Querubin backs Legarda a day after Roxas got Magdalo

Querubin backs Legarda a day after Roxas got Magdalo
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Where was Sen. Mar Roxas during the standoff at Marine headquarters at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City in 2006?

Detained Col. Ariel Querubin, a senatorial candidate of the Nacionalista Party (NP), raised this question Thursday as he declared his support for the vice presidential candidacy of Sen. Loren Legarda.

Querubin, a recipient of the Medal of Valor, spoke through his stepson Martin Loon on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the standoff. (Querubin is facing attempted mutiny charges before a special general court-martial and is barred from speaking with members of the media.)

Loon described to reporters in Camp Aguinaldo his father’s endorsement of Legarda’s candidacy as akin to “a brave man supporting a brave woman’s battle” to make issues concerning women, children, the youth, poor and marginalized, and the environment as a campaign platform.

Querubin’s endorsement is important to Legarda’s candidacy because it came a day after the putschist Magdalo group led by detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV endorsed the candidacy of NP standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar.

But instead of backing Villar’s running mate Legarda, the Magdalo chose to endorse Sen. Mar Roxas, the running mate of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III.

Earlier Thursday, Legarda, a reserve officer in the Air Force, said she was still confident of the military’s support.

“I believe that individually, they will give their support [to me],” she told reporters, following a meeting with Querubin at the custodial center in Quezon City.

“During the Feb. 26 standoff four years ago, who was with them?” she said.

Support when needed

Indeed, Loon said his father was fully supportive of Legarda because she was with the late President Corazon Aquino when Querubin called for warm bodies to protect the soldiers during the 2006 standoff.

“Where was Mar? Tita Loren was with us. She showed her support for Daddy in 2006 when he needed it. She was very brave when she showed up at Fort Bonifacio,” said Loon, 23, who has taken a leave from his law studies at the University of the Philippines to campaign for Querubin.

“I’d like to reiterate Colonel Querubin’s support for the whole NP slate, especially the candidates for president and vice president,” he said, adding:

“Definitely, Colonel Querubin and all of his supporters in the military will give their all-out support to Sen. Loren Legarda for vice president in 2010. We saw her sincerity in helping the military, in wanting reform for the Armed Forces.

“And we will repay her with unwavering support. We saw her initiative in peace and unification, in peace negotiation. We really want her to win as vice president so she can help Senator Villar in his quest to address poverty and reform the institutions in the country.”

‘Unity walk’

Querubin’s endorsement of the NP slate was announced after a brief meeting between him and the party—Villar, Legarda and senatorial candidates Sen. Pia Cayetano, Susan Ople, Ilocos Norte Gov. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Gwen Pimentel, Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza and lawyer Adel Tamano—at the compound of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP).

Legarda said the NP visited Querubin to dramatize his call for temporary liberty.

After the meeting, which took about 30 minutes, Querubin surprised reporters when he appeared in front of the compound’s massive green gate and linked arms with the other NP candidates.

He was wearing a shirt in the NP’s trademark orange.

The beaming Querubin walked with the other NP candidates several meters from the ISAFP gate, surprising the military guards and soldiers in the area. It was over in a little less than two minutes.

The “sneak” campaign sortie displeased the military leadership.

It appeared to be a violation of an order by Gen. Victor Ibrado, the AFP chief of staff, not to bring politics into Camp Aguinaldo.

Ibrado had earlier ordered guards to disallow any vehicle with campaign stickers, even those belonging to party-list groups related to the military, from entering the camp.

‘Totally unexpected’

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the military spokesperson, was quick to deplore the surprise campaign sortie.

“The gesture was totally unexpected. What was supposed to be an ordinary picture-taking turned into a unity [walk] … And the raising of arms can be construed as [part of] a campaign rally,” he told reporters.

Brawner reiterated the appeal of the military for political personalities to respect the apolitical position of soldiers.

He said the camp commander, Brig. Gen. Felipe Tabas, had even escorted the NP convoy from the main gate to the ISAFP compound.

According to Brawner, Tabas had Ibrado’s permission to escort the NP convoy, but Tabas had no knowledge of the plan to hold a “unity walk” with Querubin.

“The group of Villar asked permission to visit Colonel Querubin … and our camp commander escorted them to the ISAFP compound to make sure that there was no campaigning done,” he said.

Disgruntled Marines

The 2006 standoff at Fort Bonifacio was conducted by Marines led by Querubin protesting the relief of their commander, Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, who was replaced by Brig. Gen. Nelson Allaga.

The disgruntled Marines returned to their barracks after a tense six hours that saw them calling for people power.

Former President Aquino, Legarda and a number of critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tried to join the protesting soldiers but they were stopped by a police barricade about a kilometer from the headquarters.

After meeting Querubin Thursday, Legarda told reporters that authorities were perhaps afraid of what the bemedaled soldier could do if he were free to go around.

Temporary liberty sought

“But they should not be afraid of a Filipino hero, a brave Filipino who will fight for the valiant soldiers who are now in need of help,” she said.

Villar told reporters that the NP would formally request military authorities, through a party resolution, to give Querubin temporary liberty, so that he could campaign.

‘Not that easy’

“To be fair, he did not ask for anything from us [during the meeting]. What we want is for him to be freed. We will do everything to give him a chance to campaign, and for him to explain his platform and ideals to the country,” Villar said.

Querubin fully understands the situation, according to Villar.

“He wants to get out, but he knows it’s not that easy,” the senator said, adding that the NP, being an opposition party, could not promise anything.

He said the whole slate had to visit Querubin to prove that the party was behind the latter’s candidacy all the way.

Loon said his father was seeking only a leave, or to be allowed to post bail.

“We’ve seen that certain candidates similarly situated now and in the past were given the privilege and the right to speak to the media, and campaign to the public. We’re hoping that Colonel Querubin would also be given the same privilege and right,” he said.

Querubin’s wife, Mariflor, pleaded for his case, invoking equal protection of the law.

Petition for habeas corpus

She said Querubin was facing a “political case,” and that the government wanted “to keep him at bay.”

NP candidate Tamano, a lawyer, said the party would ask the court to allow Querubin to grant media interviews and would later file a petition for habeas corpus.

“You can see him, but he can’t talk. This is not how you treat soldiers. This guy is a hero. He’s one of the most distinguished, decorated soldiers that we have,” Tamano said. With a report from Alcuin Papa and Kate Evangelista, INQUIRER.net

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