Posted tagged ‘Corazon Aquino’

OIL PRICE HIKES AND MILITARY COUPS: PHILIPPINE CASE

June 25, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Kapayapaan! Paz! Pax! Peace!

Oil price hike or OPH can be a precipitating factor behind military coups d etat. Since OPH is among the world’s focal issues today, we may as well reflect on a country case to examine how the OPH precipitated the launching of military coups: the Philippine case.

Before everything else, I hope the difference between military coup and mutiny is clear to the readers. A military coup is an offensive action aimed at a seizure of state power (coup d’etat). A mutiny is a defensive action, sometimes not sufficiently planned but a reaction against perceived injustices, often localized, and isn’t necessarily aimed at a seizure of state power.

In Manila’s experience, there never was a case of a mutiny that was precipitated by the OPH issue. But couples of military coups were launched that began with the OPH issue, and moved on to well organized assaults by an equally well equipped and fairly quantitatively endowed ‘warm bodies’ of an insurgent force within the national army that is backed up by its fraternal cadres within the national police.

The coup events took place in the 1980s yet, and were waged by the RAM-YOU-SFP coalition of army + police officers and enlisted men. RAM stands for Reform the Armed Forces Union, a reformist group of middle officers; YOU, Young Officers Union, a group of militant, radical nationalist junior officers; and, SFP, Soldiers of the Filipino People, a group of officers and personnel professing loyalty to the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The same coalition signed a peace pact with the Ramos regime in the 1990s, its top leader Col. Honasan had been elected senator of the republic, and is among the insurgent groups that signed a negotiated settlement with the Philippine state.

OPH-precipitated coups have been confined to the 1980s events since then, the recent attempts at seizures of power being anchored on a different set of issues. However, it should be noted that the strategic issues raised by the military insurgents then till now have always been the 3 Cs: corruption, criminality, and communism. With the decline of the Cold War and the decriminalization of membership in communist parties (repeal of Republic Act 1700 or Anti-Subversion Law), communism has become a less palatable factor in the coup formulas.

The event often ran this way (simplified timeline):

·         An OPH is officially announced, automatically raising the prices of gasoline, kerosene, diesel, lubricants, and an assorted list of fossil fuel-based downstream commodities. This will then lead to a spiraling of OPHs within days to weeks.

·         Perceiving the erosive impact of OPH on the purchasing power of laborers, the Left forces would then wage coordinated trade union protest to bring down oil prices. Middle forces and transport groups join the actions, and major cities become paralyzed. The popular actions would culminate in boycotts and calls for ‘general strike’ orchestrated particularly by the Maoists (e.g BAYAN, KMU).

·         The ‘general strike’ option is perceived as a take-over by the Communists of the state. As a pre-emptive strike to save the Philippine state from totalitarian downslide, the military insurgents launch a coup that ought to be as wide-scale in scope as possible. Certain establishments (e.g. state media) are seized, select military camps are bombed and captured, aerial assaults provide air cover, until some event will put a stop to the actions. (e.g. in the 1989 coup, the US Air Force provided ‘persuasion flights’ support to Corazon Aquino to scare away the Tora-Tora planes of the insurgents).

Sadly for the insurgents, and fortunately for the middle classes who would never again support any authoritarian regime in the Philippines, no coup attempt ever succeeded at all. However, this is not to present a fixed idea that no military coup will ever succeed in the future, this is another matter altogether.

Since the coup option has never faded in the minds of the army officers here, analysts and forecasters have to re-open the possibility of the OPH becoming again a precipitating factor in launching one general assault soon. The same thing holds for other countries as well, such as those 40+ countries that saw urban riots took place as protest reactions to ‘grains price hikes’ or GPH. A confluence of OPH-GPH would serve as a very powerful precipitating impetus for waging a coup assault for that matter.

The tall order than is to nip the bud by presenting well-blended policy mixtures and institutional adjustments to the consumers. Incidentally, this is easier said than done. Since the magnitude of OPH is indubitably global, and the causal global factors are so complex, the forced option is to use populist welfare tools such as massive subsidies to food, tax cuts, taking off oil value-added tax or VAT, trimming down import duties, and so on.

Whether such actions will not redound to hyper-inflation and fiscal catastrophe in the short run is something worth observing. In which case, spiraling hyper-inflation can be the precipitating factor, with OPH serving as one factor precipitating it (hyper-inflation). Let us see how the various states, both developed and emerging markets, will respond to the OPH and downward economic spiral of the moment.  Meantime, our jittered state officials will have sleepless nights forthcoming as army insurgents on the loose are busy organizing for their next ‘golpe de estado’ adventure.   

[Writ 24 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

BAD GOVERNANCE AND TURBULENCE: UPDATE ON MANILA SITUATION

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[Writ. 16 March 2008, Quezon City, Metropolitan Manila]

Good evening!

 

It’s a Sunday evening, and right now the turbulence in the country brought about by protests against huge government anomalous transactions is the hottest agenda.

 

In this country, please note that bad governance has been responsible for so much political turmoil since the 1960s yet. The Marcos and Estrada administrations were overthrown via the ‘people power way’ precisely due to people’s widespread dissent against corruption and the erosive effects of the social ailment on development efforts and poverty alleviation.

 

Today the Arroyo administration is coming under hot fire due to the same malady. The difference between the Arroyo administrations and the previous ones is that this regime had arrived at a time when urban population had outstripped rural population. The middle class enjoys not only a clear edge in opinion making, it also enjoys a predominance of the population today.

 

Thus, with the middle class pointing to a political wind of turbulence, an upsurge of mass movement and potential upheavals is again around. Unless there are clear resolutions to the ailments currently coming under hot fire, there will be turbulence and possible armed conflicts in the urban centers in the coming months.

 

In closing this briefer reflection, let me enclose my own public statement about the matter.

 

PRO-GLORIA SPOKESMAN URGES GMA TO RESIGN

 

[25 February 2008, Quezon City, Manila]

 

This gentleman, who was Spokesman of the PRO-GLORIA Multisectoral Coalition, hereby pronounces the most urgent need to save the nation from political deterioration and degeneration into the hovels of anarchy, by urging the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign her post.

 

To recall, together with many patriots then, we PROGLORIA Advocates joined the coalition in early 2004 with the values of good governance and competence among our top criteria for choosing leaders. Such values were to intersect with the advocacy for fair trade, to which GMA affirmatively supported via her line of “no to unbridled free trade.” And, hopefully, the benefits from public policies and programs would galvanize as greater social services for our marginal sectors. In the end, everybody wins from a GMA electoral victory.

 

After almost four (4) years of governing, the political-cultural terrain has become tragically murky. Civil liberties are openly violated by military & police functionaries, incompetence is endemic as the appointment of unqualified officials has been rampant,  corruption is more marked and brazenly committed, electoral reforms remain elusive while GMA herself is accountable for electoral fraud charges, and ‘free trade’ ensues with impunity while treaties that have onerous terms are being negotiated to the detriment of the national interest. It is true that the fiscal environment had been stabilized and credit standing had improved during GMA’s watch, but given the situation where her administration has become the main source of instability, it is not a remote possibility that such gains will be wiped out before the end of this year 2008. This present regime had clearly lost its moral moorings, credibility, and trustworthiness.

 

To save the nation from an impending system collapse, GMA and her team of state managers should resign en masse. This will then pave the way for constitutional processes to re-grow our most cherished values of good governance, strong institutions, greater democracy and equitable distribution of economic development gains. Public trust will then be regained, and political stability will fuel back our economic boom.

 

 

 

ERLE FRAYNE D. ARGONZA

National Spokesman – PROGLORIA (2004)

 

Quezon City, MetroManila, 19 February 2008