PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2007, 12:00am

Manila coup attempt was doomed to fail

There have been dozens of attempted coups in the modern history of the Philippines, but only one has succeeded, the February 1986 overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos.

His regime and its constitutional foundations were toppled because even though the country's institutions were structurally intact, they were not credible to the vast numbers of people who came out onto the streets to demand change.

By contrast the January 2001 ouster of Joseph Estrada, although depending upon popular support, did not challenge the constitutional order. The then-vice-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was appointed in Mr Estrada's stead in accordance with the 1987 law on succession.

Although Mr Estrada's camp up to now insists that he did not abandon or resign from his post, the Supreme Court overruled his claim to the presidency. Mrs Arroyo went on to win the 2004 elections.

Therefore, had the soldiers, politicians and others involved in the failed 'Peninsula Putsch' of November 29 had any chance of success, they would have thrown up enormous questions about constitutionality and the presidency of the Philippines.

The attempt to seize government from a luxury hotel in downtown Manila had none of the elements of the removal of the presidents either in 1986 or 2001.

There was no enormous public outcry or support for their actions. Nor were those who launched the attempt apparently interested in the use of legitimate constitutional means to attempt to have the president replaced.

Rather, the idea of transitional government, on which they seem to have placed their bets, was for the chief justice to serve as an interim president. There is no provision in the 1987 constitution for this misguided approach to a change in power for the Philippines.

Without either public support or adherence to constitutional norms, the November 29 coup attempt was doomed to failure. Future nascent coup leaders should tread more carefully, and learn from history. To succeed, either the law or the people must be on their side.

Danilo Reyes, Philippines desk officer, Asian Human Rights Commission

Tax cuts would help the poor

The financial secretary has admitted the inflation rate is rising and the government will seek a way to alleviate the problems facing low-income families.

Unfortunately, he did not announce any measures the government will take to cut inflation.

The present inflation rate is due to the depreciation of the United States dollar to the yuan which drives up the price of imported food. The surge in petrol prices is also fuelling the inflation rate rise.

How will the government meet these root causes of inflation?

There have been calls to cancel the tax on petrol. Given the expected size of the budget surplus this financial year, the government should be doing something to ease the problem.

For instance, it could immediately end the petrol tax levied on public transport operators. This would apply to taxis, public light buses, maxicabs, non-franchised buses and school buses.

Also, since its merger with the KCR Corporation there has been criticism the enlarged MTR Corporation has been mean with its fare reductions.

It is within the power of the government, as the major shareholder, to order more generous fare reductions.

If this is done, then all the other public transport operators will also be able to cut their fares.

If these fare cuts are implemented, the general public will make savings on travel costs. This may not cover the higher prices people have to pay for food, but it will at least be of some help to them.

Kenneth Lau, Tsuen Wan

Travel subsidy a bad precedent

Like R. E. J. Bunker ('Fair deal plea for ferries', December 5), I, too, find it extraordinary the government should freely give some HK$6 billion of public funds to a listed railway company (the MTRC) to help it subsidise travel on West Rail.

This handout sets an unbelievable precedent, and throws the user pays principle out of the window.

Your correspondent is right to ask the Transport Department why other forms of transport, such as ferries and buses, that serve Hong Kong residents in other areas such as South Lantau, Tin Shui Wai, and so on, cannot receive such subsidies.

This is a very serious issue, which deserves an answer not just from the Transport Department, but also from a very senior government official.

P. K. Lee, Tung Chung

Financiers must spread their net

Hong Kong has been a cosmopolitan financial hub for a long time, but our competitors are catching up quickly.

We need to look for different markets such as Muslim nations. The Muslim world has great potential and we should be thinking of developing an Islamic bond market.

It was good to see the government's latest policy address recognised this, but more needs to be done to build up a comprehensive and mature banking system for the Islamic market. Also, we should have a deeper understanding of the Muslim world since there are many restrictions.

What we have to do is to enlarge our existing financial market and include different cultures, so we can reinforce our name as an international financial centre.

Candy Ho Sin-hang, Tsing Yi

Science students need support

I was pleased to read about the ratings for Hong Kong students in an international survey of academic performance in secondary schools ('Science students take No 2 ranking in global study', November 30).

Having such talented scientific minds in Hong Kong is a valuable asset, but are we taking the best advantage of that asset?

The government should be encouraging science students to show initiative with scientific experiments, rather than just studying textbooks.

Also, special and intensive science courses should be provided for these gifted science students and they should be completely subsidised by the government so that their talent is not neglected or wasted.

School science teachers should also inspire their students to develop their creativity and be inventive.

Just as important is that these talented students must be given support by their families. Parents must allow their scientifically-gifted children to experiment and they must be patient with them.

Our science students are the future pillars of the territory's scientific development.

Let's all help to create the best environment for them to learn.

Tracy Lai, Kwun Tong

Chilling in

Forget all the nonsense about the environment and plastic bags.

What the chief executive should be doing is issuing an edict to businesses that it is now winter and they need not have their air-conditioning at a level that it is colder inside than out.

This simple act would do far more for the environment than having us pay into a black hole for plastic bags.

It seems colder than ever this year. Particularly in the Landmark building, buses and in cinemas.

Chris Johnson, Mid-Levels