The “Lim videotape” was prepared before the “withdrawal of support” General Danilo Lim declared in it had led to the ouster of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last February. This suggests at best a confidence in victory that now seems woefully mistaken. It was shortsightedness, even arrogance, at worst.

That a copy fell into the hands of ABS-CBN (which broadcast it five months after it was made), is also a comment on the planning and intelligence work of the groups supposedly plotting a coup/withdrawal of support last February. That military elements were the crucial and most prominent participants in whatever-it-was doesn’t reflect too well on the military either.

In popular lore, the military is the most organized and most disciplined of all government institutions. But the officers who wanted Mrs. Arroyo out of Malacanang seemed neither too organized nor too disciplined in the planning and execution of the life- and-death enterprise called removing a president. Of equal interest is the claim by Lim’s presumptive spokesmen that the videotape was meant to prevent junior officer hotheads from attacking Malacanang. The military is after all a discipline of violence. But here was a general calling on his subordinates to desist from it.

It is of course possible that this claim is only Lim’s way of preparing for his defense, in the event that he’s court-martialed when AFP Chief of Staff General Generoso Senga retires this month, and is replaced by General Hermogenes Esperon. But the impression most Filipinos are getting of the alleged coup plotters is that of inept bunglers who didn’t quite know what they were doing. This was the same impression the public got of the Magdalo group when its officers and men occupied the Oakwood apartment- hotel in 2003.

Some 75 percent of Filipinos agree with Lim’s thesis that Mrs. Arroyo is a “bogus president”. But some of these Filipinos are also distressed over the outcome of whatever plan/plots/schemes Lim and his civilian allies had concocted.

Exactly what the plan was is still unclear. The Arroyo regime claims there was a coup plot in the works, but about this even the alleged plotters seem uncertain. Lim seems to have limited his own options to declaring withdrawal of support from Mrs. Arroyo, convincing key officers to do the same, and leading a contingent of the Scout Rangers he commanded to join the demonstrations at EDSA on February 24.

But Lim spokesmen say that junior officers wanted to assault Malacanang and probably arrest Mrs. Arroyo, or worse. Exactly what the role of the armed groups of the Left was is murky at best. The Magdalo group’s Lt. Lawrence San Juan was supposedly talking with New People’s Army representatives when captured. But the usually creative Arroyo regime has not concocted the usual tale about what the NPA was supposed to do. Given NPA declarations that its guerilla war has not yet progressed from the “strategic defensive” phase, it seems unlikely that NPA units were preparing to storm Malacanang last February shoulder-to-shoulder with Lim’s “hotheads”.

Meanwhile, the businessmen and politicians former ambassador Roy Seneres claims were in on the whole thing seem to have been limited to talking among themselves, egging on Lim, and dividing the government among themselves. These personalities are close to being perceived as opportunists eager to claim the fruits of victory last February, but who’re now trying to outdo each other in expressing their undying love for the Arroyo regime.

The immediate result of these ill-considered plans was failure. But their other outcomes have been more calamitous than some former ambassador’s being summoned to the NBI, or a construction tycoon’s losing government contracts.

It can be argued that a half-baked “destabilization” plan doomed to failure from the very start was exactly what Malacanang had been waiting for since the “Hello Garci” scandal broke last year. Palace strategists might as well have hatched it themselves. The plot/plan has become the excuse to savage the Bill of Rights, and provided the regime the unique opportunity to consolidate the support of vacillating senior officers of the military.

The results are appallingly evident. Not since the martial law period has the military been as empowered as today. Never before since 1972-1986 has the country been as militarized, and never before since the Marcos years have human rights been under the gravest threat from state terrorism. The regime has also become so arrogant as to declare that it will suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or even declare martial law to meet future “destabilization” threats.

While the regime is directly accountable for its crimes, it was the weakness, poor organization and eventual failure of the February “plot” that have not only given it a new lease on life, but also the gall to implement its authoritarian and militarist agenda. What were Lim and company thinking? That they could walk into EDSA and install a transition government on the say-so of a handful of military and civilian personalities? Or that a hundred push-ups would be the penalty for failure?

With enemies like the alleged plotters of February, Malacanang could very well be asking, who needs friends?

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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