Coup in the Philippines- Same as it ever was
Friday, February 24, 2006
Since I certainly wasn't there during two coups in the '90s and didn't work extensively with Filipino Special Ops, I would have no insight into the dynamics of the current unrest, however:
The first thing to know about the Philippines is that it the military is as much a business entity as a combat arm. The officers who run large portions of it have extensive ties to above and below board import export operations. In addition there are many alliances between these officers that determine the disposition of large sums of money and the power that accompanies it.
Two of the personalities mentioned in conjunction with this coup fit right in with this. Former President Estrada, an actor who was run out of office for brazen corruption, and who now is imprisoned for a number of related charges, and "Col." Grigorio Honasan who has been involved in plenty of these power plays.
The actual impetus for a coup could be actual dissatisfaction with the Arroyo government, which is not succeeding, but is more likely an attempt to realign the money spigots so they flow to a different faction. Honasan is a wheeler-dealer whose name always comes up in these situations, because he always has his nose in the middle sniffing for an angle. The balance of power is far from stable, so the possibility does exist that the government could be toppled. There is nostalgia for the Cory Aquino People Power days, when all was bright yellow and hopeful, but an alliance between that faction and Estrada's supporters, who just miss their meal ticket seems unlikely.
We had extensive ties with the Filipino government prior to our bases their closing, and we still work closely with their military regarding the multiple terrorist groups based there. A coup is almost never the right idea, although Iran would be a pleasant exception, but this is more of a power play, with a few helicopters than a fight. Hopefully.
One quick story about the organization of the corruption. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted back in '91 and all the US bases and people were evacuated, I was helping with that and we were flying in a helicopter over Clark AFB as the last families were sent home, all the planes flew away, and all the sensitive gear was destroyed. Outside the walls of the base was a gigantic line of trucks, Filipino military and civilian, waiting for the Americans to finish up. They eventually tired of waiting and knocked a couple of holes in the walls and headed for the booty. The smart ones headed straight to the post exchange and it's consumer electronics, or the commissary with it's yummies, but the rest hit all of the family housing and played 1,000 men and a bunch of trucks, everything must go. They looted the whole base, and I had a video camera we were using for damage assessment from the volcano, so I started filming. We got footage of all manner of craziness and turned it in to the folks running things in country. A couple of days later we saw the footage on CNN and had to laugh as they had edited out all the shots of looting and a voice over proclaimed that things were under control at Clark. We died laughing as the accompanying soundtrack had previously included me shouting. "Holy S**t, they sre stealing everything. Jesus Christ, the PX, the Commisary and all of the housing. FFS there are trucks lined up for days" Ha! Nothing to see here folks, please move along.
- Uncle J