The escape of Capt. Nicanor Faeldon on Dec. 14, and Capt. Nathaniel Rabonza and 1st Lts. Lawrence San Juan, Sonny Sarmiento and Patricio Bumindang on Jan. 17, sparked rumors of a brewing coup d’etat. Faeldon and the Oakwood mutineers have been calling on the Filipino people, including on other men and women in uniform, to remove President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from Malacañang.
These incidents and the persistent question on the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration compel the latter to conduct regular loyalty checks on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Arroyo administration is insecure regarding the loyalties of soldiers and police officers in spite repeated assurances from AFP chief of staff Gen. Generoso Senga and PNP chief Dir. Gen. Arturo Lomibao that the AFP and PNP are fully in support of the administration.
To ensure her hold on the military, Macapagal-Arroyo appointed two controversial generals whose loyalty to her is unquestionable: Rear Admiral Tirso Danga, military’s intelligence chief during the period the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) was accused of wiretapping the opposition, and Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon, who was mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes. The two were appointed commanding officers of the Southern and Western Commands of the AFP, respectively. But moves such as these, say military analysts, contribute to the growing restlessness within the AFP, which is already smarting from accusations of corruption and assisting Arroyo to cheat in the elections.
The Arroyo administration is calling on the AFP and PNP members to act like “professional soldiers” by not interfering in politics and defending the Constitution and democracy against the “enemies of the state”. The administration blames the so-called politicization of the AFP for the constant threats of coup d’etat.
Political and military analysts believe it was former President Marcos who politicized the AFP and PNP. But they were political even before Marcos. They were trained to protect the status quo. They suppress the rights of workers for the benefit of capitalists. They attack the struggling peasants to preserve the ownership of big landlords, agri-businesses and multinational corporations. They repress dissent in the name of anti-subversion and anti-communism.
What Marcos can be blamed for is that he unleashed the AFP and PNP and gave them power by declaring martial law. During the dark days of martial law, the AFP and PNP acted with impunity, without fear of being investigated and made to account for their acts. It was former President Fidel Ramos, on the other hand, who started appointing retired military and police officials to civilian positions.
The problem with the AFP and PNP is not its politicization. The problem is that it is being used for the wrong ends. And soldiers and police officers follow orders without question.
The good thing about a crisis, as what the country is experiencing now, is that it awakens people from complacency.
Confusion has seeped in even within the ranks of soldiers and police officers. Issues of corruption and usurpation of power have reached intolerable levels. The ventilation and exposé of issues in public make every citizen, including men and women in uniform, think and question. The polarization is forcing everyone to take side.
The chain-of-command is no longer sacrosanct even to the ordinary soldier. Doubts are raised over orders, which before were followed without question.
Members of the military and police must discern who among the contending forces represent tyranny and who represent democracy; who are fighting for selfish interests and who are fighting for the common good.
For in the final analysis, the soldier’s loyalty should be to the Filipino people and not to any usurper of power. (Bulatlat)