Marco Hewitt in the Philippines

Coup foiled in the Phillipines


AM – Friday, 30 November , 2007  08:04:00

Reporter: Karen Percy

PETER CAVE: To the Philippines now, where President Gloria Arroyo has survived an attempted military coup, but is looking like a leader under siege.

For more than six hours yesterday rebel soldiers camped outside a luxury hotel in Manila’s financial district, accusing her of corruption and demanding she step down from office.

Some of the men were already facing treason charges over a failed coup against her in 2003. Now they’re under arrest again.

But their message struck a chord in a country tired of political instability.

South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy reports.

KAREN PERCY: The armed forces of the Philippines stationed well over 1,000 soldiers outside the Peninsula Hotel in the financial district of Makati.

Shots were fired, tear gas was used, and armoured vehicles barged through the hotel foyer.

But as far as attempts to overthrow the Government go, this was pretty tame. No one was hurt and the rebels ultimately surrendered.

But in the six hours it took, the rebel soldiers and the Catholic priests and others who joined them got the attention of the national and international media.

ANTONIO TRILLANES: It is tantamount to treason if I don’t do anything.

KAREN PERCY: The protest was led by a soldier-turned-Senator, Antonio Trillanes.

ANTONIO TRILLANES: There’s no loss here. We just did what had to be done.

If there’s a loser here, it’s going to be the Filipino nation, because, like you said, Gloria is still in power.

KAREN PERCY: Marco Hewitt from Perth is in Manila doing research for his masters degree. He found himself right there are the scene.

MARCO HEWITT: I woke up and we got a text message from a contact, just a friend, who was saying there was a military mutiny going down in Makati. Calling on support from the churches and from various NGOs (non-government organisations) and activist groups.

KAREN PERCY: Mr Hewitt says he and some friends watched the events unfold.

MARCO HEWITT: Apparently what had happened was a tank raided the hotel and there was … we heard machine guns fire. We had to duck. I think there were shots being fired between rebel snipers defending the hotel that they had occupied.

KAREN PERCY: This was familiar territory for Senator Trillanes. After all, he’d spent part of yesterday morning at a military court defending his move against the President four years ago, when he and 300 like-minded soldiers camped out in an apartment block.

They weren’t successful then in ousting Gloria Arroyo, and they haven’t been successful now.

But Senator Trillanes believes the time will come, because, he says, he was swept into office in May with 11-million votes, many of which, he says, came was from his fellow members of the armed forces.

ANTONIO TRILLANES: Dissent without action is consent. If you would recall, one of my main base, both our base is the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), and I’m very, very … I’m convinced that most of them sympathise with our cause. And that’s enough for us for now. But eventually it will be their turn to live up to their mandate as the protectors of the people.

KAREN PERCY: Despite the fact that she is unpopular with her people, and is dogged by corruption allegations, Gloria Arroyo stands safe today with the knowledge that she’s got the backing of the current military leadership.

But as a president who rose to power in a military coup, she also knows that nothing is forever.

This is Karen Percy reporting for AM.


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