The 20-hour long flutter in the Philippine capital seems to have died down with a somewhat discomfiting ease. The 300 mutinous junior marine officers — who were, just a few days back, quite willing to risk death and blow up Manila’s financial and diplomatic centre — have been quelled. They wanted the government of the president, Ms Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to resign because it was corrupt, pandering to both Muslim insurgents and American interests. Nobody has resigned — and the ex-rebels are awaiting court martial. The president has also followed this up with a state-of-the-nation wrap-up in which inquiries have been pledged, terrorism declared the eternal enemy and promises made to look into the marines’ allegations and grievances. So far so good. But coups (successful or otherwise), and talk of corruption in the state, are bound to make Filipinos quite giddy with déjà vu. Philippine governments have hardly ever succeeded one another in the natural course of things. Already, links with the ousted president, Mr Joseph Estrada, and with Ms Corazon Aquino are being investigated. With elections due in May 2004, this president’s immediate political future is implicated in all this.
But what has worn the military out, to the point of mutiny, in the Philippines' Apart from poor pay and conditions, these are the men and women who have been fighting an intermittently violent, three-decades-long battle with insurgency in the southern Philippines. Islamic separatist groups — with conflicting agenda of autonomy, and variously treated by the predominantly Roman Catholic political establishment — have ravaged the south with killings, explosions and kidnappings. Blasts in shopping malls, churches and mosques are part of everyday life in the island of Mindanao, for instance. The presence of American troops, post-9/11, in the country has also put it rather uneasily on the map of the Bush-Blair “war on terrorism”. A military which fought for its independence from the United States of America as recently as 1946 is bound to look at the return of American troops with unease — and perhaps more.