Monday, December 21, 2009

Solons alarmed at AFP"s expanded role in polls

By Gerry Baldo

Original Story:

Lawmakers yesterday expressed serious apprehensions about the proposal of Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales to give the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) a more active role in the coming May 2010 elections, while the United Opposition (UNO) has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to put safeguards in a proposed agreement with the Department of National Defense (DND) giving the military a more active role in the coming elections.

Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna said the proposal is “dangerous,” given the previous role of the AFP in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

“Bert Gonzales’ latest proposal is dangerous. In the 2004 and 2007 elections the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) was instrumental in the administration’s cheating operations for Gloria Arroyo and her allies,” Casiño said yesterday.

Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, at the same time,

lambasted Gonzales for his alleged “risky” moves that would compromise the supposed neutrality and non-partisanship of the AFP.

“These are enough for us to see the appointment of Norberto Gonzales as risky not just to the professionalism and neutrality of the AFP, but also to the constitutional processes,” Biazon said yesterday.

He stressed that Gonzales should be replaced with “a more acceptable person” if the government would not want the AFP to suffer.

Biazon further explained that the appointment of Gonzales as Defense Secretary is not an assuring development in the defense sector.

“It is a backward step from all the gains brought about by previous leaderships in the department,” even as he cited Gonzales’ alleged partisanship in actively espousing his own political ideology among the ranks of the AFP.

He said that a few years ago, Gonzales conducted seminars among soldiers encouraging them to initiate political change contrary to the policies of the AFP and DND.

Makati Mayor and UNO President Jejomar Binay said the Comelec must ensure that incidences of vote padding and poll fraud that marred the 2004 presidential elections involving high-ranking military officials loyal to Mrs. Arroyo must not happen again.

“Being a reservist, I can say that an overwhelming number of our soldiers are professional soldiers. Their loyalty is to the Constitution and to the sanctity of the ballot,” he said.

“But we cannot allow a few officers with misguided loyalties smear the reputation of the military as a reputation and insult the dignity of the soldier,” he added.

Binay said that in 2005, the names of some generals were mentioned in the taped conversations of former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and government officials, which included President Arroyo. The so-called “Hello Garci” recordings exposed widespread election fraud involving these high-rankingofficers.

“When the Hello Garci scandal erupted in 2005, the names of some loyalist generals were mentioned as being involved in altering the votes in favor of Mrs. Arroyo. This must not happen again,” Binay said.

The DND had said it wants an agreement with the Comelec that would strengthen the military’s participation in the 2010 elections.

Binay said should it push through, the agreement between the DND and Comelec must contain strict guidelines to be followed by the AFP during the elections. More important, he said, is the strict enforcement of the terms of the agreement and its monitoring.

Meanwhile, Army chief Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit is cool on allowing soldiers to provide security to political candidates during election period as stated in Comelec Resolution 8714 which superseded a 2007 Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) which barred detailing of active military personnel as security escorts to politicians.

Bangit said providing security to political candidates should be done by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other security agencies so that the military can focus to dismantling private armed groups that pose threat in the peaceful and orderly conduct of next year’s synchronized national elections.

“My wish as CGPA (commanding general, Philippine Army) is if possible, don’t involve the military in this. The body-guarding duty will be for police and private security agencies so that the Army can concentrate in addressing the different armed groups who will try to destroy the peaceful conduct of elections,” said Bangit.

But Bangit admitted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is also mandated to implement legal orders, in this case the Comelec resolution. So, the Army chief reminded soldiers to stick to the mandate of providing only security and not to engage into partisan political activities.

“We are also mandated to follow legal orders. But even then, assuming there’s Comelec authority for one soldier to secure one politician, the mission would be to secure, to protect not to project. The mission of a security detail is to protect the VIP (very important person), he is not there to participate in any political activity except to protect. Projection will be for the campaign managers, the party and so on,” stressed Bangit.

Last week, the Comelec issued Resolution 8714 allowing the AFP to provide two security escorts to political candidates who could justify threats against their lives. The number could increase if circumstances permit. The order also stipulated the imposition of total gun ban against unauthorized firearms holders during the election period.

The resolution rendered the 2007 MoA between the DND and Comelec barring the detailing of active military personnel as security to politicians to insulate the AFP from politics following the controversy brought about by the Hello Garci” ecordings in 2004 where several top-ranking AFP officials were mentioned as being involved into partisan political activities.

Among those mentioned in the infamous recordings were former AFP chief Hermogenes Esperon, who was at that time AFP deputy chief for operations or J3; then Southern Command chief former Lt. Gen. Roy Kyamko; then Army 1st Infantry Division
chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon. With Mario J. Mallari

Original Story:

No comments:

Post a Comment