Military appointees a ‘dangerous’ trend, warns political science expert
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s “very narrow recruitment pool” led to the appointment of officials from the military to key civilian positions, and this has become “dangerous” to the government, a political expert said on Saturday.
“Duterte ascended [to] the presidency without [a] political base,” said former political science professor Temario Rivera.
This, he said, was why the President appointed retired military and police generals to his Cabinet, many of them either from Mindanao or assigned to Davao City where Mr. Duterte was mayor for 22 years.
Beyond Mindanao, Duterte “had no significant connections with the political elites and the leading political families of Visayas and Luzon,” said Rivera.
“So, again, naturally [Mr.] Duterte had to rely [on] the military and the police in addressing the severe problem[s] that confronted him when he became President,” he said in a webinar on Saturday titled “Martial Law to Martial Rule: The Military’s Increasing Role in Public Governance,” and organized by the Movement Against Tyranny.
In the absence of a “strong civilian political base,” Rivera said Duterte used the police and the military to impose “force and violence” to address the country’s problems like he did in Davao City.
Rivera said the appointment of retired generals in government also led to continuous corruption in some agencies, contrary to Duterte’s view that officials from the military are not averse to corruption.
“Duterte has said that military officials are not only reliable [but] they cannot be corrupted. But we now also know that the most corrupt agencies … in his last four years have been headed by former military officials,” Rivera said.
“What we are seeing again,” he said, is “not very different” from the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Retired Col. Dante Simbulan, who also spoke at the webinar, said Duterte has “followed the patterns of the dictator Marcos in the recruitment of generals in government,” and “also added new techniques.”
“He pampered them with many other benefits provided they obey his orders to harass and even to kill those who displease him,” he said.
For lawyer Antonio La Viña, the pattern of appointing military officials in government “can actually be easily reversed if we have the right president in 2022. The right president can reverse this because in our country, everything boils down to appointments by the President at least at the national level.”
“So [the] stakes are really high in the next elections,” he said.
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