While playing down talk about a new attempt to destabilize the government, the Armed Forces is taking no chances and has ordered commanders in the field to prevent their men from being infiltrated or incited by agitators.
“We’ve instructed our commanders to tell their men not to allow themselves to be used by groups that are using this current issue to further their vested interests,” Maj. Gen. Edilberto Adan, the AFP deputy chief of staff, said Tuesday.
Warnings have been raised about resentment and demoralization spreading among the troops in the light of allegations of corruption in the high levels of the military.
The Armed Forces comptroller, Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, is facing court-martial on suspicion of amassing illegal wealth. Graft charges against him have also been filed with the Office of the Ombudsman.
Adan said the corruption issue leaves the military “open to exploitation from groups with vested interests.”
On Monday Defense Undersecretary Antonio Santos told a Senate hearing of intelligence reports that some cliques within the military are having discreet discussions on Garcia’s case.
Adan dismissed the gatherings as mere “coffee-shop talk.”
Malacañang also dismissed reports of another coup plot fueled by low morale in the AFP.
President Arroyo views the investigation into corruption in the military as an opportunity to put an end to the tension spreading among its ranks, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said.
“We do not expect destabilization attempts, but widespread support from within the military establishment,” Bunye said.
Retired Commodore Rex Robles, a member of the Feliciano Commission that investigated the Oakwood mutiny last year, said that besides Garcia, two other generals are being investigated by the US authorities for unexplained wealth.
“The exposure and investigation of graft in the AFP will put an end to low morale and destabilization,” Bunye said.
Administration lawmakers in the House of Representatives are concerned and have asked the intelligence community to keep a close watch on supposed agitators.
Party-list representatives asked the President to immediately issue a hold departure order on Garcia and put him under house arrest to ensure his appearance in the hearing scheduled Wednesday.
The congressmen, led by the House majority leader. Prospero Nograles, called on the soldiers not to allow themselves to be fooled by those using the corruption issue to rise up against the Arroyo government.
Nograles said investigations being conducted separately by the Ombudsman and the House Committee on National Defense may cause some agitation, but these must be accepted as “a painful way of ferreting out the truth and cleansing the system at the AFP.”
Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Joel Virador urged the Ombudsman to speed up the filing of charges against Garcia in the Sandiganbayan.
The President “must immediately order the Bureau of Immigration to issue a hold departure order on Garcia. She must ensure his attendance [in the next hearing] to put substance to government’s oft-repeated rhetoric on combating graft and corruption in the military,” Ocampo said.
Virador said the President must exhaust all means to ensure Garcia’s appearance at the House probe.
“Garcia’s case is too big an issue that Malacañang can ill-afford to mishandle lest it want to spark a sequel to the Oakwood mutiny. The Garcia case goes beyond the AFP top brass and rests right on Malacañang’s doorstep,” Virador said.
Cerilles, a member of the Committee on Rules, warned officers plotting destabilization to respect the rule of law in the resolution of Garcia’s case instead of inflaming the situation through agitation of the rank and file.
Cerilles said unless the issue of graft and corruption in the military is resolved, the AFP will always be fertile ground for destabilization and military adventurism.
Lakas-CMD Rep. Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro called for the resignation and expulsion of legislators found to be involved in the AFP corruption mess.
Jaraula expressed disgust at disclosures that some members of Congress may have received proceeds of the “conversion” from military officers lobbying for favorable legislation especially during the last campaign.
— With Maricel V. Cruz