Manila Peninsula Standoff: They came, they saw, they conquered?
On September 29, a day before Bonofacio Day, Makati city was again in limbo owing to the standoff at a well-known hotel in the country’s financial district.
Senator Antonio Trillanes and Brig General Danilo Lim, along with their fellow Magdalo brothers who were being tried for rebellion in relation to the Oakwood mutiny in 2003, walked out of the courtroom of the Makati Regional Trial Court and took to the sodden street of the business district en route to Manila Peninsula Hotel. The group held a press conference at the said hotel where they hurled invectives at President Macapagal Arroyo whose administration has been “devoid of ethical values since the very beginning.”
Government authorities led by General Geary Barrias quickly
responded to the crisis and ordered that the Hotel be vacated
immediately. This led to the cancellation of various functions and
activities ongoing at the hotel like a wedding reception and a
meeting of a group of businessmen. Media people also swiftly
flocked to the five-star hotel to cover the “rebellious act.”
By quarter to 3, Barrias told the press that judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati RTC issued an order of arrest stating the mutinous Senator and his fellow Magdalo brothers are guilty of contempt of court and directing the police authorities to effect the arrest at exactly 3p.m.
The police official said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the whole force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were going to effect the arrest and to take appropriate actions to those who will resist it.
Asked what would the government forces do if the group of Trillanes resisted the arrest, Barrias insisted that “appropriate actions will be taken out” as ordered. “I just hope na hindi darating sa puntong ‘yon,” the police official added, referring to a possible bloody encounter between the mutinous soldiers and the government forces.
Trillanes said that the walkout was the first step to what he dubbed as “Martsa ng Pagbabago” (March of change.) He was, however, optimistic that nothing will happen to the court-ordered arrest. “Believe me, nothing happens after 3 o’clock.”
The newly elected Senator who placed ninth in the senatorial race in May elections called on the people to support their cause and said that “it is our moral obligation as religious individuals to do what is right.”
“Hindi lang po kami ang sawa na.”
Mobbed by press people, the solon said that they’re just “taking the lead from the people.” He also lamented the unfair treatment of the Arroyo government for not letting him serve the people. “They voted for me so I can stand up to fight for their advocacies. Pero hindi nila pinayagan ‘yon!
“This government has been devoid of any ethical values since the
Clad in his military uniform, Trillanes, who spoke with full confidence, said: “I can assure you this will have more power to bring the government down.” He also called on the people to consider the alternative: Gloria or change?
“Magdesisyon na para makaahon ang ating bansa.”
A number of Magdalo members in full military gear who secured the lobby of the hotel told the press that they’re not going to back down and surrender. “Patay kung patay,” a Magdalo member said on-cam.
Brig. General Lim said that his group will not leave the place until their goal is accomplished. “Dapat suportahan ang pagbabago dahil ang nakaupo ay hindi dapat nandiyan. Nandiyan siya dahil sa pamamaraan,” Lim said, referring to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Asked by GMA7 veteran reporter Susan Enriquez who they would install as president in case they succeeded in ousting Mrs. Arroyo, Lim said in Filipino “the new leadership will come out.” “Hindi ko pa masasabi sa ngayon,” he added.
The government, on the other hand, was confident that it has the sufficient number of soldiers, mostly composed of members of SWAT team, to effect the arrest.
It appears that the ‘rebellious standoff’, though it was insisted that it was spontaneous, is just the first step of what Trillanes and company called as “Martsa ng Pagbabago.” Whatever this means, there is a possibility that a shadowy portion of the AFP is behind the call of some influential people in the government composed of opposition senators, Catholic and protestant church leaders, and businessmen. As what Trillanes earlier boldly pointed out: “nothing happens after 3 p.m.”
True enough at past 4p.m., warning shots were fire by the arresting government forces outside the luxury hotel. Magdalo officers in turn sealed the premises of the place to thwart the government forces from penetrating it. It was believed that by that time, Trillanes and company were holed up in the Rizal Function Room of Manila Pen.
What lies beyond the 13-storey five-star hotel is what the Filipino has to find out. But only one thing is sure— this crisis isn’t over yet. We have to guard ourselves for the days to come.
However, at about past 4p.m., a staccato outburst of gunfire was heard throughout the secured area. ABS-CBN reporter Pinky Web reported that the government forces used tear gas to “confuse” the rebellious Magdalo group. After gunshot, SWAT PNP in full battle gear penetrated the hotel.
Trillanes and Lim were ambushed by the media men in a hotel hallway to get their comment on the ongoing crisis. Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona was also seen on TV as one of those who joined the press conference held in the morning.
In a crowded room of the assaulted hotel, Trillanes, Lim, Bishop Labayen, Guingona, Director Bebeth Orteza, Guingona, and others held their final conference before surrendering to the government forces.
These were their final words before they yielded to the arresting officers:
Bishop Labayen: “Without justice there’s no peace. Justice never administered properly that’s why we have no peace in the nation.”
Trillanes: “Tumayo kami upang gampanan ang aking tungkulin bilang dating sundalo at ngayon ay senador ng bayan. Ang katungkulan na iyon ay tumayo para sa karapatan ng mga naapi, subalit nakita po natin lahat kung ano ang gagwin ng admnistratoion para makahawak sa poder ng kapangyarihan. You are the victims of the kind of ruthlessness of this administration. Like soldiers we’re going to face this.
How?— “Whatever they would want to do with me.
Surrendering?— We’re going for the safety of everybody. For your sake. I’m going to face it. I don’t know it’s really up to them.
Lim: “Dissent without action is consent. What we did was in consonant with the mandate to be the protector of the state. This is a continuing business. There’s an unfinished business here.”
Bebeth Orteza: “I’m very proud of the country’s media right now. Isa akong babaeng may cancer. Kung kaylangang mong mamatay mamatay ka na para sa bayan kaysa dahil sa mamatay ka sa sakit. I’m very proud to be free. Kaylangang umatras ka minsan para manalo.”
Father Robert Reyes: “We did not intend any violence. The violence came from the military. Not a single gunshot has fired. May the lord has mercy on this government.”
Meanwhile, President Arroyo held a close-door meeting with Secretary Reynaldo Puno at the Malacanang Palace.
They may have surrendered six hours after they took Manila Peninsula, but the group advocating for “March of Change” believed they were able to accomplish their purpose. Thus, by just walking out they were able to conquer the people.
The crisis went from a tension-filled court walkout to standoff to the arrest of some media men to the issuance of a curfew order. And by 12 o’clock midnight, police PNP authorities arrested those who violated the curfew order.
The question is: Will this lead to martial law? Or, is it already martial law?
A renowned psychiatrist employed by the Central Intelligence Agency once said: “It is not simply against future conspiracies of evil men which we have to guard ourselves, but the weakness and faults in our social order, in our ways of living… against which we have to be on continual guard.”
PNP says 101 arrested inside Manila Peninsula
MANILA, Philippines — For the second time in the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the country’s financial district came close to becoming a battle zone.
After a daring courtroom walkout that went unchecked by their security escorts, renegade officers on trial for the 2003 Oakwood mutiny — led by Navy lieutenant and now Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV — again sought to seize a posh Makati City hotel.
They expected civilian support and military defections for a people power uprising in a renewed call for the overthrow of the Arroyo administration.
But this time, government negotiators were not as patient, gave a shorter deadline, and –with a swift tear gas attack — forced the surrender of the rebel soldiers and a handful of allies from religious and leftist groups.
The assault team began firing warning shots at 4:45 p.m. Nine soldiers were deployed to the second floor lobby of the Manila Peninsula hotel, armed with long firearms. Others were stationed at the side entrances but carried only pistols.
At 5:02 p.m., hazy smoke which later turned out to be tear gas began permeating the hotel lobby, forcing the rebel soldiers and media people to retreat into the inner rooms.
Continuous gun fire from three armored personnel carriers went on for more than 15 minutes, presumably to destroy the front entrance of the hotel. One APC crashed into the hotel entrance at around 5:12 p.m., with the silhouettes of the assaulting team making their way toward the left wing where Trillanes had holed up.
More than 15 minutes later, police ushered the first group of media people out of the hotel, detaining some of them later for questioning.
Six hours after the hotel takeover, Trillanes declared the uprising over.
“We’re coming out! We’re coming out!” said Trillanes, 36, looking none the worse for wear after staying most of the time in the opulent Rizal suite on the second floor mezzanine of the Peninsula. He said he was ending the standoff to prevent further bloodshed, gazing at the crowd of several hundred media people.
Like a criminal
With a sleeve of his black jacket slipping off his shoulder, Trillanes was dragged into a police bus like a common criminal. The senator looked defiant, towering over his captor, police Director Geary Barias, who was pulling him by his pants as he was loaded onto bus no. 206.
Trillanes’ hands were tied at the back with what looked like a white straw.
There were no casualties during the assault.
At least 101 persons were arrested inside the hotel, Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon said.
Troops searched the Manila Peninsula late Thursday night for Marine Capt. Nick Faeldon, one of the 26 Magdalo soldiers. A Philippine Daily Inquirer source said the police conducted ‘a paneling’ search at the hotel for Faeldon.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon announced that the military would undertake further “activities” to determine how the rebellion was planned and executed.
Incident closed, not solved
“We consider the incident as solved but we are not closing the matter because there might be some activities,” said Esperon.
“We are relieved that it turned out this way. It wasn’t bloody,” Esperon told reporters shortly after dining on pork chop and rice with the military top brass at Villamor Air Base’s operations headquarters in Pasay City, where he monitored the hotel operations.
Without giving any specifics, Esperon said the public may expect troop movements into Metro Manila from military bases around Luzon.
“We want to assure you that the chain of command of the Armed Forces is intact and all the movements that are happening are authorized … but we encourage everyone that whenever you see troops, please report to us,” he said.
“We are giving no warning to soldiers. They know who to follow … nor is this the time for checking loyalties. We have done that already. So we already know if there are people who will join. And we assure you, we don’t see that anyone is going to join them,” Esperon said.
Trillanes, 25 other charged Magdalo comrades and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim of the Army’s Special Action Forces, walked out of their coup d’etat hearing at the Makati Regional Trial Court’s Branch 148 at the 14th floor at around 10:42 a.m.
The group marched through J.P. Rizal Avenue and then turned to Makati Avenue.
“We are joining the people in calling for the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo, because the President continues to violate the Constitution and continues to plunder the treasury, disrespect the rule of law and prostitute our institutions,” Lim said during the march.
“Now is the time for the withdrawal of support. We are joining our people in the removal of an illegitimate President … Units are joining from Mindanao to northern Luzon,” said Lim, 52, who was detained in connection with a failed coup attempt in February 2006.
On reaching the Manila Peninsula, a commotion among the soldiers and reporters broke one of the glass doors on the hotel’s side entrance facing Makati Avenue.
‘She stole the presidency’
At the second-floor lobby, Lim, this time reading out from a prepared statement, declared: “She (Arroyo) stole the presidency from President Joseph Ejercito Estrada through unconstitutional and deceitful means.”
Lim then recited a list of political controversies that had hounded the Arroyo presidency — the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal, the fertilizer scam, NorthRail project, Venable deal, the allegations that Malacañang had bribed congressmen into “killing” the latest impeachment complaint, and the spate of extrajudicial killings of journalists and activists.
“We see no other means remaining for the AFP and PNP but to exercise our constitutional mandate,” he said.
The group then proceeded to a function room on the second floor and posted at least three armed sentries each at the two marble stairways from the lobby to the second floor.
The rebel soldiers’ arrival stunned guests at the lobby, including those well into their lunch in the ritzy restaurants, but remarkably without causing any panic. They spent the time ordering sandwiches and drinks and even shared crackers to the reporters outside.
In good spirits
“Everybody was in good spirits,” said lawyer Argee Guevarra.
By 12:30 p.m., a group of civilian supporters composed of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, “Running Priest” Fr. Robert Reyes, Bishops Antonio Tobias and Julio Labayen, former University of the Philippines president Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo, and JV Bautista and Argee Guevarra of the leftist group Sanlakas, had arrived and held a press conference at the mezzanine.
Also around this time, police had sealed Makati Avenue to traffic and Barias, head of the National Capital Region Police Office, arrived at the hotel with an aide de camp.
Barias, the first government negotiator at the scene, was barred by the Magdalo guards.
“Do they know I’m here?” he was heard telling one of the sentries.
Barias then called up a “mistah” (military school classmate) on his cell phone and was heard saying in Filipino: “I’ve established a foothold. All of the core group (members) are here. I can cordon off the area so there won’t be any people power, etcetera.”
“Should there be an evacuation, I’ll take care of it,” he said. “All of them are accounted for and I don’t think there will be reinforcements.”
At around 2 p.m., two of Lim’s classmates from the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978 arrived to serve as additional negotiators — Senior Superintendents Jaime Calungsod and Geronimo Preside, both of the Southern Police District.
This second attempt to negotiate failed, prompting Barias to give out orders at 2:15 p.m. to have the hotel cordoned off and for the guests to start leaving.
In an impromptu press briefing, Barias announced that a 3 p.m. deadline had been given for Trillanes and his men to surrender — or they will be arrested. The order came from Razon, he said.
“What we did is an obligation, we had no other choice,” Trillanes told reporters before he surrendered.
“I entered politics. The people voted for me, but what did they do. They disrespected the more than 11 million votes that I got. They did not give representation to the people who voted for me,” the senator said.
Tantamount to treason
“It’s tantamount to treason if I don’t do anything,” Trillanes said. “There is no loss here. We just did what had to be done. If there is a loser, it’s going to be the Filipino nation because … Gloria is still in power and she will be there even beyond 2010.”
But he added: “Like all evil regimes, there is an end to it.”
Trillanes was elected to the Senate in May in what many commentators saw was a protest vote against Ms Arroyo.
“I stand here today, to declare my intentions as a former soldier and now a senator of the country,” Trillanes had earlier said.
“I stood for the rights of the oppressed. We see now that this government will go to any length to hold on to power.
“You have been witnesses and victims of the kind of ruthlessness that the administration has been giving to the people,” he told reporters.
Trillanes, Lim and others involved in the six-hour standoff — around 30 — were later taken to a detention center in Bicutan, Taguig City, said PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Samuel Pagdilao.
“They will be processed there for investigation,” Pagdilao said.
Initially, Pagdilao said the group was liable for contempt of court for walking out of the hearing of a Makati City court, to forcible entry of the hotel to possible rebellion.
Pagdilao also said police would also look into possible conspiracy.
Contrary to claims that the action was not planned, police stopped four jeepneys filled with Tondo residents about to proceed to the hotel. The passengers said they thought they were to attend a burial but later discovered the trip was part of an opposition recruitment for the Makati event.
Virginia Tutay of Isla Puting Bato and a member of the People’s Movement Against Poverty identified with former President Estrada said that the people were paid P200 each while the jeepney owners got P700 each to join the Makati crowd.
Tourism Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr. told reporters that all foreign guests staying at the Peninsula were safely evacuated.
The hotel management said 310 out of the 497 rooms were occupied before the drama started. With reports from Alcuin Papa, Jerome Aning, Tarra Quismundo, Allison Lopez, Christine O. Avendano and Nancy Carvajal