PALACE TO LEADER OF OPPOSITION:  STOP POLITICS OF RUIN

MANILA,  May 18, 2004 (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva and Christina Mendez  -  Malacañang asked yesterday leaders of the opposition to "stop the politics of ruin" and rumor-mongering that add to post-election tension.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said this in response to the latest claims by some opposition leaders that military and police personnel were quietly mobilizing forces to tamper with the results of the May 10 elections.

"While the government is ready to face any threat of destabilization, we appeal to some politicians to stop the politics of ruin and rumor-mongering," Bunye said.

"Let us set aside our personal interest and consider the welfare of the Filipino people, who have suffered the brunt of selfish ambitions and sinister plans that erode political and economic stability," he said.

Bunye has repeatedly assured the public that law enforcement authorities are in full control of the situation, despite isolated incidents of election-related violence in various parts of the country.

While the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are ready to protect the public and maintain order, Bunye said leaders of the political opposition should do their share to ease post-election tension.

"The military and the police are there to protect the communities, but they cannot control the situation if the local candidates themselves cannot hold their tempers and their constituents in check," he said

He said the President called up law enforcement authorities in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat regarding reports of ballot-snatching Sunday by four people, who were killed by soldiers guarding the ballot boxes. "We appeal to all sides for calm and sobriety to prevent a spiral of violence," he added.

Based on initial reports reaching Manila, the ballot-snatching happened when the four slain suspects allegedly tried to prevent soldiers from loading the ballot boxes for transfer to the capital town of Sultan Kudarat for canvassing.

Meanwhile, Police Retirees Association Inc. chairman Gen. Guillermo Domondon has given strict orders barring all PRAI members from participating in any destabilization moves.

Domondon said PRAI officers, composed of retired police officers from the rank of general down to non-commissioned officers, vowed they would adhere to the Constitution and will not engage in partisan politics.

"PRAI members are under strict instructions not to participate in any destabilization movement," Domondon said.

He issued this statement after reports circulated that several retired PNP and AFP officials were recruiting other police and military personnel to participate in destabilization plots against the government.

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero said over the weekend that the 115,000 personnel of the AFP remain loyal to the chain of command.

The AFP leadership has reportedly ordered the arrest of Col. Jose Gamus, a deputy commander of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade based in Albay.

Gamus’ arrest was ordered by higher headquarters after it was established that he campaigned for Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.

He was accused of recruiting military and police personnel to destabilize the government for political reasons.

He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’76. Gamus was monitored recruiting in Jolo, Sulu last week with retired Gen. Braullo Balbas.

Despite this, Bunye said that "there is no need for a loyalty check (of the military and police personnel). The President is convinced that a greater number of AFP officers and men are loyal to the Constitution and they are loyal to the chain of command."

He added that the AFP has instituted disciplinary actions against Gamus, who was arrested last week for violating the military’s rules against electioneering among military personnel still active in the service.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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