President Rodrigo Duterte seemingly held back when he faced the nation last week to address the concerns of some 500 Armed Forces of the Philippines officers about the situation at the West Philippine Sea.
He telegraphed his message that was largely ignored by the media, but it could have been very clear to his intended audience that late Monday night, the top officers of that Viber group that Malacañang had denied existed.
Also, in passing, the President had addressed the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), whose clandestine operations have toppled many governments in the past.
Last week, amid the denials by the military and the Palace of that online group of military officials, the Philippines teetered amid the Chinese flotilla’s incursion into Philippine waters that the US had long been drooling at.
Coincidentally, the military was in the middle of the latest Balikatan exercises that had sent some of the US’ main warships sailing with a couple of the Philippines’ own in the country’s waters.
Their presence had sent the more than 200 Chinese militia boats that had amassed near the Philippines’ Julian Felipe Reef, scattering to where they could not be seen, but guess what? They’re back after the US and Philippine ships left — some 160 of them.
The latest massing of Chinese boats in Philippine waters sent the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file yet another diplomatic protest, aside from the daily notes it sends to the Chinese Embassy. These letters — symbolic as they are — will not stop until the Chinese ships leave, or so says DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
The Palace also denied the Viber group of these military officials was seeding a coup d’état. Perhaps it was not, but to earn a scathing response from the President, the group makes for a puzzle laymen like us have to put together.
“What do you expect to prove?” the President asked them, particularly the generals, whom the Chief Executive had tried to appease by reminding them of his former military appointees in his Cabinet.
“I placed the military there because — whether they’re civilian or military — they are being followed. Like Delfin Lorenzana (Defense Secretary and said to be part of that Viber group). Do you think he would still tinker with that revolutionary government? That’s nonsense!” Duterte exclaimed.
Then he dropped the bomb.
“In a command conference, I was so… I was really downhearted because I expected the military to perform well. Then Secretary Lorenzana submitted a paper (presumably about military officials who did)… mostly (about) anomalies!” he continued.
“If the Air Force stands… and the Navy, Army… even the police, if you stand now, I will leave being the Mayor,” Duterte said, perhaps trying to be technical about the issue as he is no longer the Davao City mayor but the President of the Republic.
“Are you not ashamed of yourselves?” the President asked them. “I don’t want to delve on what I did to you, to the Armed Forces. They’re not my property, not my money. But it’s better that we have an understanding now. If Delfin (Lorenzana) tells me to go, I’ll go,” he stated.
“That’s what I have to remind the CIA, if even they did not hear that I told the military that… if I cannot have the cooperation of the Armed Forces, then there’s no point in working for this government. No more,” he said.
Then came the talks about defunding the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. The NTF-ELCAC has P19 billion as its budget this year, most of it not subject to accounting by the government, as this is presumably intelligence fund.
Its budget is bigger than what were allocated to other government projects, like those in education, health and rice sufficiency.
The military and police forces have been spoiled not only by Duterte but by past governments dating back to the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Even EDSA that installed Cory Aquino in Malacañang in 1986 was not a civilian revolution as she made us believe it was.
As soon as Marcos had left, the military had known its power was restored that even former President Fidel V. Ramos had acknowledged by bowing before the coup plotters and “punishing” rebellious military units with mere pushups.
If things do not change and civilian power above the military is restored, it is not unlikely that we would soon follow the path of Burma. Duterte knows we’re doomed by then.
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