Monday, December 21, 2009

Military role in polls called ‘dangerous’

By Christine Avendaño, Leila Salaverria, Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:23:00 12/22/2009

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Eleksyon 2010, Military, Elections, Hello Garci

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines—Will there be a repeat of “Hello Garci” in the May elections?

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon Monday said the proposal of acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales to deploy the military to perform election duties next year was “dangerous.”

“This is creating conditions that would expose the soldiers to partisan politics,” said Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The proposal is dangerous in light of the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal,” he said in a phone interview.

Biazon was referring to allegations revealed in wiretapped conversations purportedly between Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that she stole the 2004 presidential election. Ms Arroyo has denied the charge.

Biazon said he had always opposed any deployment of troops for election duties, except for security and defense.

Gonzales’ proposal “can be the beginning of partisan politics” infecting the military, particularly troops securing candidates, Biazon said.

“They are not trained, they are not equipped and not organized to perform bodyguard duties,” he said.

“If they would be deployed that way, that could create vacuum in certain areas,” Biazon said. “Terrorists, rebels, and private armies would be having a heyday if a vacuum will be the resultant effect of such deployment.”

He also expressed concern that Gonzales had been advocating a shift from a liberal to a social democracy with soldiers taking the lead in the revolution.

He said he planned to file a resolution in the Senate opposing Gonzales’ proposal.

No officer punished so far

Gonzales on Sunday said he was seeking to redefine the military’s role in the May balloting and place troops at the disposal of the Commission on Elections in order to prevent another massacre similar to the Nov. 23 slaughter of 57 people in Maguindanao province.

“The involvement of the AFP top officers in electoral fraud in 2004 advises against giving the AFP an expanded role in the conduct of the next elections,” said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo.

“The question is, why haven’t the AFP and the PNP (Philippine National Police) disarmed and dismantled these illegal armed groups that they claim to know?” Ocampo said.

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III pointed out that there had been no closure to the military’s alleged involvement in vote rigging in 2004.

“Were there officers punished? How did the AFP resolve Brig. Gen. [Francisco] Gudani’s revelations?” he said. Gudani has disclosed that the President’s husband had flown to Mindanao before the 2004 elections to deliver boxes containing about P500 million.
Army chief opposes move

Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon warned that the Gonzales proposal would “lead to the military being used for political interests.”

Biazon, vice chair of the House committee on national defense, reiterated his proposal to extend the term of Gen. Victor Ibrado as AFP chief of staff up to the end of Ms Arroyo’s term on June 30 to ensure stability in the military. Ibrado is to retire in March at age 56.

Speculation is rife that the next chief of staff will be Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, the Army chief reputed to be close to Ms Arroyo.

Bangit on Monday said the military should focus on running after armed groups than acting as bodyguards of politicians.

“The best assistance for security that we can do is to immediately address all armed groups,” he told reporters Monday during the Philippine Army’s advanced celebration of the AFP’s 74th founding anniversary.

Bangit said he would recommend to higher military officials in a conference Tuesday that escorting duties during the elections be delegated to the police and other private security agencies.

Original Story:

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