October 29, 2004

Only in the Philippines

I got this angry text right after DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government] Secretary and former DND [Department of Defense] head and AFP [Armed Force of the Philippines] chief of staff Angelo Reyes testified testily before the congressional committee hearings on corruption in the military.

"Quote of d day 'Leave my mother alone,' Angelo Reyes, after implicating his 94-year-old mother in his Statement of Assets n Liabilities. The asshole. Pls pass."

We were itching to pursue a line of questioning similar to that of Rep. Imee Marcos, when we read about the reason given by Secretary Reyes regarding the phenomenal rise in his assets and net worth. How and when did Mr. Reyes's 94-year-old mother, a former schoolteacher, accumulate a whopping PhP4 million? we wanted to ask.

Moreover, Mr. Reyes's plan to "have access to her account should something happen to her" would appear to be a circumvention of the law that requires him to pay an inheritance tax should his aged mother suddenly dies, leaving him her entire fortune.

Tsk, tsk. Not a good example by this high government official to the rest of us lowly citizens being exhorted to pay our share of taxes to support a government bellyaching about its bankruptcy.

Mr. Reyes went further than warning the congressmen not to drag his mother into the inquiry. He pointedly rebuked the members of the House committees on national defense and banks for "destroying the AFP" by imputing dishonorable activities on an honorable profession -- that of soldiering.

Reyes attempted to gloss over and divert public attention on the glaring fact that it is the web of sleaze and corruption in the AFP and the accompanying systematic, even murderous, cover-up by those in the top brass that is causing the rot in his beloved institution and causing it to reek to high heavens. Members of the perceived equally corrupt Congress can't resist grandstanding on the AFP carcass.

On the other hand, President GMA's attempt at statesmanship to paper over the horrific corruption scandals engulfing her government smacks of plain hypocrisy, and falls flat on her face.

Who will believe her when she says, "Reform, professional loyalty, honor, discipline and morale shall be sustained by an Armed Forces engaged in its share of sacrifices and acts of redemption. The spirit of change shall be driven from within."

The facts of the matter are that AFP chief of staff Narciso Abaya merely transferred Gen. Carlos Garcia, the guy caught with his hands in the cookie jar, to J5 or Plans, from J6 or Comptroller.

It took a recommendation from the Ombudsman, a full seven months later, for Abaya to suspend Garcia and, apparently, only then to start investigations in earnest.

It took a congressional probe to pry loose from the AFP generals bits and pieces of Garcia's heinous crime of plunder and other shenanigans going on under their very noses, if not with their active participation, then with their tacit consent.

Malacañang, in an attempt to distance the President from the Garcia brouhaha, announced that Arroyo had directed the AFP Command to initiate court martial proceedings. This presidential directive was apparently needed despite an open-and-shut case of high thievery; up to press time, the only charge the AFP Command could come up with is violation of Article of War 96 for "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman."

Now all this talk about an impending coup or series of coups. Before we catch the coup jitters and start stocking up on canned goods and candles, let's scrutinize the latest rumors sparked by the headline-grabbing House committee hearings.

One possible source of the coup rumors is said to be AFP officials who want the probe to stop at the doorstep of Garcia.

The two-star general can be sacrificed as the bad egg in the entire basket of otherwise good eggs, the statistically predictable and tolerable aberration in the institution that, according to Arroyo, remains "loyal to the chain of command."

No need to burn the house down when one wants to get at only one rat.

This line of thinking tries to turn the tables around and make it appear that the public outcry for the truth about corruption in the military is itself causing the political instability and provoking the members of the military to rebel in defense of their "honor" and to preserve the institution.

Aside from being illogical and obviously motivated by a desire to evade prosecution and punishment, it is unlikely that such a coup will even get off the ground considering it is fatally flawed, having nothing to stand on, not even the slither of a legal or moral justification. If such a coup takes place, it is doomed from the start.

Since this coup rumor places the Commander-in-Chief and the President of the Strong Republic in a bad light, it is also likely to remain just that, a rumor, albeit a fumbling attempt at psychological warfare.

How about a military rebellion ala Oakwood mutiny that rests on the junior officers and enlisted men's abhorrence of the undeniable rot of corruption and mendacity in the AFP as well as this administration's utter failure to stop it?

Yes, that's highly probable and is bound to sprout once more from fertile ground enriched by the latest revelations of official wrongdoing.

It remains to be seen, though, how much time it will take to pick up steam in the light of the Oakwood leaders' retraction of their testimony and apology to the Arroyo government.

What then should be the people's unflinching and principled demands in the face of threats of a coup from whatever quarter? For starters, we suggest the following:

Punish Gen. Garcia, his cohorts and other plunderers and forfeit their ill-gotten wealth; use the latter for social amelioration programs, most especially for the exploited and oppressed foot soldiers.

No whitewash, get to the bottom of corruption in the AFP/DND and PNP.

All the generals should resign. The AFP and PNP helm should be taken over by young officers with nationalist and pro-people reorientation under direct supervision by highly credible and morally upright civilian authorities.

Reverse the total-war policy and junk the militarist mindset that perpetuates unjust wars and provide the boundless opportunity for graft and corruption.

Oct. 29-30, 2004


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