First of 2 parts
IN a span of just a week, a tsunami of demoralization has hit the police and the military.
This was the result, first, of an ill-advised move by Local Government and Interior Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. to publicly “persuade” police generals and colonels to submit “courtesy resignations” so he could fire those officials suspected of corruption or involvement in illegal drugs.
Their fate though would be decided by a five-man board, including retired generals — practically a star chamber that has no basis in the Constitution or any law. While police officials expressed support for it of course — lest their refusal be taken as evidence of their guilt — they view it as an attack on the integrity of the entire officers’ corps of the Philippine National Police, as it declares that they are guilty until proven innocent.
The second trigger has been Marcos’ appointment as Armed Forces chief of staff (AFPCOS) on January 6 of Gen. Andres Centino — whom he had removed from his post two months after he assumed office in July 1 — replacing him with Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro. Apparently in protest at the appointment, Jose Faustino, the defense department officer in charge and several other DND officials, submitted their resignations. Marcos has neither accepted nor rejected these so far.
Malacañang has given no explanation at all for such an unprecedented reappointment of a COS that had been unceremoniously removed less than a year ago. Such silence fueled rumors that it was upon the instigation of the first lady, Marie Louise “Liza” Araneta Marcos, who allegedly wanted removed all officials whom Marcos’ first executive secretary, Victor Rodriguez, had a hand in putting in high posts in government.
Manila Times columnist and former Army major general Edgard Arevalo, who retired in 2021, took the same tack: “Who is advising the President and Commander in Chief on this sudden turn of events in the PNP and in the AFP? Was the reappointment of Centino meant to correct the perceived miscues of then Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez under whose stint Bacarro was appointed to succeed Centino? Is this a way of restitution for Centino and finally retiring Bacarro who could have retired on Sept. 18, 2022?”
What fanned the accusation that the first lady was responsible for the removal of Bacarro was a video clip sent midday to media, not by Malacañang’s media offices, but by Presidential Security Group commander Col. Ramon Zagala.
The 35-second video was obviously rushed, taken as Mrs. Marcos was walking briskly at the PSG compound. She wasn’t even wearing make-up, her hair unkempt and apparently wearing a house T-shirt. In the clip, she said that she “had nothing to do with ISAFP,” apparently referring to another report that the ISAFP chief had also been relieved. There hasn’t been a confirmation or denial of that report though. Mrs. Marcos said she “just wanted people to know that she has nothing to do with appointments.”
The denial had some kind of confirmation, though. She said: “I leave that (appointments to government posts) up to my husband. And if I find out that somebody is using my name, I shall tell my husband not to appoint you, OK?” At the very least, it seems she has veto power. Mrs. Marcos, however, is known to have handpicked the heads of at least two big government corporations.
Why would Mrs. Marcos rush to issue such a statement, released by the PSG commander and not the Palace’s huge press department, which has nine undersecretaries, and with her not even having time to put on make-up?
The resentment by the military and police top brass over these orders was such that the PNP and AFP issued official statements that rumors of a destabilization plot were not true — which of course fanned the rumors that several newspapers, even those very supportive of Marcos, made the reports their banner stories. This government obviously does not know that often silence is golden.
The uncertainty was also fanned by the PNP’s going on a “heightened alert status.” A spokesman, however, claimed this was undertaken to assure the safety of the expected massive turnout for the Black Nazarene procession, which however is undertaken today and not a few days’ ago.
The Philippine Star’s print edition reported that an “unsigned memorandum” from Caraga and Cordillera police offices quoted PNP chief Gen. Arnold Azurin as instructing all police officers to go on alert status “in view of the resignation of all Department of National Defense personnel at Camp Aguinaldo. All duty personnel are required 100 percent police presence and monitor movements of AFP troops.” However, the Philippine Star’s web version did not publish those details, reporting only the PNP’s denials of it, and that the alert was “part of security protocol for the Walk of Faith” scheduled yesterday.
A former AFP chief of staff warned: “PBBM and our other leaders must not subject these organizations to their whims. They might think they can do so at will. They could be proven very wrong — to their regret.” Retired general Arevalo titled his column the other day on the administration’s recent boo-boos, “Extraordinarily interesting times,” a reference to the allegedly Chinese description of a period of uncertainty and chaos.
On Wednesday, January 11: How stupid could the courtesy-resignation thing be?
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