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Coup Flats?

(Article published in the Jan 26,2004 issue of TODAY, Business Section)  

Coup plots, judging from media coverage of the “Kawal Pilipino” incident last week, are passé. Coup plots have lost their air.  Gone were the ramblings tanks and early dawn drone of planes during the peak season of coups in the Cory Administration.  Gone even is the stark contrast of lean and clean-cut, and seemingly principled officers holed up in an unabashed epitome of luxury at the center of the Philippine commercial Mecca.

All that is left is a noon-time melodrama of a press conference by a pitiful five, supposedly publicly confessing but nevertheless hiding behind two abused Philippine flags, that they are being used politically by the occupants of Malacañang, and then shooting their exposed feet by admitting to having no concrete intelligence plan in their possession to back up their accusations.  No wonder arrest within hours of six members were effected by the authorities and Pilate washing and the usual “I-did-not-know-followed”.  

What a lousy way of staging a coup.  An amateur with but a hundreth of the late Lino Broca’s talent could have done better.  And yet mass media lapped it up. Coffee shops, for a couple of days at least, were abuzz with it.  Once more we who prefer to spend our days in the sidelines are reminded of how fragile our estate plans for our loved ones could be, how vulnerable our future is to the whims of the eccentrics, how helpless the majority is at insulating their affairs from the lunacy of a few. 










But still, the Kawal Pilipino episode, cannot be dismissed lightly, not because of its own merits, but because it demonstrates that, despite two fact-finding commissions set-up to look at the problem of military adventures into civilian affairs, the soldier is not completely back to the barracks and the general, wanting to have a hand in the affairs of the state, is not willing to leave his army at the farther bank of the Rubicon.  

The first Fact-Finding Commission on military adventurism was prompted by the failed coup of December 1989.  Known popularly as the “Davide Commission” it was first organized under Administrative Order No. 146 in 06 December 1989 and then Republic Act No. 6832 of 05 January 1990.  The second Fact-Finding Commission was the response to what is referred to as the Oakwood Mutiny during the last days of  July 2003, when about 323 officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines took over the Oakwood Premier Apartments in Makati City.  The reports of both Commissions, stellar examples of the Filipino talent for analysis, are both gathering dust.

Before the reports get to suffer the fate of documents housed at the National Archives and the consequent discussion and derision that would eventually follow its microfilm version, it would be good for us, by way of intermission in the current election show, to consider how the recommendations made at the expense of all that talent, time and treasure spent by the two commissions could be implemented.  This, of course, may not be easy, since our talent for analysis is almost always coupled with our infirmity of paralysis.

The Davide Commission made five long-term recommendations four of which are, at the moment, wishes for the pie in the sky.  These four are (a) the overhaul of the educational system to enable it to do a better job at value formation, with love of country as the highest value; (b) the full implementation of the social justice provisions of the Constitution; (c) the full implementation of the citizen army concept and designated role of a small, modernized and professional military in a democratic society; and (d) the devolution of power to local communities in the hope that this would bring the government closer to the people and reduce the isolation of rural communities whose poverty tends to politicize the officers in the field. 

But the fifth recommendation is now worth looking into.  The Davide Commission suggests that “after an appropriate period, to give the present Constitution an opportunity to be tested, formal consultations should be conducted at the grassroots on the desirability of constitutional amendments and of the specific proposals advanced by the different sectors.”  The time to go to the people, I believe, is now.  But please, let not the consultations be merely on the form of government.

The second Fact Finding Commission (why was it not called the Feliciano Commission, following the Davide form of nomenclature?) refrained from making recommendations for the long-term, perhaps after Carolina G. Hernandez, who was also in the first commission, had reminded her colleagues that nothing has yet been done to its predecessors’.  But, it did raise a specific action point worth looking into.

Justice Feliciano and his colleagues recommended that “one official of high competence, commitment and integrity, with direct access to the President and enjoying the trust of all political groupings, be designated with dispatch, on a full time basis, with the task of implementing the recommendations” of the second fact-finding commission.  We need Diogenes’ lamp to find such a man or woman, but that man must be found and put to work right away.  Otherwise, we would be faced with the prospect of a third fact-finding commission.

      My only problem is, assuming we could find such a person, the task of implementing the Feliciano recommendations is too limited for him or her.  The presidency is the more suited job.  In the meantime, is it too much to ask for the incumbent president to begin the task?

 

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