‘Emperor’ orders probe of officers’ meet with Aquino
By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Who is griping against the “emperor?”
Gen. Delfin Bangit, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has expressed concern over a newspaper report that officers belonging to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1977 met with Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the Liberal Party presidential candidate.
The report, not in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, quoted an unnamed source as saying that these officers were complaining about the appointment as military chief of Bangit, who used the code “emperor” when he headed the Intelligence Service of the AFP.
Bangit said he had ordered an investigation of the supposed meeting that was said to have been attended by Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, who had expressed disappointment at being bypassed as Philippine Army chief.
“We would like to find out what the meeting was all about … and if the military officials were politicking. That’s why we are very careful about this,” Bangit told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo over the phone.
Military officials supporting certain candidates could be charged with violating military regulations, said Bangit, who was commandant of the Presidential Security Group when three coup attempts were mounted against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Our judge advocate will have to determine their corresponding punishment,” he said. “As long as they are not engaged in partisan politics, to me that’s fine.”
Bangit said he spoke Tuesday night with Ferrer who denied that there was such a meeting and told him that he was not consulting with any politician.
“I am appealing, time and again, to please spare the Armed Forces from partisan politics,” he said. “This is not helping the Armed Forces and the country.”
On Monday, Aquino told reporters that he had met with officers belonging to the PMA classes of 1977, 1978 and younger batches who he said were clueless on their role in case of a failure of elections.
“They will be one of the biggest stabilizing forces in the country. There will be a lot of pressure on them to stabilize the situation. They are thinking what exactly is their duty. I took their statement in the context that we are all citizens concerned about the elections and they are more constrained in voicing their opinions. Therefore, I gave them an ear that was sympathetic to their concerns, to give them the idea their concerns are being addressed,” said Aquino.
Ferrer had told the Inquirer that he and other military generals were not applauding the designation Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu as Army chief.
Both Bangit and Mapagu belong to PMA Class of 1978, which made Ms Arroyo as an honorary member.
Class never met with Aquino
Members of the PMA Class 1977 vehemently denied that they met with Aquino and discussed the possibility of a failure of elections.
Curiously, the same PMA class adopted Aquino’s fiercest rival, Nationalista Party presidential bet Sen. Manuel Villar, as honorary member.
Rear Adm. Danilo Cortez, Class ’77 president and the Philippine Navy vice commander, said his classmates “never met nor planned to meet” with Aquino.
“Our meetings were more of social gatherings. While we respect our classmates’ personal views on politics, we never discussed it as a group,” he said in a phone interview.
He said that the class members met last week but no politician was present in that event.
Ferrer a professional soldier
Asked when was the last time the group talked with Villar, he said the NP presidential candidate attended a luncheon meeting with them last year. “But politics was never discussed,” Cortez insisted.
He also raised doubts about Ferrer’s purported meeting with Aquino.
“Knowing him personally and as a friend, I don’t think he’s the kind of person who will gripe about not being promoted. He’s a very professional military officer,” Cortez said.
On Tuesday, Ms Arroyo met with her national security advisers about recent violent incidents in Mindanao, according to Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales. No details were disclosed. With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. and Christine O. Avendaño