Arroyo has always faced problems of dissent within the military so she rewards those loyal to her and no doubt wants to ensure that she has control over the military. With her lack of support among the general populace Arroyo needs other means to stay in power. However, for the most part she seems to be able to bride and manipulate enough parliamentarians and local officials to keep them loyal to her. It remains to be seen whether she will be able to ram through constitutional change to allow her to remain in power.
Solons warn vs. military control
Say GMA moves could be prelude to martial law
BY JP LOPEZ
SENATORS yesterday questioned what they called "creeping militarization" in government with the appointment of retired and controversial generals, and warned that the moves could be a prelude to declaration of martial law or emergency rule.
"Para sa milyong Pilipino na walang tiwala sa administrasyon, ang ibig sabihin nito’y pinaliligiran na ni GMA ang sarili niya ng mga taong walang kwestiyon sa anumang iligal na utos mula sa Pangulo. Martial law na ba ang kasunod nito?" said Sen. Mar Roxas.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the appointments of retired generals could be part of President Arroyo’s plan to consolidate her power base.
"What is her power base? The base is no longer the Filipino people in that sense because almost eight out of 10 are disappointed. So, if the people no longer trust the President, where will she get her support? She is getting it now from the active and retired military men. She’s getting it from the Armed Forces," he said.
Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the latest assignments are proof of what he called the awesome influence, if not control, that some generals wield over the Arroyo government.
Tirso Danga, a former vice admiral, has been appointed to head the National Printing Office which prints government forms and documents including election returns and ballots.
He was one of the key figures in the 2005 "Hello Garci" controversy along with former peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon.
Esperon, a former AFP chief, has been tapped to replace Cerge Remonde as director of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS). Remonde will be press secretary effective Feb. 1.
The PMS is tasked with managing the development and formulation of projects and policies of the Office of the President.
Avelino Razon, a former PNP chief and mistah of Esperon in PMA Class 1974, is new peace adviser.
Jovito Palparan, a former major general in the Army, is being groomed for a position at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or Dangerous Drugs Board.
Palparan has been blamed by militants for the extra-judicial killings and disappearances of political activists reported since 2001.
Roxas expressed deep suspicions on the move of Arroyo to appoint Danga.
"Sa pag-appoint ni GMA kay Danga sa NPO ay lalo lang tumindi ang suspetsa natin na walang balak si GMA na gawing malinis ang susunod na halalan," Roxas said.
Roxas said Danga’s appointment to NPO could be Plan B if President Arroyo and her allies in Congress fail to ram through Charter change through a Constituent Assembly.
"Hindi pa nga nasasagot ni Admiral Danga ang mga tanong sa kanyang naging papel sa kaso ng Hello Garci ay eto at siya pa ang ilalagay sa ahensyang gagawa ng mga balota para sa eleksyon. Talagang garapalan na ang ginagawa ng Malacanang," he said.
"What assurance do we have that this is not a plot to manipulate the printing of ballots for the 2010 elections for the benefit of the administration? None, given this administration’s black record of cheating, stealing and lying," Roxas said.
Pimentel said instead of resurrecting Palparan’s career, President Arroyo should pursue his criminal prosecution.
"We cannot tolerate a situation where suspects in drug-related offenses will just disappear or be found floating in the Pasig River," Pimentel said.
"I believe that it would be better for the Arroyo government to drop its plan to name Palparan as a chief enforcer of our drug laws. It is like putting a hammer and knocking it against one’s head," he said.
Pimentel questioned the qualifications of Esperon for the PMS post.
He noted that during Esperon’s stint as peace adviser, peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front suffered a setback when the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain was voided by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.
Remonde defended the appointment and nominees of retired military and police officials in the Cabinet.
"It is unfair to discriminate against former military generals, I mean are they lesser persons? Are they lesser qualified because they are former generals?"
Retired military officials in government are Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita; Arturo Carillo, military affairs adviser; Honesto Isleta, presidential assistant on strategic information; Glenn Rabonza, Office of the Civil defense executive director and national disaster coordinating council administrator; Angel Atutubo, Manila International Airport Authority assistant general manager; Thelmo Cunanan, chairman of the Social Security System; and Proceso Maligalig, head of Bataan Shipyard.
Retired police generals are Razon; Arturo Lomibao, incoming LTFRB chief; Edgar Aglipay, chair of the Philippine Retirement Agency; Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., public works secretary; Leandro Mendoza, transportation and communications secretary; and Roberto Lastimoso, director of Metro Rail Transit Corp.
Former AFP chiefs of staff in government are Angelo Reyes, secretary of energy; Narciso Abaya, chair of Bases Conversion Development Authority; Dionisio Santiago, PDEA director;
Roy Cimatu, special envoy to Middle East; Efren Abu, ambassador to Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asia growth Area (BIMP-EAGA); and Generoso Senga, ambassador to Iran.
Other uniformed officials who have been appointed are Orlando Macaspac, presidential adviser for police affairs; Florencio Fianza, former chairman of the Philippine Racing Commission; Vidal Querol, ambassador to Indonesia; and Ernesto de Leon, ambassador to Australia.
Remonde dismissed observations that the appointment of some uniformed officials is in anticipation of a declaration of martial law, or even a possible term extension for Arroyo, saying it is an "over reaction" and a "very convenient boogeyman" being raised by critics. – With Jocelyn Montemayor