Sunday, April 16, 2006

Insurgent Pinoy generals, US too

There’s enough documentation to go by which to conclude that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes mutinied against the government of President Estrada in Jan. 2001 such as one when the general declared to his president in a news conference that “on behalf of your Armed Forces, the 130,000 strong members of the Armed Forces, we wish to announce that we are withdrawing our support to this government”.

But Gen. Reyes at that time was of course also defecting with the heads of the Philippine army, navy and air force as well as with Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado; and so with Estrada’s closest aide Philippine National Police Director-General Panfilo Lacson and other key presidential men such as Interior Secretary Alfredo Lim, Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla, the National Treasurer, the Internal Revenue Chief and many department undersecretaries and heads of bureaus, all according to then Vice President Arroyo “resulting in [President Estrada’s) permanent disability to govern and serve his unexpired term”.

The defection en masse was the culmination of months of massive street protests capped by the collapse of the impeachment trial; and since it succeeded in establishing a new regime, what otherwise would have been a punishable mutiny became a collective messianic act.

It is of no moment that after a successful people powered coup Arroyo immediately reverted to the status quo ante by taking oath under the 1987 Constitution or that the Supreme Court committed the faux pas of taking cognizance of Estrada’s belated challenge to Arroyo’s ascension to the presidency and demoting People Power II to no more than an exercise of free speech. The fact remains the motivation behind both is exactly to affirm the legitimacy of the new rule.

Fast forward. Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim’s version of “withdrawal of support” from President Arroyo’s government launched in Feb. 2006 has not for now resulted in the same happy ending for him. His enterprise apparently a fiasco, Lim, the commander of the elite Scout Ranger regiment, has exposed himself and his comrades to possible prosecution under the laws of the regime he failed to unseat.

In the U.S. at the present, what appears to be President Bush’s drive to save defense secretary Rumsfeld could in fact be a battle to save the falling persona of the commander in chief.

There has been a slue of rare protestations (not since Vietnam) from six generals for Rumsfeld to step down over the flawed management of the Iraq war. The most strident of such withdrawal of support came last month from Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton who was in command of the training of the Iraqi military. Eaton did not mince his criticism by calling Rumsfeld “not competent” to head the Pentagon. This week, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs wrote in Time, “the cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood.” A week ago, the highly regarded four-star general Anthony Zinni called for Rumsfeld resignation. The other insurgent generals dissatisfied with the leadership of Rumsfeld were Charles Swannack and John Batiste who commanded the 82nd Airborne and the 1st infantry division in Iraq, respectively. Still another general, John Riggs, speaking on National Public Radio on April 13, 2006, accused Rumsfeld of creating a climate of “arrogance” and demanded that he “step aside”.

Meanwhile, President Bush himself is losing his own initiative as two-thirds of Americans, by recent polls, disapprove of his handling of the Iraq war. The blows are being thrown directly at Rumsfeld but his boss is painfully absorbing the shock.

What if Gen. Lim had first officially tendered his resignation (or retired) and then openly demanded for withdrawal of support from the Arroyo government? The mutiny in the U.S., staged as it is by retired generals, falls well within the free speech clause, even if it doesn’t pass.

Do you get that one, Sirs?

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