Año urged to draw security plan vs China’s ‘aggression’
An activist group championing fishermen’s rights has urged the new national security adviser, Eduardo Año, to protect the nation’s interests in the West Philippine Sea, even as other groups have warned that his appointment does not bode well for the Marcos administration.
Ronnel Arambulo, spokesperson for Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), said National Security Adviser Eduardo Año must make it “his primordial priority… to craft strategic policies to protect our sovereignty.”
“We challenge him to immediately lay down his security plan in the face of continued aggression from China against our own fisherfolk,” Arambulo said, adding that China’s presence in Philippine waters remained the biggest threat to the country’s national security.
In relation to that call, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel urged public support for the military against China’s incursions, as he cited an increase of P6 billion in the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, compared with last year’s P39 billion.
“We are forcefully supporting the [modernization program]… to counteract the persistent swarming of Chinese vessels around Pag-asa Island” in the Spratlys, the lawmaker said in a statement on Sunday.
Pimentel noted further that from December 2021 to June 2022, the Department of National Defense signed contracts worth P109 billion — including P28 billion for corvettes from South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd.; P18.9 billion for three shore-based supersonic ramjet missile batteries from India’s BrahMos Aerospace; P32 billion for 32 Black Hawk choppers from Poland’s PZL Mielec; and P30 billion for six long-range offshore patrol vessels.
But as for Año, even with Pamalakaya’s urging him to assert the country’s sovereignty against China, it also cited his track record in the Armed Forces which he used to head, as well as in his subsequent stint as interior secretary of Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
“We are not unaware that there were complaints of human rights violations against Año when he was an active general of the [Armed Forces],” Pamalakaya said, adding that several activist groups were imperiled by his “blatant Red-tagging” in his support for the National Task Force to End-Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
Año was previously linked to the 2007 disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, son of the late press freedom fighter Jose Burgos. But he has repeatedly denied any involvement with that episode when he was intelligence chief.
More recently, he had drawn controversy for his steadfast support for the NTF-Elcac, of which the interior department counted as a member-agency. As national security adviser, Año now serves as vice chair of the controversial task force.
“We will not allow him to use his position in the government again against the advocates of rights and national independence,” Pamalakaya said.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said Año “faces a host of complaints about alleged human rights violations and his Red-tagging ways.”
“We will not allow him to use his post to again be the main perpetrator of state abuses,” he added.
Reyes also warned that the recent appointments in the government’s security sector “raise serious concerns on the future of human rights in the Philippines, given the track record of these generals under the Duterte regime.”
“Is this Marcos’ way to appease the rumblings in the military? Is this an effort to consolidate the AFP by satisfying the demands of right-wing groups for the continuation of endless wars that have resulted in widespread human rights violations over the past 6 years?” he asked.
House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro described as “very dangerous” the alleged “maneuverings” in the military and the police.
She said further that Año’s appointment was “a way to assuage the squabbling in the military ranks who want more rightist militarists in key defense positions and who are now airing their gripes against the newly implemented Republic Act [No.] 11709.”
Castro was referring to the law which sets a fixed term of three years for eight of the most senior AFP officers, including the chief of staff and the commanders of the Army, Air Force and Navy.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said his agency is looking forward to working closely with Año.
“Secretary Año will undoubtedly render his decisive, informed and pragmatic guidance to address our country’s various security concerns,” said Galvez, who also used to head the Armed Forces.
Galvez described him as “a stalwart advocate of our whole-of-nation approach on national security, especially in addressing the armed conflict brought by insurgency and terrorism.”
In his all too brief remarks to reporters when he joined officials who accompanied President Marcos on his departure for Switzerland on Sunday, Año said: “I will just be a good adviser to the President.”
Año took his oath on Saturday. He replaces Clarita Carlos, who, in turn, will join the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND FRANCES MANGOSING
SC ruling dims PH-China joint oil search – Gatchalian
Joint exploration with China poses constitutional issues, says Hontiveros
SC voids 2005 oil search deal; ruling lauded as ‘a warning to Marcos’
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.