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Room service at the Manila Hotel

IF the recent comedy of errors at the Manila Hotel proves anything, it is that the government of President Corazon Aquino has added reason to feel some self-confidence as it goes about its task of restoring democratic rule to the Philippines. The Aquino government warrants praise for the peaceful way it brought an end to the attempted military revolt and for its offer of leniency to most of the dissidents. Mrs. Aquino was an admirable public study in calm -- as well as some amusement that the coup had been attempted in a hotel setting of all places.

It may not be hard to understand why a ragtag group of Marcos supporters -- led by Mr. Marcos's recent presidential-election running mate, Arturo Tolentino -- would seek to seize power.

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Marcos, to many of these folks (ex-political retainers, military men, party loyalists), was a leader who seemed incapable of ever losing permanent power in his nation. He had been one of the constants in Manila since the end of World War II. And the timing had seemed promising: President Aquino was outside Manila. Philippine Vice-President Salvador Laurel was in Spain. ``We thought we would be supported by everybody, like in the February revolution'' that brought Mrs. Aquino to power, one Marcos loyalist lamented.

Instead of ending in glorious revolution, the revolt fizzled into the type of ludicrous melee that used to punctuate Marx Brothers comedies set in exotic locales.

At the end, after the revolt had collapsed, there was the armed forces chief, Gen. Fidel Ramos, in a gesture of reconciliation mixed with authority, leading the rebellious soldiers in doing 30 push-ups on a gymnasium floor.

The attempted coup strengthens, rather than diminishes, Mrs. Aquino's standing over the Philippine military. Her good grace under pressure cannot help winning additional support from the Philippine public.

Was Marcos, as he insists from the safety of his Hawaiian lodgings, as innocent of complicity in the incident as he insists? The jury, as of now, is still out, but his innocence seems unlikely. Tolentino was ``Marcos's man,'' for all practical purposes. Washington should inform Marcos in no uncertain terms that there is to be no more meddling in Philippine political affairs.

Meantime, Mrs. Aquino faces formidable challenges. The pro-Marcos remnant will continue to be a nuisance. Some fear a precedent may have been set for more attempted coups. Economic difficulties are deep seated. The ``communist problem'' -- how to bring military insurgents to the negotiating table -- has yet to be resolved.

Still, the Aquino government's resolution of the Manila Hotel fiasco gives added reason to think that Manila's other problems, as difficult as they are, can also be solved.

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