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Organize, protest, but don’t expect a coup just yet: Magdalo

26 March 2018

By Leo A. Deocadiz

Samahang Magdalo, the Congress partylist which evolved from a group of soldiers who attempted a coup d’etat in November 2007 against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is holding off on encouraging a coup against President Rodrigo Duterte

“We don’t encourage it,” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano told a group of OFWs who formed the partylist’s Hong Kong chapter recently. “If may nagsasabi na ‘mag-aklas tayo, panahon na!’, we don’t encourage it. Kaya nga dinadaan natin sa proseso — impeachment, nagresolution tayo, nag-ICC (International Criminal Court). Kasi proseso tayo.”

Rep. Gary Alejano.
Alejano warned of the dangers of a premature coup in the Philippines. With Duterte’s trust ratings high, for example, the natural succession – where Vice President Leni Robredo would step in if he is removed – may not be followed. “Hindi tayo makasigurado na makaupo siya (Robredo). Kasi baka magkaroon ng palace coup diyan,” he added.

 “Kailangan talaga ma-realize ng taumbayan muna, bumaba yung ratings niya, ma-expose siya, so kahit mawala siya, tanggap nating lahat.”

But he said that from conversations with people in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially those who have retired and therefore could speak more freely, they detect a ferment of dissatisfaction. “Kahit anong administration may sama ng loob iyan. Depende na lang kung gaano kataas, gaano kalaki,” Alejano said.

“Ang message sa akin ay nahihiya silang tawagin na sundalo kasi parang inutil sila sa harap ng China,” he said, referring to Duterte’s ignoring China’s encroachments in the West Philippine Sea and setting up military bases on artificial islands it built within the exclusive economic zone of the country.

This was different from when the soldiers were fighting the Moro Islamic Liberation Force, which had set up checkpoints during the time of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Arroyo, who kept siding with the MILF. “Ang hirap tanggapin. Pero alam mo na ginagawa mo ang trabaho mo,” Alejano said.

Under Duterte, he added, “para kayong inutil. Nawala na yung saysay n’yo.”

Another sticking point was the recent scandal involving the purchase of two warships by the Philippine Navy, which resulted in the replacement of its chief and the government accepting changes in specifications that he was opposing.

The Senate conducted hearings that practically cleared Special Presidential Assistant Bong Go of accusations that he influenced the deal.

“Malaking isyu iyan sa AFP. Kung titingnan nila, okay lang sa taas. Sa baba, malaking isyu ‘yan. Kasi tama talaga yung Navy doon. Kasi ganito iyan: Ikaw ang bibili, didiktahan ka ng bibilhan mo? May pera tayo, tayo ang end-user, contractor dapat sundin ang gusto natin. Interest ng bansa iyan, …magiging basis iyan sa future procurement,” he said.

Alejano noted the presence of most Cabinet members at the hearing, showing support for Go. “Bakit ganoon ang suporta kay Bong Go? Kasi Bong Go is Duterte. Walang gagawin iyan si Bong Go (na hindi alam ni Duterte). Otherwise, kung magdidiskarte si Bong Go, matagal nang sinipa ni Duterte yan.”

Still, such dissatisfaction falls short of the “tipping point” that could trigger a coup, Alejano said. 

“Kasi marami ang nagsasabi na hintayin natin ang tao. Huwag nating hintayin na dumami ang tao. Gumawa tayo ng bagay para dumami ang tao. Ibig sabihin, tumayo tayo, we organize, we do something. Hindi puwedeng passive lang tayo , hintayin natin silang dumami. So kung gusto nating dumating sa tipping point na iyan, gawin natin yung role natin,” he added.

Alejano explained that in the Philippines, the 20 per cent at both ends of the political spectrum are tugging at the 60 per cent in the middle. So far, with its propaganda machine that dominates the conversation, the Duterte side has been able to pull the majority of that 60 per cent.

But the popularity ratings that are helping keep Duterte in power may be illusory.

For example, he said, popularity surveys need the help of barangay captains, who are involved in listing people to be included in tokhang, the heart of the war on drugs that has killed more than 20,000 people. So if survey-takers ask if they support Duterte, they would naturally play safe. “In reality ang daming takot, iyan ang nagsasabi ng yes,” he added.

In the meantime, Duterte is testing the limits of the people’s patience. His government has jailed top critic Sen. Leila de Lima, buried Ferdinand Marcos as a hero, harassed the media, pushed federalism to tailor the Constitution around Duterte’s plans. The government adopted the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion), the law that raised taxes, which in turn has resulted in the rise in prices of food and other prime commodities.

“Sinubukan nila at nakaya nila na walang reaction from the people. Now they are after CJ (Chief Justice Maria Lourdes) Sereno,” Alejano said.

How to counter these moves?

For its part, he said Magdalo initiated the filing of complaints at ICC accusing Duterte of genocide, crime against humanity and war crimes, mostly as a result of his war against drugs.

Alejano said that if the ICC starts its investigation, it could issue an arrest warrant against Duterte and his top officials to immediately stop the killings.

Although there is no assurance that Duterte will be arrested in the Philippines since it is the state that should do it, it could become an issue within the military. “Takot sila diyan” he said. “At kahit hindi mangyari iyan, hindi siya makalabas ng Pilipinas. Puwede siyang aresturin kung magpunta siya sa isang miyembro ng ICC. Pati alter egos niya pwedeng hulihin. So maiipit siya sa Pilipinas.”

Still,  he said,”it’s very hard to rely on those processes in order to save us from Duterte.”

Magdalo Hong Kong members are welcomed into the group.
Alejano advised his followers to organize and build support.

Competing with Duterte supporters in noise is counter-productive. “Paawayin lang kayo sa trolls, paawayin lang kayo sa mga DDS,” he said “Hindi ka sanay minumura. Atras ka na lang sa discussion.”

He advised them against being defined by Duterte folliowers sa yellow. “Ang suggestion ko, walang kulay. Kami ay concerned Filippinos. Kung sabi nyo na may kasalanan ang dilawan noon, kung sino may kasalanan managot. We don’t defend. For example, sa administration ni PNoy (ex-President Benigno S. Aquino III) na may kamalian, dapat managot sila. But it doesn’t mean na excused ka ngayon, Digong. Managot ka rin. Iyon ang iniingay namin.”

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