RAPS  THREAT  VS  MARINE  COLONEL, AN  ISOLATED  CASE, SAYS  PALACE
 

MANILA,
June 22, 2006 (MALAYA) THE Armed Forces yesterday threatened to file charges against Marine Col. Orlando de Leon who denounced the politicization of the military, among other grievances, when he resigned last week as chief of staff of the Marine Corps, the third top post in the corps.

Col. Tristan Kison, chief of the AFPís public information office, said it was not right for De Leon to air his grievances before media.

"The proper venue for airing grievances in the AFP is the unit, his own unit which is the Philippine MarinesÖIf you would like to resign with your resignation letter, you present that resignation letter to your commander, not to the media," Kison said.

AFP chief Gen. Generoso Senga said the alleged politicization "is an opinion of one officer, so I think we should take it as that."

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who served as defense chief in the Marcos and Aquino administrations, urged the Palace to look into De Leonís complaints as he said grumblings are commonplace in the military and the PNP.

He said De Leonís denunciation of politicization of the AFP would not be enough to stoke another military-instigated uprising like the failed July 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

"One colonel complaining does not result in the government being toppled," he said.

He said government is not a "brittle" fortress that would easily crumble just because a disenchanted Marine officer decided to speak out his mind.

Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel said De Leonís resignation was a "terrible indictment of the commander-in-chiefís mismanagement of the AFP and the corruption of some of its generals."

"De Leonís lament bespeaks of the sad state of the way the Armed Forces, in general, has been politicized and misused for the attainment of the personal ends of the powerful," he said.

"His charges are validated by the continuing abuse of power, plunder of the economy and disrespect for the Constitution by the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," he added.

The United Opposition said De Leonís resignation is another proof that politicization has damaged the military as an institution and has demoralized its ranks.

House minority leader Francis Escudero, UNO secretary general, said De Leonís resignation is just one of the offshoots of having a politicized Armed Forces, which he said was evident with the use of the military to ensure President Arroyoís victory in the 2004 elections.

"It is something that they (administration) should not ignore but rather address. This indicates that there are problems within the AFP that need to be resolved," he said.

ISOLATED CASE

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the media should not feast on this "isolated case."

"Officers come and go in the corps but the essential imperatives of soldiery Ė loyalty, professionalism, morale and strict adherence to the chain of command Ė are undiminished. They are in fact getting stronger everyday as a result of strong internal reforms and modernization programs," he said.

De Leon, in his resignation letter dated June 15 and addressed to Marines commandant Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga, said he "deemed it befitting to resign in a situation when truth is buried under a blurred and vague interpretation of the significant events in the history of our beloved Marine Corps."

He said "technicalities and politics" now dominate and cloud the real goals, objectives and missions of the AFP and that "survival and threats" reign over the principles and honor of many officers.

He also said the time-tested military values and virtues of courage, integrity and loyalty, which he said were demonstrated by great military leaders, "no longer exist in the vocabulary of many officials in this armed organization."

Copies of his letter were distributed to media Monday during the launch of the second impeachment drive against President Arroyo. The impeachment complaint is expected to be filed next week.

Kison said it was not right for De Leon to distribute copies of his resignation letter to members of the media.

"First of all, he made public the letter in a forum that is not a forum of the Armed Forces. He made it public at a campaign for impeachment. It is not a proper venue," he said.

Kison said it would be up to the Marines leadership to act on De Leonís case.

Kison said De Leon, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class Ď82, could face charges for violation of the Articles of War.

"If the commander feels that the Articles of War is applicable, then he will file the necessary, appropriate charges," Kison said.

WRONG FORUM

Told De Leon first furnished Allaga with the letter before the document was distributed to media, Kison said: "Whichever, that is not the right forum."

Asked what exactly caused De Leonís resignation, Kison said: "There are so many conflicting reports but at this point we cannot make any confirmed statement about what really happened."

De Leon, who is now on floating status, would not answer calls. A mediaman who sent a text message got this reply from De Leon: "I am sorry, I canít talk right now, I hope you understand."

Marines spokesman Maj. Ariel Caculitan on Tuesday said Allaga ordered De Leon relieved because he was being groomed to be the chief of staff of the Naval Education and Training Command.

He refused to elaborate. He only said the prerogative of commanders to relieve officers could not be questioned.

Senga said there is no plan to look into De Leonís allegations as it is a policy of the Armed Forces to remain apolitical.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said an officerís transfer is a normal occurrence. What is unusual, he said, was how the media got wind of such movement within the Marines when it is not normally announced or made public.

Media persons were not informed of the turnover of De Leonís post to Lt. Col. Armando BaŮez on June 15.

Ermita said it is understandable for Allaga, as new commandant, to get a new staff he is comfortable with.

De Leon was reportedly among those who opposed Allagaís assumption as Marines commandant during the standoff at the Marines headquarters in Fort Bonifacio on Feb. 26.

The standoff was triggered by protests from Marines officers and men, led by Col. Ariel Querubin, over the relief of Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda as their commandant.

Querubin was sacked on Feb. 28 as chief of the First Marine Brigade. He was also linked to the supposed plot to overthrow government on Feb. 24.

De Leon, according to Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, is under investigation for the Feb. 24 coup and the standoff.

Biazon was a Marines commandant and former AFP chief.

Ermita said the incident was being highlighted probably because of recent developments in the Marines, including the standoff.

ALLíS NOT WELL

Rep. Rufino Biazon (LP, Muntinlupa), vice chair of the House committee on national defense, said the administration is reaping what it sowed.

"Colonel De Leonís resignation is a sign that all is still not well within the AFP and that politicization of the military has eroded the morale of soldiers," he said.

He said the issues "need to be faced squarely and addressed directly, otherwise, the demoralization wills spread."

Rep. Benasing Macarambon (Lakas, Lanao del Sur), a senior vice chair of the committee on national defense, said the opposition and other anti-Arroyo forces are just out to use the Marines to create "intrigues" to oust Arroyo.

Macarambon said De Leonís resignation is apparently being used by anti-Arroyo forces in light of reports his letter was circulated in the forum organized by the group Concerned Citizens at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City on Monday night, where the new impeachment charge against Arroyo was discussed.

Macarambon said the opposition, which met Monday night, is apparently planning something new against the President in anticipation of the filing of another impeachment complaint.

"Weíve seen this tactic before, in the series of protests up to and during the first impeachment bid, all of which failed. But they will never succeed in ousting the President because the people want only peace and a better economy until the completion of her term in 2010," he said. Ė Victor Reyes, Jocelyn Montemayor, Dennis Gadil and Wendell Vigilia


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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