On mutineers and hangers-on

For two consecutive days Pres. Benigno Aquino III has rendered generally unpopular judgment calls that may have far-reaching consequences.  First, he ordered the filing of charges against top officials in connection with the hostage taking incident in Luneta that resulted in the death of eight Hong Kong tourists on August 23 but cleared DILG undersecretary Rico E. Puno and retired PNP chief Jesus Verzosa of any criminal or administrative liability.  He also did not include DILG secretary Jesse Robredo in the list of liable officials.  In modifying the recommendations of the IIRC (in the case of Puno and Verzosa) and sparing Robredo from the list of liable officials, Pres. Aquino might be sending the wrong signal that “selected” friends and allies of him are not accountable to the people for their performance and action (or inaction) in office.

Ironically, Pres. Aquino has in effect issued a policy statement when he reminded public officials that “…when you accept the perks and privileges of the office, the duties and responsibilities are equally accepted by you…” but refused to apply the same policy to Robredo, Puno and Verzosa.

I will not be surprised if Robredo and Puno are simply allowed to voluntarily resign and silently “fade away” at some point in time.  This is of course not the same as firing the two outright and charging them with “dereliction of duty” and “negligence”.

In a related move which is easy to misinterpret as “courting” good print and broadcast, Pres. Aquino has also cleared the media people and organizations that were recommended by the IIRC for sanctions.  Does that mean that media practitioners are “licensed to break the law” in the exercise of their profession?  Or, are we now selectively applying charges of “interference in police work” and “reckless impudence”?

On the other judgment call, Pres. Aquino has signed Amnesty Proclamation No. 50 that will grant amnesty to military officers and enlisted men accused of attempting to overthrow the government of his predecessor.  The proclamation covers detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, the former Navy officer who led the “Oakwood Mutiny” in 2003; and the cases of former Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, Marine Col. Ariel Querubin and Army Scout Ranger chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim who took part in the failed power grab in 2006.  Trillanes, Lim and the other respondent officers walked out of their court hearing in Makati City in November 2007, took over the Manila Peninsula hotel and demanded the resignation of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, a long time family friend and political ally of the Aquinos, best expressed the general public reaction to the amnesty proclamation when he warned that it might set a bad precedent.  “That’s what I’m saying, how it will affect the morale of the Armed Forces.  They will think that they can just go ahead and after that, they’ll be pardoned anyway,” Sen. Arroyo said.  He also pointed out that almost all those who staged coup attempts since 1986 have been granted amnesty.  “I think we’re the only country that does that,” he added.

The ridiculous “punishment” of fifty push-ups for military officers and men who joined the failed coup attempt in 1986 is not lost in the memory of many people.  Gregorio Honasan, the leader of this coup attempt as well as a couple of other military adventures after that, escaped punishment by the law and even got himself elected senator of the Republic twice.  Like Honasan (who was reportedly referred to as kuyang, or big brother, by the Oakwood mutineers) before him, Trillanes also succeeded in getting himself elected senator.

How do we now explain to the officers, men and women of the Armed Forces that military adventurism does not pay?

The socio-economic impact of the Luneta hostage crisis, tragic and costly as it were, pales in comparison to the political instability and economic hardship for millions of Filipinos brought by the numerous coup attempts by Honasan, Trillanes, Lim et al.

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 13 October 2010

Incumbent senator and ex military rebel Gregorio Honasan

Honasan with a band of supporters

Incumbent senator and ex military rebel Antonio Trillanes IV

“Oakwood mutineers” led by Trillanes (seated right)

Ex military rebel Brigadier General Danilo Lim

Lim (in short sleeve army uniform) and Trillanes (partly hidden by Lim) walking out of their court hearing with their military escorts to take over the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.




Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Jesse Robredo




DILG undersecretary Rico Puno