Tell it to the marines....
Another chapter in the Philippines' State of Emergency saga took place again yesterday afternoon and lasted late into the night with much confusion and frayed nerves over what was supposed to be a simple turnover of command.
This is what apparently happened: the commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, Major General Renato Miranda, was supposed to be relieved of command and replaced by Brigadier General Nelson Allaga. Now, due to confusion over whether General Miranda actually gave up his command on his own volition or was forcibly relieved, a tense standoff took place with several marines led by Colonel Ariel Querubin refusing to recognize the authority of the new commandant.
Colonel Querubin even sought the assistance of civilian groups, asking for their "protection" from possible "aggression". A number of civilians, perhaps eager to capitalize on the situation either out of sincere concern for the welfare of our nation or for advancing their own political agenda responded to this plea, including well known political personalities such as former President Corazon Aquino, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Ramon Magsaysay and Representative Imee Marcos.
What was claimed to be a routine transfer of command then became a chaotic circus with marines and members of the other armed forces and the police standing their ground in full battle/riot gear, APCs surrounding the area with machine guns locked and loaded, civilians praying and feeling the situation out and members of the media covering the events as they transpired.
Some thought that this would be the spark that would ignite the already volatile political situation. It was not.
An hour or so before midnight, the stalemate was finally broken, with Colonel Querubin finally acceding to the authority of the new commanding officer.
So, why all the fuss over a mere change in command? There were rumors floating that the Marine Corps, under the command of General Miranda, was all set to declare its withdrawal of support from the Arroyo administration. This fueled further speculation that General Miranda was forcibly relieved of his command, and he did not voluntarily relinquish his authority as was being claimed by the military hierarchy. It was even reported that a votation was held among various high ranking officers in the Corps, with nine voting in favor of supporting the chain of command, and six voting in favor of withdrawing support from President Arroyo. Based on this result, a decision was made to maintain the status quo and their allegiance to the Chief Executive, and General Allaga was able to assume command.
Just because of a margin of three votes. Had the tables been turned, it's entirely possible that we would be in the middle of a civil war right about now.
The Marines have been criticized by some sectors for acting like cry babies and spoiled brats in what was supposed to a simple change in leadership. More so, considering the the Marine Corps represent what is supposed to be the best and the most disciplined warriors in the entire Philippine armed forces. Marines, or for that matter any soldier, airman or sailor is expected to follow orders first, and ask questions later.
However, I don't think it's that simple. I'm inclined to think that there is more to this strange turn of events than what was reported in the press, or what we civilians know. What is obvious is the fact that the military is also divided on the issue of whether or not President Arroyo should stay in power.
When martial law was imposed almost 34 years ago, it was (unfortunately for civil libertarians) a qualified success, owing in large part to the fact that the entire military establishment was one in their support for the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos. President Arroyo clearly does not have this advantage, and she is saddled by a military which is as conflicted as the rest of the populace. Leave it to her to sow divisiveness in anything she touches. For this reason, among others, her State of Emergency in all likelihood is doomed to fail as those who are tasked to enforce it also have mixed feelings with regard to its righteousness. And rightfully so, as Proclamation No. 1017 to me at least, is nothing but an attempt to twist the words of our Constitution so as to wrest our fundamental rights away in what amounts to be nothing more than a desperate act of self-preservation.
Think about it.
And you can tell that to the marines.
Standoff at Marine headquarters