Gov’t moves to squelch rumors of restive military
No loyalty check, just an information drive.
Malacañang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday sought to squelch rumors that troops with ties to former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were plotting against the Aquino administration following the October 18 massacre of 19 soldiers.
In a radio interview, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda dismissed suggestions that Malacañang was countering opposition moves to agitate soldiers in the wake of the worst setback in years at the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Lacierda denied the Palace had identified the group behind the plot or that a loyalty check was being conducted in the military.
“What is important, however, is to inform our soldiers: This is the state of our AFP. This is what the President said, these are the directives he made,” Lacierda said.
Senator Gregorio Honasan on Wednesday likewise dismissed rumors of a destabilization plot.
“My ears are on the ground and I have not heard of anything like that,” said Honasan, a former Army colonel who was involved in several coup attempts against the late President Corazon Aquino.
“The only group who would agitate or spread rumors about a destabilization plot are those affected or might be affected by anticorruption efforts of the P-Noy (Aquino) administration,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said, referring to officers with links to Arroyo.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a text message that Lacson’s statement was “consistent with the information we have gathered.”
The two senators, both graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, declined to reveal the sources of their information.
But Honasan insisted that “from the top of the chain of command down the line, the (AFP) remains solid, unlike in previous administrations where there was polarization.”
“Soldiers have died in Basilan but the President’s pronouncement of all-out justice (against their killers) is a clear marching order that would be followed because there is no problem about morale,” he said.
Major General Francisco Cruz, AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said talk about troop demoralization purportedly over the government’s decision against an all-out war with the MILF was “wishful thinking.”
“There’s no need to conduct a loyalty check,” Cruz told reporters after launching a military manual on human rights-based intelligence operations.
Getting killed in combat, he said, “is part and parcel of the job.”
“But mind you, there is no such thing as demoralization. It’s a fabrication, it’s a product of the imagination of somebody who likes this government to go down,” Cruz said.
He brushed off as mere “propaganda” rumors that Arroyo loyalists were conspiring to destabilize the government. “I don’t know what’s their basis, but on the ground there’s none,” he said.
General Eduardo Oban Jr., AFP chief of staff who is in Zamboanga City supervising military operations, said troops were focused on the assault against Moro outlaws in Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Norte and Basilan provinces.
“I’d like to tell you that morale is high. I was assured by the commanders on the ground that everybody in the area … is really after the success of the operations,” Oban said.
He also shrugged off speculation that Arroyo allies were moving to destabilize the government.
Nothing but rumor
Honasan also noted that parties loyal to Arroyo who had ties to the military “either have low credibility or have already been discredited.”
In a text message, Lacson said those behind destabilization rumors ultimately wanted Mr. Aquino out of Malacañang “because they are aware of their transgressions and that sooner or later, they know they will pay for these.”
Trillanes voiced doubts that current efforts against the Aquino administration “would go beyond a coup rumor.”
While Honasan said there was no problem with troops, Trillanes insisted the military’s morale “is low right now, this is but normal and will probably wane soon. Being allowed to conduct pursuit operations will help ease their restiveness.”
“Let us remember that (Arroyo) committed far worse crimes against the soldiers and the people but these same disgruntled officers never even considered rising up against her. So, by and large, all is well,” Trillanes said.