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Remembering the Manila Pen siege: A detained senator, a hotel that has bounced back


Remembering the Manila Pen siege: A detained senator, a hotel that has bounced back
It all started from a walkout from a court hearing of soldiers
facing charges on the failed Oakwood mutiny in 2003. What followed,
however, was an unfolding of intense and gripping events comparable to
an action series on television. The event was full of suspense but for
Filipinos it was just one of those upheavals that occasionally rock the
political landscape of the Philippines.

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The Manila Peninsula siege, which occurred  exactly a year ago, has all
the ingredients of drama—a senator elected by 11 million Filipinos but
was not allowed to serve, a group of soldiers calling for protest
actions against a hugely unpopular president, bishops and opposition
figures expressing support for them, guests who were forced to leave a
hotel after it was occupied by the soldiers, government forces
outnumbering the mutineers and a horde of reporters  who,
unfortunately, ended as the subject of the news.

After Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Brig, Gen. Danilo Lim and other
soldiers walked out of the court hearing, they marched through the
streets of Makati City .The soldiers then proceeded to The Peninsula
Manila—a posh hotel in the financial district popularly known as Manila
Pen—where they held a press conference and called for the ouster of
President Arroyo.

Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr, former University of the
Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo and Catholic bishops Antonio
Tobias and Julio Labayen joined Trillanes and Lim at the hotel.

The Philippine National Police declared a red alert status as a result
of the incident and National Capital Region police chief Geary Barias
ordered all the hotel guests to leave the hotel.  A Makati regional
trial court issued an arrest warrant and the PNP set a 3pm deadline for
the soldiers to surrender.

The soldiers, however, refused to surrender and the government
responded by deploying soldiers and armored personnel carriers in the
area. By five o’clock, an APC barged into the hotel door of the lobby
allowing government forces to get inside the hotel and arrest the

The six-hour standoff ended with the surrender of Trillanes and Lim,
the arrest of members of the media who were covering the incident and
the destruction of parts of the posh hotel. takes a look at last year’s failed attempt to
oust Arroyo. We go back to the event and see what has since happened to
those people involved and the cases that stemmed from the standoff.

Trillanes and Lim: Detained

Trillanes and Lim, the leaders of the siege, are still detained and are
facing charges of rebellion. Before the standoff happened, the two had
been facing charges related to their participation in moves calling for
the ouster of Arroyo.

Trillanes was among the leaders of the Magdalo soldiers who stormed
Oakwood hotel in 2003 and staged a mutiny. Earlier this year, the
Supreme Court has junked Trillanes’s petition to attend Senate
hearings. Trillanes was the 11th placer in 2007 senatorial posts but he
was barred from attending sessions in the Senate.

The former Scout Rangers chief Lim, on the other hand, was facing court
martial proceedings for attempting to join anti-Arroyo protesters in
February 2006 and for withdrawing his support from Arroyo.

Ernesto Franciso, lawyer of Trillanes for the Manila Peninsula case,
said that they have filed a case to dismiss the rebellion charges.

“I’m optimistic,” Franciso told “It’s not
rebellion because there was no public uprising. They just marched out
of the hearing.”

Franciso said those involved in the Manila Pen cases were first charged
with inciting to sedition but later charged with rebellion, a
non-bailable offense. He said that records from the Philippine National
Police Custodial center showed that those who were charged with
rebellion were initially charged with inciting to sedition.

Last March, Trillanes and Lim declined to enter a plea on the charges related to the Manila Pen siege.

Still vocal

Despite their detention, the two soldiers have remained vocal critics of the administration.
Just recently, Trillanes said in a television interview that former
House Speaker Jose de Venecia—who detailed the alleged involvement in
the NBN-ZTE deal—is the “new Chavit.”

Lim, meanwhile, has issued a statement on Thursday—a day after the
House justice committee junked the fourth impeachment complaint against
the preside—urging the people to oust Arroyo.

“GMA continues to inflict herself on our hapless people. In the
process, scarce government resources are squandered to buy for her
dubious loyalties, institutions are prostituted to project a sham
imprimatur to an immoral governance, public service has evolved into a
buffet of graft and corruption, and morals, values, accountability and
responsibility have been reduced to mere flamboyant phrases. She
destroyed the very concept of truth as the foundation of every act of
government,” Lim said in a statement released to the media.

Media cases: Still hanging

Remembering the Manila Pen siege: A detained senator, a hotel that has bounced backOne of the unexpected results of the standoff was the arrest of some
media practitioners who covered the incidents; some of the members of
the media were handcuffed before they were hauled to a bus that brought
them to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. Police said they brought the
reporters to the camp for “processing” but media groups slammed the way
the authorities treated the media.

In a media dialogue held after the incident, Interior and Local
Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the reporters were arrested for
two violations: obstruction of justice and police disobedience.

A class suit was filed by the Center for Media Freedom and
Responsibility (CMFR), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
(NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and
individual journalists against government officials. The media groups
said the arrests done were “arbitrary and illegal” and were made “with
the abuse of discretion.”

Among the respondents in the suit were DILG’s Puno, Defense Secretary
Gilbert Teodoro, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, former Armed Forces
Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon, and police officers led by former
PNP chief Avelino Razon Jr. and NCRPO chief Geary Barias. These
officials responded by filing a motion to dismiss. 

Earlier this year, the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 54 judge
Reynaldo Laigo granted the motions to dismiss filed by the government
officials and said that the complaint “does not constitute sufficient
cause of action for damages against the defendants that warrants
further prosecution of the instant case.”

Media counsel Harry Roque, however, had said they would file a motion for reconsideration.

Meanwhile, reporters of ABS-CBN also filed a writ an amparo asking the
government to reprimand government for their actions against the media
following the November 29 caper.

Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno told that the
Supreme Court has yet to decide on the matter and that the Office of
the Solicitor General only filed its comment on the case last month.

The Commission on Human Rights, however, said in a report released last
September that officers violated the "human rights of liberty, security
of person and freedom from arbitrary arrest."

The Peninsula Manila: Swift recovery

Perhaps one of the biggest casualties of the incident is The Peninsula
Manila, where Trillanes and Lim held a press conference after their
walkout from the court, and sought refuge until they surrendered to

The standoff left the hotel with torn tablecloths, broken glass windows
and a damaged lobby. The Peninsula Manila, however, was able to recover
quickly from the shambles and resumed its operation in less than a week.

In an e-mail interview with, Mariano
Garchitorena, director for public relations of The Peninsula Manila,
said that the incident had a “negative impact” on their business
although he did not provide further details on the effect of the siege
on the hotel’s revenue and number of visitors.

“Renovation work cost about P12 million,” Garchitorena told us adding
that the door at the hotel lobby, which was destroyed when armored
personnel carrier broke into it to allow the soldiers to go inside, was
re-opened in April 2008 or five months after the incident.

Asked if the hotel has any legal action as a result of the siege,
Garchitorena said the matter “continues to be under review.” The hotel
management, he adds, has also implemented more strict security measures
following the standoff.

“The Peninsula Manila has always had strict security measures in place,
even before the November 29 incident. However, existing hotel security
measures have been stepped up,” Garchitorena said. (

From Manila Pen to Bicutan: When the Media Became the Story
First Person: Protest, Surrender, and a Media Circus
Manila Pen Siege: Did the Media Err in Judgment?

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