We hold nation together – military spokesman
First posted 01:01am (Mla time) Mar 15, 2006
THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines yesterday acknowledged its crucial role in keeping President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power, warning that the nation would fall apart if it gave in to pressure from various power blocs seeking the President's ouster.
Senator Joker Arroyo said the President had practically become a "hostage" of the military.
"Hostage? In a sense, yes, the President (is a hostage), without (her) admitting it. Every move that she has now (taken), she always asks the military and then the minority (politicians) just keeps on blabbering," Arroyo said in a news conference.
"The one calling the shots now is the military," said Arroyo.
Colonel Tristan Kison, Armed Forces spokesperson, told reporters that the military had been the target of destabilization "because we are one of the strong pillars holding the nation."
"If we break, the nation will collapse," Kison said.
He said that the Armed Forces should all the more adhere to the chain of command "especially now we're at a crisis."
"The situation is ripe [for an uprising] with all this political noise," Kison said.
The military admitted there were now "cracks" in the chain of command, with no less than its elite forces -- the Scout Rangers and the Marines together with the Philippine National Police Special Action Force -- found to have plotted to withdraw support from the President.
Kison said the events of Feb. 24 were a "test" of the military's resolve to uphold its oath of loyalty to the duly constituted government.
Asked if the military agreed with Senator Arroyo's observation on Monday that the military could make or break the government, Kison replied: "That's true. That's the reason why they [anti-Arroyo forces] are trying to create a crack in the AFP."
Cracks in command
"There are already cracks so we are trying to address the situation, so that there will be no cracks in the AFP, so that it will not break," he went on.
"Suffice it to say the Armed Forces is strong. Once it weakens, the whole nation is in danger. The Left, the Right and the opposition will grab power for themselves," Kison warned.
"We're not saying the other institutions have weakened. But if the Armed Forces gives in, all the rest will follow," he added, recalling the military's crucial role in the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001.
As the then Vice President, Ms Arroyo assumed power after then AFP Chief of Staff General Angelo Reyes declared the military was withdrawing support from Estrada.
The military foiled the plans of ex-Scout Rangers commander Brigadier General Danilo Lim and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin to lead their men in joining anti-Arroyo protesters at the EDSA rallies on Feb. 24 and declare their withdrawal of support there.
Kison would not comment on reports that Lim and Querubin planned a junta or a "military caretaker government" to be led by Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Generoso Senga himself.
If Senga had joined ...
"The AFP has a huge responsibility, that's why it's the target. If General Senga had joined [the coup plotters], we would have a different government now," he said.
"There's no assurance there will be a significant change in our way of life if there's a change of government. Things could be worse," Kison added.
"We have our democratic process. That's what we're protecting, we're protecting the democratic process," he went on.
Senga remains loyal
Senga has dismissed speculations about his loyalty to the President as mere "intrigues meant to sow disunity and discord within the AFP to weaken the organization."
"Ginigiba ba ako? [Are they out to destroy me?] I don't know," he told the Inquirer on March 10.
"Kapag nagiba ang Armed Forces, nagkagulo na [Once the Armed Forces is destroyed, there will be chaos]," he added.
Kison acknowledged the military rebels had not given up. "They would consider this as a temporary setback but again the AFP is maintaining its vigilance to stop any kind of destabilization that may threaten the nation," he said.
Let's not shoot each other
Senator Arroyo yesterday indicated that the administration could no longer control the military since the top brass had decided that it would be better to keep the Armed Forces intact rather than forcefully go after its rogue soldiers.
"Remember, they just said 'Let's not shoot at each other.' What does that mean? They'll not shoot at each other but they can talk, they can connive, they can collaborate to unseat the government so they don't shoot at each other," he said.
AFP can't go after own men
He pointed out that the Scout Rangers' Lim, one of the alleged brains of the coup attempt, was able to receive two Catholic bishops (Julio Xavier Labayen and Antonio Tobias) and other guests while in detention.
"They're holding court in their quarters and receiving bishops and entertaining guests," Arroyo told the Inquirer on Monday.
"The Armed Forces cannot make an honest-to-goodness crackdown on recalcitrants because they had agreed not to shoot each other. They will move only when united," he added.
Arroyo yesterday said that the recent crisis showed the military leaders that they could take over the country "if they unite."
"What has happened in the last crisis is something like this: The political opposition has been reduced to irrelevance. Their place has been taken over by elements of the Armed Forces, more particularly the Scout Rangers, the Marines and the Special Action Force of the PNP," Arroyo said.
"They are now the opposition. So it is not GMA (Ms Arroyo) versus the political opposition but GMA versus some elements of the Armed Forces," he said.
Arroyo said the danger was if "these recalcitrant elements" in the military joined forces with "the mainstream Armed Forces."
"They can go against the government. Then, we have a military junta," he said.
"So, the wonder of this all is why the administration and the political opposition can't see through it -- that one morning we can wake up and there is no more government because the military has taken over," he said.
Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) also warned yesterday about the President's creation on Jan. 17 of the Interagency Legal Action Group (IALAG) to coordinate the filing of cases against what the administration perceives to be its enemies.
Like martial law
Diokno said the IALAG -- composed of representatives from the intelligence community, the police and the Department of Justice -- had a precedent during the Marcos dictatorship.
"It is supposed to coordinate the prosecution of cases. Our concern is like before, it would be used to keep (administration critics) in jail," he said.