Kabataan Party-list, the sole youth party-list participating in the May polls, calls on the government to immediately dismiss and relieve Armed Forces (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon from office.

For as long as Gen. Esperon remains the front man and main operator of the AFP, the youth and the public cannot hope for a truly clean and honest 2007 elections.

It is not a secret how Gen. Esperon has managed to get himself implicated in numerous cases of electoral fraud, repression, violence and corruption.

To this date, his involvement in the Hello Garci scandal remains unresolved.

Gen. Esperon was one of the four generals mentioned in the Hello Garci tapes which suggest their possible involvement in the alleged manipulation of election results. His appointment as AFP Chief of Staff led many to believe that he was chosen for his “instrumental role” in ushering Pres. Gloria Arroyo to victory in the 2004 elections.

In fact, when Gen. Esperon, who served as the AFP deputy chief of staff for operations and deputy commander of Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections) in the May 2004 elections was promoted as Philippine Army Chief in 2005, critics attested that he was being “rewarded for services rendered.”

Consequently, these caused a controversial delay in his appointment as AFP Chief of Staff. The Commission on Appointments’ defense panel deferred Gen. Esperon’s promotion to the rank of leiutenant general. The CA said that the AFP had to “clear” Gen. Esperon first of his involvement in the Hello Garci scandal.

The fact-finding report which was kept from the public for six months cleared Gen. Esperon of the accusations but speculations and apprehensions remain as to his real involvement in the controversy. As a matter of fact, his being implicated in the Hello Garci scandal remains a big factor in the deep plunge of his trust ratings in the latest surveys.

Gen. Esperon is also the main author and operator of Oplan Bantay Laya 2, the government and military’s counter-insurgency plan.

Oplan Bantay Laya 2 is the main reason behind the unexplained and illegal deployment of military troops in schools and communities. Despite protests from students, residents, opposition candidates, progressive party-lists and concerned citizens, Gen. Esperon remains steadfast in justifying the presence of army troops in urban areas. He had even blatantly stated that the deployment is part and parcel of Oplan Bantay Laya 2 despite its clear violation of the Memorandum of Agreement between the Commission on Elections and AFP prohibiting any military involvement in the electoral process.

Gen. Esperon has also proven time and again his loyalty lies not for the Filipino public but for those responsible for his appointment.

He is one of the administration’s staunchest defenders in the issues of political repression and extra-judicial killings -– both with the military as prime suspects and perpetrators.

It is for these reasons that we, youth, students and concerned young citizens, deem it improper and highly suspect that Gen. Esperon remain at the leash of the AFP during this electoral period.

We reiterate that for as long as Gen. Esperon remains AFP Chief of Staff, the youth and the general public cannot be assuaged of misgivings about massive electoral fraud and violence these coming May polls.

We call on the government to refrain from tainting the electoral process by immediately dismissing Gen. Esperon as AFP Chief of Staff.

Along with this is that demand for the immediate pull out of military troops from schools and communities.

We also call on all democracy and peace-loving youth and citizens to unite with us in this noble campaign for a fraud-free and non-violent May 2007 elections.

Raymond Palatino
President and First nominee
Kabataan Party-list


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