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Botched Coup a Reminder of Philippine Political Weaknesses


Filipino analysts say Thursday's botched coup attempt at a luxury hotel in Manila was politically embarrassing for the Philippines, which has experienced numerous coup plots in the past two decades. It is also a reminder of dissatisfaction with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.

Mutinous soldiers made themselves look ridiculous by repeating old, failed, battle plans. And the idea of driving the President from office by taking over a hotel, which had not worked in 2003, is now "only pathetic."

The editorial comment in the Philippine Daily Inquirer summed up reactions Friday to the failed coup attempt on Thursday - a mysterious day even by Manila standards.

A handful of soldiers on trial for a failed 2003 coup attempt walked out of a court hearing and took over the Peninsula Hotel, calling for the removal of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. After security forces surrounded the building and threw in some tear gas, the would-be coup-makers decided to call it a day and came out peacefully.

Benito Lim, a political science professor at Ateneo de Manila University, says this is an isolated incident.

"I think they are just calling attention to themselves and they want people to know their grievance," he said. "I don't think they mean to topple the Arroyo administration because they don't even have enough arms."

Ramon Casiple of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms says there may have been another objective behind the amateurish political stunt.

"I think the audience in yesterday's events was the military itself," he said. "They are testing the waters…and they want to know how soldiers will react.

Philippine Star columnist Ana Marie Pamintuan went further. She said Senator Antonio Trillanes, a former military officer who led the takeover, and his accomplice Army General Danilo Lim, are like "cats which seem to go out of their way to get run over by vehicles," testing how many lives they have. General Lim was involved in efforts in 1989 to topple then president Cory Aquino.

Analysts say President Arroyo is a deeply unpopular leader who has survived two impeachments and several coup attempts. But she survives in office because there is no one to replace her.

The opposition accuses her of corruption and cheating in the 2004 presidential election, but she denies the allegations. Her term expires in 2010.