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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 13:03 GMT
Watching the Manila siege unfold
By Michael Barker
BBC News, Manila

Rebel leaders speaking to the media
Journalists were free to cover the events as they unfolded

I was on a first floor balcony when troops lobbed tear gas canisters and I had to retreat inside after a short time.

It was a rather uncomfortable experience as I witnessed an armoured personnel carrier storming the hotel lobby and missing the top of a Christmas tree by a whisker.

The sort of protest which ended peacefully in Manila is not unusual in the Philippines.

The fact that journalists were able to cover the events unfolding at the Peninsula Hotel shows in a way the freewheeling nature of the media here and of Philippine democracy.

Police and the military are rather powerless to stop journalists roaming around.

In fact, many of the news people walked all the way from the court, where some of the rebels were on trial for a similar attempt from 2003 and entered the hotel alongside them as the protest was starting.

As the standoff ended peacefully, I saw police taking some of the journalists away, something which did not happen four years ago.

2003 mark II

The protest was eerily reminiscent of 2003, when everything happened, as now, under the full glare of the local and international media.

Rebel soldier surrendering in 2003
The protest was almost a carbon copy of the one from 2003

Then, as now, everything ended without bloodshed, though this time shots were fired.

President Gloria Arroyo, who was the target of this coup attempt, presumably did not want the whole affair to drag on too long, given the worldwide media coverage.

As for ordinary people, they have become jaded with popular protest, with the scale of anti-government demonstrations shrinking all the time.

There is apathy and cynicism at this sort of attempt to remove Ms Arroyo from power.

I have seen no massing of people in Manila and no soldiers responded to the rebels' appeal to overthrow the elected president.

It was more of a personal protest against Ms Arroyo and there was certainly no groundswell of support for the move.



SEE ALSO
Manila rebel soldiers surrender
29 Nov 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Deja vu in Manila siege crisis
29 Nov 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
25 Oct 07 |  Country profiles
Manila coup bid quashed
29 Nov 07 |  World
Manila rebels given ultimatum
27 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific



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