MANILA – A loyalty check among members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not necessary despite a statement circulating in social media by purportedly active members of government forces calling for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The military’s public affairs chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo made this clear on Wednesday, August 23, in a radio interview.
The army colonel said the issues raised by the shadowy group calling themselves Patriotic and Democratic Movement (PADEM) were baseless.
“Hindi na po natin kailangang bigyang dignidad pa ang mga ganyang akusasyon sa pamamagitan ng pagsasagawa ng [We do not need to dignify their accusations by conducting a] loyalty check,” he said.
“Sigurado po tayo na ang miyembro ng AFP ay tumatalima sa ating Constitution at kumikilala sa duly constituted authority. Walang dahilan upang tanggalin ito at ang kanyang suporta sa commander-in-chief [We are sure that members of the AFP are obeying the Constitution and are acknowledging the duly constituted authority. There is no reason to remove this and to cut the support to the commander-in-chief],” he added.
Arevalo was responding to the statement issued this week by PADEM calling for Duterte to be held accountable for “betrayal of public trust and in violation of national sovereignty and democratic rights of the Filipino people.”
The group has listed 10 alleged crimes of the Duterte administration, which included corrupting the PNP and the AFP, allowing China to occupy the West Philippine Sea, and the mishandling of the Marawi City crisis.
They also vowed to work for the withdrawal of military and police support from the President, whom they accused of using government forces as his private army.
However, Arevalo maintained that the morale of the soldiers under the Duterte administration remained high and the orders given from the commander-in-chief to the military are legal and in accordance with the law.
“Tayo po ay tatalima sa anumang magiging kautusan ng ating commander-in-chief sapagkat ‘yun naman po ang nakatadhana sa ating sandatahang lakas ng Pilipinas [We will obey the orders of our commander-in-chief because that is the mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines],” he said in the DZRH interview.
He also said both the AFP and the PNP did not acknowledge the existence of the group, surmising it was a group whose members were pretending to be active members of government forces.
“This could be group na ina-assume ang sinasabi nilang personalidad nila or kasama sa grupo nila ang aktibong miyembro ng [who are assuming that part of their group are active members of the] AFP and PNP. Subalit [however], insofar as the AFP is concerned, wala pong ganyang grupo at hindi po ‘yan konektado sa AFP [there is no such group and it is not connected to the AFP],” he said.
He said they are verifying the identities of personalities behind PADEM and whether or not they are active members of the military and the police.
Arevalo also responded to an accusation by the group regarding the practice of favoritism in the military and violation of standards in the promotion and assignment of military officers.
“These are untrue and baseless. Meron po tayong board of senior officers, meron po tayong board of generals na sila pong nag-evaluate ng ating recommendees. At ‘yon naman po ay fino-forward lang natin sa [We have a board of senior officers, we have a board of generals who evaluate the recommendees. And that is what we are forwarding to the] commander-in-chief through the SND, Secretary of National Defense, for approval,” he explained.
As for the other issues that PADEM enumerated in their statement, Arevalo said these matters are currently being handled by appropriate government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs on the West Philippine Sea dispute.
“Kung ang hinggil sa West Philippines Sea, ‘yan po hina-handle ng [On the West Philippine Sea, that is being handled by the] Department of Foreign Affairs,” he said.
“Hindi gawain ng inyong armed forces ang diplomacy o ang foreign relations. Merong po tayong kagawaran ng ating pamahalaan na siya pong nakatadhanang gumanap ng tungkulin na ‘yan [Diplomacy and foreign relations are not the tasks of the Armed Forces. We have departments in the government whose mandates are to fulfill such responsibilities.],” he added.
Arevalo also said that the Marawi crisis should be focused instead on solving the conflict and the rehabilitation of the besieged Islamic City.
“Dito po natin ituon ang ating atensyon kagaya ng ginagawa ng AFP upang matapos ang problemang ito. Umpisahan na natin ang tinatawag na reconstruction and rehabilitation sa Marawi na siya naman pong matagal na po nating hinihintay [Let us focus our attention to the Marawi crisis as the AFP does to solve this problem. And let us start the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi that we were waiting for a long a time],” he said