Army chief denies plot to extend Arroyo term
By Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur – Lieutenant General Reynaldo Mapagu, newly-appointed commanding general of the Philippine Army, said there was no plan to extend President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term of office beyond June 2010, and denied there was such a thing as “Oplan August Moon.”
He also said he had the necessary qualifications to deserve his new position.
“There is no such thing as ‘Oplan August Moon’,” Mapagu said before enlisted Army personnel and officials in his visit Thursday in the headquarters here of the 9th Infantry Division, the first Army division he visited since he assumed post.
“Oplan August Moon” is a purported plan designed to extend the President’s stay in power and put members of Philippine Military Academy Class ’78 in vital military and police posts.
Mapagu was in this camp to award military medals of merit and promote soldiers whom the military said had been instrumental in counterinsurgency campaign in the Bicol region.
He also said he saw nothing bad in the statement of Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer that he (Ferrer) was hurt that he was bypassed and not appointed by Ms Arroyo to be the commanding general of the Army.
“I would not put malice to his statement. I have very high regard for him. I do not see any controversy with his statement. The President has decided. I respect her decision. What’s there to question?” Mapagu said.
He said he had high regard for Ferrer’s leadership and competence. “He is a very good and professional soldier. I know it because I was his division commander under the Eastern Mindanao Command.”
He added that the pool of generals from where Ms Arroyo chose the next Army chief was filled with qualified persons. “I was just lucky I was the one chosen by the President.”
He said his new position was not a token position, or a reward for loyalty.
“I did not reach this rank because of President Arroyo. I rose from the ranks through my own merits. I started as a 2nd Lieutenant and I earned my stars. My records will speak for themselves,” Mapagu claimed.
He said the statement of Ferrer, he believed, would not affect the chain of command. “The Philippine Army remains intact.”
He said it was not true that members of PMA Class 1978 were being appointed to important military and police positions because of the so-called Oplan August Moon.
“In fact, I have never heard of Oplan August Moon. There is no such thing … We do not talk about it in the camps. In fact, I was shocked when the issue came out,” the Army chief said.
He added that not all members of Class 1978 were being promoted. “There are those who are not.”
Mapagu was accompanied by 9th ID commander Major General Ruperto Pabustan, who was once his superior when they were in the Scout Rangers.
He also said he would never follow illegal orders from anyone, “because first of all, I am not receiving any illegal order.”
Mapagu reiterated that the soldiers should never be partisan this coming elections.
“Any soldier who would be proven to have committed electioneering would face sanction and would face punishment as grave as dismissal from service,” he said.
He said soldiers must observe rules and regulations. “We are state workers. We are never above the law. We are public servants.”
He said soldiers committing electioneering would be charged with administrative offenses and violation of the military’s Code of Ethics.
Mapagu encouraged soldiers to commit to the conduct of safe and violence-free elections.
He said it was an urgent imperative for the soldiers to protect the integrity of the elections.
Mapagu said he visited the 9th ID first among all other Army divisions because of its outstanding performance in the campaign against insurgency in Bicol.