Roberto Rosales

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The military will be placed on red alert starting today as part of security preparations for the May 10 elections.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)–Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections), said the red alert status will be implemented until May 20 to allow the military to monitor the security situation in the field.

“The red alert will start at 8 a.m. It will be nationwide. We will start the manning of our (HOPE) operations center and that is the signal for us to start implementing our security operations,” Nepomuceno said.

A red alert means that all the military personnel should be readily available for deployment anytime. Such alert level would also entail the cancellation of all leaves to ensure adequate manpower.

Nepomuceno said the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the citizen arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), would send representatives to the HOPE operations center to enhance the gathering of poll-related updates.

He said the agreement with the PPCRV would allow HOPE to get feedback on the security issues on the precinct level.

The HOPE operation center would be located at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City and will be open to the media.

The PPCRV, as the Comelec’s deputized citizen arm, has been authorized to monitor the results of the May 10 elections. This is intended to promote transparency and accountability in the conduct of the polls.

The AFP is not allowed to engage in partisan politics but has been tasked to provide security during the transport of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to polling precincts nationwide.

In fact, heavily armed police and military forces were already deployed in strategic areas of Metro Manila yesterday to ensure the safe delivery of the PCOS machines.

Joint elements of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) and the AFP’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) in full battle gear were seen securing vehicles transporting 7,555 PCOS machines, 6.13 million ballots and ballot boxes and election paraphernalia to 743 precincts in Metro Manila.

NCRPO chief Director Roberto Rosales said the police and NCRCom vehicles securing the delivery trucks had global positioning system (GPS) devices for monitoring purposes.

The central hub is being secured by eight NCRPO and 15 NCRCom personnel who barred police officials and journalists who cannot produce access cards issued by Smartmatic from entering.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, on the other hand, said that agencies like the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Energy (DOE), Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the local government units (LGU) help in the implementation of safety measures during the polls.

“All other government agencies cannot afford to be mere bystanders in this historic and very important national exercise. Everyone has a moral obligation and duty to choose a new set of national and local leaders in an honest and orderly manner,” said Verzosa.

Because of this overwhelming effort by the AFP and the PNP, Malacañang expressed confidence that their respective members would remain professional and not allow themselves to be influenced by partisan groups.

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said the soldiers and policemen would remain true to their oath to defend democracy.

“Let us remember even in election time despite attacks on the integrity of certain individuals, the fact is the AFP and the police have performed their jobs in securing the elections and affirming our democratic exercises even beyond the call of duty,” Saludo told a news briefing.

He said the Armed Forces and the PNP play a key role in ensuring the success of the elections.

Old generals support Noynoy

Meanwhile, a group of retired military and police officers yesterday expressed support for the candidacy of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and vowed to guard against cheating in the upcoming May 10 polls.

In a statement, the group claiming to be EDSA 1986 veterans said Aquino can implement genuine reforms in the government and provide solutions to the problems plaguing the county.

“Many of us in recent years followed our ailing President Cory Aquino in her crusade to change a more oppressive, corrupt regime and unite the Filipino people in a fight for true reforms in ourselves, in our institutions and in our national character,” the statement read.

“Our beloved President Cory is now in the heavens but the torch of this crusade is now passed to her son, Senator “Noynoy” Aquino, who is seeking the presidency in 2010 to effect the reforms that all Filipinos are longing for,” it added.

“We would like to inform our people that we are now prepared to protect the votes of every Filipino and to ensure that these votes will be counted. We will see to it that the PNP and armed forces will do their duty,” he said.

Montaño said they will also remind those in active service to be faithful to their duties and to remain non-partisan.

He said they have learned their lesson in 2004 when they backed the candidacy of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., the closest rival of President Arroyo in the presidential race.

“If we know how we were cheated last time, we know how to counter it,” Montaño said. – Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero

General hurting at bypass

General hurting at bypass
No clapping on Army chief’s promotion
By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The military officer whom President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo designated as martial law administrator in Maguindanao province last year has admitted he’s not happy over being bypassed in the selection of the new commander of the Army.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command, said on Tuesday he and other ranking military officers were “not clapping [their] hands or celebrating” the appointment of Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu as Army chief.

“But we’re not questioning the prerogative of the President,” Ferrer quickly added. “It’s [her] prerogative to appoint military officers whom she trusts to key positions.”

Ferrer spoke with the Philippine Daily Inquirer after testifying at Tuesday’s hearing in Camp Crame of the rebellion case against members of the powerful Ampatuan family of Maguindanao.

Ms Arroyo declared martial law in the province on Dec. 4, 2009, naming Ferrer as administrator, and lifted it on Dec. 12.

The martial law declaration was in connection with the purported rebellion of the Ampatuans and their followers, the suspects in the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people, including at least 30 journalists, in Maguindanao.

Good soldier

Asked what he felt when he was passed over for the top Army post, Ferrer said: “I will just do my job. As a soldier, I will follow orders. I respect the prerogative of the President.”

Ferrer also spoke highly of Mapagu: “He’s qualified for the position because he also served as a division commander. He rose [through] the leadership ladder.”

A 1977 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Ferrer was expected to replace Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit as Army chief. (Bangit, a former head of the Presidential Security Group, was appointed AFP chief of staff last week.)

But Ms Arroyo appointed Mapagu who, like Bangit, is a member of PMA Class of 1978, which has adopted the President as an honorary member.

The appointments of Bangit and Mapagu were followed by that of their “mistah” (classmate)—Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue—as chief of the Army’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom).

Angue’s appointment further fueled speculation about the so-called “Oplan August Moon,” a purported plan designed to extend Ms Arroyo’s stay in power and entailing putting members of PMA Class ’78 in vital military and police posts.

NCRCom is known as the primary anti-coup unit of the military.

Another member of the class, Director Roberto Rosales, is being rumored to replace Director General Jesus Verzosa as chief of the Philippine National Police. Rosales heads the Metro Manila police force.

PMA ’77 meeting

The talk going around is that members of PMA Class of 1977 met somewhere in Metro Manila a few hours after the Department of National Defense confirmed Mapagu’s appointment as Army chief on March 10.

Ferrer declined to comment when asked. “I don’t know anything about it,” he said in Filipino.

But according to a senior police officer, the meeting indeed took place.

“The officers were just concerned about the sudden turn of events in the military and its major services,” said the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

New NCR military chief another Arroyo classmate

New NCR military chief another Arroyo classmate
By Reynaldo Santos Jr

MANILA, Philippines—Many were skeptical when Gen. Delfin Bangit, upon his assumption as chief of staff of the Armed Forces, vowed to shield the military from being used in fraudulent acts in the elections.

Bangit, after all, is known to be loyal to President Arroyo. In 2004, several generals were implicated in a grand scheme to rig the elections in favor of Ms. Arroyo.

On Saturday, Bangit seemed out to prove that he’d keep his word that “only God can use me.” He placed Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue at the helm of the military’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom), replacing Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, who had been promoted chief of the Philippine Army.

Bangit, Angue, and Mapagu belong to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, which counts President Arroyo as honorary member. The PNP’s Commander for NCR, Roberto Rosales, is also their classmate.

On May 11, 2004, Angue, then a Navy captain, was pulled out from his assignment as commander of Task Force 62 that controlled military troops in Tawi-Tawi on suspicion that he was aiding President Arroyo’s rival, Fernando Poe Jr.

It turned out, according to some concerned soldiers, Angue was in fact trying to frustrate the administration’s move to use the military in Tawi-Tawi to rig the votes.

Newsbreak reported in 2005 that Tawi-Tawi was the only province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where Poe won (49,803 against Arroyo’s 33,634).

Former Tawi-Tawi Rep. Nur Jaafar had admitted to Newsbreak that he sought the removal of Angue at the time because the Navy captain was “fraternizing” with Gov. Sadikul Sahali, who was campaigning for Poe.

“He (Angue) was hostile to us, allowing our rivals to use military vehicles,” according to Jafaar, who lost.

A source close to Angue, however, told Newsbreak that he didn’t mind being pulled out because it was a choice between “taking a leave or taking part in the cheating.”

In an interview at the time, Angue denied that he was biased for the opposition. “What I made sure precisely was for the military not to be used,” he said.

In the wiretapped conversation that was uncovered a year later, the President asked Virgilio Garcillano about reports that the opposition was preparing an election complaint in Calanguyan, Tawi- Tawi.

Garcillano told her not to worry because, after all, “wala naman tayong ginawa doon (we didn’t do anything there).” They even lost there, he said.

Before heading the military’s NCR Com, Angue was assigned chief of staff of the Philippine Navy. He was with the rebel military group behind the coup attempts during the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino in the 1980s. (Newsbreak)