MANILA, MARCH 11, 2012 (STANDARD) by Maricel Cruz - THE conflicting statements on the alleged coup plot against President Benigno Aquino III have prompted several lawmakers to call for a review of how the Armed Forces, the National Police, and the Office of the President have been using their multi-billion-peso intelligence funds.

The lawmakers find it “strange” that while the Armed Forces has dispelled the coup rumors, President Aquino on national television last week revealed there was threat to his life, a claim that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (photo at right) and Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said was for real.

“With the [Armed Forces] not affirming PNoy’s [Aquino]’s statement, the perception arises that one of them is paranoid or the other is inept,” Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said.

Meanwhile an Army colonel assigned to Mindanao says President Aquino’s vindictiveness against the military has been frustrating senior, middle-grade and junior officers and enlisted personnel who have been discussing it among themselves.

“When some active officers and retired generals gather to talk about what’s happening in the organization, does that mean they are cooking up something like a coup to overthrow a vindictive President?” the officer told the Manila Standard.

“Those floating a coup plot are obviously soliciting political mileage for their own interest.”

Pro-administration Rep. Teddy Baguilat says reliable intelligence work is crucial to protecting the life of the President and preserving the nation’s stability and security.

“It is ridiculous and shocking to know that we cannot rely on the credibility and veracity of the reports coming from military and police intelligence forces on the recent coup reports despite the gargantuan intelligence budget allocated annually for these agencies and their operations,” Magsaysay said.

The Armed Forces have an annual intelligence budget of P124 million, and the police P270 million. The Office of the President has P600 million in intelligence funds for 2012 --- almost double the combined budget of the Armed Forces and the National Police, official records show.

“The intelligence services have been given hefty increases, in fact double what they got the previous year. And all we got in terms of intelligence reports are conflicting statements that have led to more confusion,” Magsaysay said.

“The fact that the [Armed Forces] denied the coup rumors while the President confirmed that there indeed were threats to his life shows the pressing need to review the intelligence finds being used by the [Armed Forces AFP and the [Office of the President].

“And since the President is the commander in chief, he should be the first to know what is happening in the country given the huge budgets and resources at his command.”

President Aquino earlier confirmed that unnamed parties were seeking to oust him as a result of his anti-corruption campaign.

But Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda played down the coup rumors.

Presidential Security Group head Col. Ramon Mateo Dizon said “nobody joined that alleged recruitment if it really happened.”

Earlier this week, Trillanes, a former military officer who led a failed coup against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo twice, warned Malacańang of a brewing attempt to overthrow President Aquino, saying the plotters were using the “red scare” to recruit soldiers. But the Armed Forces described the threat as non-existent.

Biazon, another former military officer, validated the coup reports.

Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said the conflicting reports on the coup and the President’s admission of the threat to his life should compel Congress to “perform wisely its power on appropriations by examining proposed budgets and purposes.”

Baguilat said the coup talk was inevitable given the “volatile political situation” brought about by recent political developments like the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the government’s pursuit of corruption charges against the past administration.

He said the administration seemed to be fixated on its anti-corruption campaign while less focusing on the more important concerns. With Florante S. Solmerin

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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