Army chief: There’s no Oplan ‘August Moon’

Army chief: There’s no Oplan ‘August Moon’
By Jonas Cabiles Soltes, Inquirer Southern Luzon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, PILI, Camarines Sur—Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu Thursday dismissed speculation that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was mobilizing loyal generals under a military operation called “August Moon” to extend her term.

“There is no such thing as Oplan August Moon,” said the newly appointed Army chief of Ms Arroyo’s purported plan to put members of his Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978 in key military and police positions to keep her in office.

“We do not talk about it in the camps. In fact, I was shocked when the issue came out,” Mapagu said during a visit here to award medals of merit and promote soldiers for outstanding duty in the counterinsurgency campaign in the Bicol region.

The appointments of Mapagu and that of Gen. Delfin Bangit as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have drawn criticism amid concern about preparations for the country’s first automated balloting on May 10 and the possibility of a failure of elections.

What’s there to question?

The two generals belong to PMA Class of 1978, which adopted Ms Arroyo as an honorary member. Another classmate, Rear Adm. Feliciano Angue, was likewise recently named chief of the National Capital Region Command.

Their promotions were made just before the constitutional ban on presidential appointments took effect on March 10 to last until the end of Ms Arroyo’s term in June.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, on Tuesday said officers were not applauding the appointment of Mapagu but stressed that they were not also questioning the President’s prerogative to appoint trusted officers to key posts.

“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 is a very good and professional soldier. I know because I was his division commander in the Eastern Mindanao Command.”

Just lucky

Mapagu said that the pool of generals from which Ms Arroyo selected the Army chief was filled with qualified persons. “I was just lucky I was the one chosen by the President,” he said.

Mapagu said his new position was not a reward for loyalty.

“I did not reach this rank because of President Arroyo. I rose from the ranks through my own merit. I started as a second lieutenant and I earned my stars. My record will speak for itself,” he said.

He said Ferrer’s grumbling did not affect the chain of command. “The Philippine Army remains intact.”

Mapagu said that not all members of Class ’78 were being promoted. “There are those who are not.”

He said he had not received any illegal orders and that he would never follow one. He also warned soldiers against engaging in partisan politics.

Mitra defends soldiers

“Any soldier who would be proven to have committed electioneering would face sanctions and would face punishment as grave as dismissal from the service,” he said.

Ramon Mitra, 45, a Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate and former Marine captain, said soldiers had no right to grumble about the President promoting loyal officers. He said that PMA Class ’78 had some of the military’s “most brilliant and honorable soldiers.”

“The fact that they are trusted gives them the most critical qualification to key posts in the government and nobody is questioning that,” said the namesake son of the late Speaker Ramon V. Mitra.

“We are tired of being suspected of adventurism, we just want to be what we all are—good soldiers,” he said.

“For soldiers like us, happiness and fulfillment are defined differently. Where work is concerned, the key words continue to be honor, tradition and commitment to the service,” Mitra said.

“The supremacy of the people in a democratic government continues to be the basis of how we define our role in the society and the guide that makes our kind accept or reject a situation,” he said.

A recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Star, he was a second lieutenant and fresh out of the PMA when he fought on the side of then President Corazon Aquino in the 1989 coup attempt, the worst in the string of mutinies against her. With reports from Nikko Dizon and Michael Lim Ubac

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.