."


THAILAND:  "Siege Of Mall Deals Blow To Philippines"


The moderately-conservative, English-language Bankgok Post opined (7/28):  "What started as a festering but family feud between junior Philippines military officers and President Gloria Arroyo flew viciously out of control early yesterday morning....  One would have thought that the Philippines had had enough of such behaviour. The military remains an important institution. Officers backed the popular movement that ousted the country's last elected president, Joseph Estrada, in favour of Ms Arroyo....  Arroyo knew many junior officers were upset with endemic corruption and allegedly incompetent generals at the top of some units. Indeed, many of the mutineers were 'the best and brightest' of the Philippines military.  Many had recently received special anti-terrorist training and seemed marked for future promotion and leadership....  Then the complaints turned to violent action and rebellion. Such disloyalty to the government is unacceptable....  The young Turks had no discernible popular support. They made little attempt to convey their alleged problems to the Filipino people....  They claimed they were not attempting to overthrow the government, but it certainly seemed they were....  The fact is that the military action deeply undermines the Philippines, as well as Ms Arroyo's regime. The economy, unhealthy for several years, will take another nosedive. Questions about stability will continue....  There are still many events to be played out in Manila. The country is a key US ally in the war against terrorism, and a key player in the regional effort against terrorists. The Philippines is already under criticism for allowing--somehow--the escape from prison of a senior Jemaah Islamiyah agent and two Abu Sayyaf friends. This rebellion by young officers, many of them decorated in the southern war against Abu Sayyaf, will not help and probably will hurt the regional effort against violent extremists.  As democracy spreads and governments become ever more accountable, there can be no support of military coups....  Arroyo deserves full support in trying to put the country back together."


INDIA:  “The Mall Coup"


The centrist Times Of India declared (7/30):  "Negotiations have peacefully ended the attempted coup in Manila....  A serious charge has been leveled by the rebels that the army had itself engineered supposed terrorist bomb attacks in order to secure additional military aid from the U.S....  In Manila, the rebels chose a high-profile shopping mall for their coup, thereby signaling that their prime motive was to project their grievances before the international media. The grievances were partly personal--low pay for the soldiers....  If the allegations made by the rebels do indeed reflect a sizeable opinion in Filipino politics, then the coup would underscore a failure of communication and dialogue among the different streams of opinion, which is vital to a democracy. There is vigorous opposition to the presence of US forces in the Philippines, despite governmental attempts to justify it in terms of fighting counter-insurgency operations. Yet, there have been moves to increase the size of the US forces. The Manila incident raises a number of questions relating to the war on terrorism waged by military establishments, and the future role of the US forces in various Asian countries. These will have to be addressed not only in the Philippines, but in the region as a whole, including South Asia.”




GERMANY:  "Coup Against Reality"


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin noted (7/29):  "One day after the mutiny of young Philippine officers, President Arroyo promised a reform of police and peace talks with the rebels....  But one day after the mutiny in Manila, one lesson remains: several nations in Southeast Asia are unstable....  Poverty remains, as does corruption in all sectors of society.  If pressure from the outside grows, the affected governments will soon face their collapse.  The governments in Manila and Jakarta can only do to a certain extent what they were supposed to do.  In Bangkok the war on drugs was not a sign of strength but of weakness of the state.  And now, in the Philippines, Arroyo has the situation not yet under control.  She is faced with a war at many fronts--and an uncertain outcome."


RUSSIA:  "Weird"


Reformist Izvestiya declared (7/28):  "The coup was weird.  It did not look like a real thing....  Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has the reputation of an 'iron lady.'  She won't compromise with political opponents, less so with putschists who have broken the oath of enlistment.   President Arroyo feels confident.  Within a

few hours of the coup, the United States voiced unconditional support for the Philippine government.   Arroyo never tires of making it clear that she is a reliable ally of Washington in the war on international terrorism.  With so powerful an ally behind her, Gloria Arroyo fears nobody.   She made the right choice at a critical time, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Not so with the putschists.   They picked the wrong methods.   There was a time, under the dictatorship, when the army played a key role in the Philippines.  Not any more.  In a democratic country (without a doubt, the Philippines, for all its woes, is democratic), the army must not interfere with politics

or attempt to overthrow the president.   Therefore, the rebels' plans were doomed right from the outset."


"Signal For Government Ignoring Army's Problems"


Aleksey Andreyev stated in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (7/28):  "The events in the Philippines are a signal for countries whose governments ignore their armies' problems and are ambivalent on armed opposition."


SPAIN:  "Warning in Manila"


Leading left-of-center El Pais opined (7/29):  "The Philipine President announced yesterday in her message about the state of the nation that an independent comission will investigate the accusations made by the military coup-plotters that surrendered on Sunday in Manila without firing a shot, after 19 hours of uncertainty, by lack of popular support and brothers in arms.  The rebel leaders denounced the high command for selling arms and munitions to rebel Muslims to prolong the war of secession ignited in the south of the country, and that the military chiefs...are behind a recent surge of crime in that region.  The Philippines suffer from serious problem with terrorism promoted by various groups whose common denominator is the Islamic separatism in a predominantly Catholic country....  The fact that the insurgents were young members of three united military groups, specially trained by the United States to fight guerilla muslims, complicates things for Gloria Macapagal, whose control over the Armed Forces is more challenged than ever by the recent escape of an extremist organization leader from prison....  In whatever case, Manila's singular rebellion, the first in 14 years, is not an anecdote....  Gloria Macapagal has asssured that the coup-plotters, who have returned to their quarters while waiting for trial, will be punished.  But no one believes that it is possible in one of the most weak and unstable democracies in Asia, in part by a president who is out of sync with the Armed Forces."


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