On The Manila Peninsula Standoff

Date posted on November 29, 2007
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danny Lim, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and company (including Bishop Labayen, Father Robert Reyes, Bibeth Orteza, etc.) just declared that they are finally vacating the Manila Peninsula’s premises. In so doing, he claims that it is not to signify defeat or surrender, but to avoid further endangering the lives of civilian and media men who have been holed up with them in the hotel. This, following the PNP’s forceful entry into the hotel lobby, with APC tanks ramming into the barricaded main entrance.

I woke up to news and images of Manila Peninsula’s lobby barricaded from the inside, with soldiers with red armbands scattered throughout the hotel, and media people seemingly trapped inside. By then, I learned that there was a 3PM ultimatum given by the Philippine National Police (PNP) for them to surrender. A warrant has been subsequently issued for Senator Trillanes and his group’s arrest. The hour has come and gone unheeded, and it was then that PNP came in with APCs and the Special Action Force (SAF). Warning shots were fired (apparently from the side of the police) and tear gas thrown in. Soon after, the PNP forces entered into the hotel with tanks.

Being an ordinary civilian watching the events unfold on television, it appears to me that the ultimatum was intended to be the peaceful way out for them. Senator Trillanes ignored this call. His lawyers gave a statement questioning the legality of the warrant, in effect justifying their decision to stand their ground. Meanwhile, media men, hotel staff, hotel patrons and other civilians were kept inside with them.

NOW, Senator Trillanes’s group sends the message that they never intended to inflict violence, and that it was clearly the government who caused the situation to escalate. The Senator also proffers that this is the last resort left for them, saying, among other things, that the administration has continuously denied his mandate from the 11 Million people who voted him into the Senate. Father Robert Reyes (the Running Priest) goes on to say that they were actually preparing to leave the hotel when tear gas was thrown into the hotel lobby. They were only prevented from doing so because of concern for the health of the people in their entourage. Then we hear Atty. JV Bautista saying that this has gone out of hand, with the media becoming peripheral casualty.

Talk about Monday morning quarterback-ing. I just find it hard to rally behind Sen. Trillanes’s cause when there seems to be a disconnect between his actions and his words.

I myself condemn the PNP’s attempts to curtail press freedom and confiscate file footage taken during the mutiny (if indeed these reports are accurate). However, these points are distinct and separate from the crux of the mutiny.

I just find it amusing that the mutineers have suddenly withdrawn from defending the principles behind their cause in favor of appealing to mass sympathy and support. Suddenly, they have taken the position of being victims in this particular situation, conveniently glossing over the fact that they unnecessarily took over the Manila Peninsula, subsequently (and intentionally?) disrupting peace and order. Who, then, is truly to blame in putting civilians and media men’s lives in peril?

I’d probably be more prepared to lend validity to Sen. Trillanes’s actions had they not taken this messianic stance of being the nation’s saviors while completely disregarding the error of the means by which they choose to achieve their proclaimed righteous goals. He may be a senator, and I respect that (even though I am not among the 11 Million members of the electorate whom he constantly uses as shield to legitimize his actions). I just thought that being a member of the legislature, it was also incumbent upon him to respect the rule of law and refrain from resorting to extra-judicial means.

Is he a senator, or is he a revolutionary? He seems to be both, depending on when it is most convenient to his public image.

Lest you forget where you really stand, you simply cannot have a foot on either side of the border.