Coup101

Posted on December 6, 2007

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“Stupid is as stupid does…”
— Forrest Gump

The term coup d’etat is an English loan word derived from the French phrase that can be roughly translated as “a sudden strike to a state” (coup literally means hit while etat literally means state). A coup is a violent take over of the government by forceful military means. A coup is different from a revolution. Typically, a coup simply replaces the top civilian officials with military officers. It only involves a relatively small group of people while a revolution involves majority of the population. Nonetheless, a coup cannot be successful without a significant support from the cross-sections of the society. Generally, after a successful coup, the function of administering the government is taken over by a junta which is comprised of military leaders. Martial law is then enforced and some fundamental civilian rights are suspended.

Although there are so-called civilian-led coups, virtually all types of coups involve the active participation of the military. A coup uses violence or the threat of violence to brought down a established government onto its knees. Tactically speaking, a coup typically involves controlling some active portion of the military while neutralizing the remainder of the armed forces. This active group captures or expels leaders, seizes physical control of important government offices, means of communication, and the physical infrastructure, such as streets and power plants.

There are three basic types of coup d’etat, namely, breakthrough coups, guardian coups and veto coups. A breakthrough coup is the closest thing to a revolution. It involves the overthrow of a traditional government by a revolutionary army and the creation of a new bureaucratic elite. This type of coup is generally led by junior officers or non-commissioned officers. A guardian coup, on the other hand, typically does not involve drastic changes in the fundamental structure of government. It is transitory at best. It typically involves military and high government officials (e.g., cabinet members) that are closest to the ruler or the head of state. The main objectives of this type of coup may include improving public order, getting rid of corrupt officials and restoring democracy. Finally, a veto coup occurs when the army vetoes mass participation and social mobilization such as elections. A veto coup is generally tend to be bloody and repressive because of the large-scale or broad-based opposition.trillanes2.jpg

Here in the Philippines, there had been several unsuccessful coups in the past, most of these were during the presidency of Mrs. Corazon Aquino. On the other hand, last week’s incidence at the Manila Peninsula Hotel was a failed quasi-coup. It may had the hallmarks of a coup but it was hardly a coup in terms of strategy and tactics. Holing-up inside a luxurious hotel can hardly be considered as a coup. When Senator Trillanes, General Lim and a bunch of civilian and military supporters walked out of the Makati Regional Trial Court, it was more of a pathetic display of desperation rather than heroism.

Although I do sympathize with Trillanes’ idealism, I do not agree with his method. It was the second time around that he tried to oust President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The first time was in 2003 during the Oakwood mutiny. In the first attempt, Trillanes was thrown into the limelight and was heralded as some sort of a hero, leading to his eventual election to the senate. This second time, his failure was less dignified. To see a senator handcuffed and being mishandled was not only undignified, it was an insult added to injury. No, the arresting officers were not the ones who committed the insult. It was Trillanes himself. He has wasted the mandate that the Filipino electorates had given him. Well, when Trillanes was dragged out of the Manila Peninsula Hotel, it was as if the eleven million voters who voted for him were the ones being dragged. Unfortunately, I was one of those voters!

magdalo.jpg The expected flood of supporters did not materialize. No military units mutinied. Instead of cheers, Trillanes and his handful of followers were forcefully evicted by a commando assault team — armed to the teeth, protected by armored personnel carrier and all!. Aside from irritated eyes and lungs due to tear gas, no one was badly injured during the six-hour stand-off. Nonetheless, it was a totally irresponsible and reckless act on the part of Trillanes to imperil his supporters and the media.

To some extent, it was stupidity to repeat the same failed method. I do not know if the PMA curriculum includes a subject on “basic principles of overthrowing the government.” It’s either the theory does not work or Trillanes had not correctly executed its practical applications.

Senator Trillanes is a brilliant man but his recent reckless actions seem to contradict this fact.

(For more information about Trillanes visit these sites: Friendster Account, Blogspot Site, and Campaign Site)

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