T for Trouble

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Rafael M. Alunan III

To Take A Stand

President Rodrigo Duterte claimed last Saturday, Sept. 8, that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is colluding with the Liberal Party (yellows) and the communists (reds) in efforts to topple his government by October. Trillanes, meanwhile, remains camped out in his Senate office as of this writing to avoid arrest following the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 572 (PP572).

President Duterte signed PP572 on Aug. 31 voiding Trillanes’ amnesty which purportedly was invalid from the start because of the latter’s alleged failure to submit an official amnesty application form and admit his guilt over his involvement in the uprisings against former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The President’s revelation in Davao prompted the AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Carlito G Galvez, to issue a forceful statement, to wit:

• The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) submits to the majesty of the Supreme Court (SC) and yields to its wisdom as it tackles the petition filed by Senator Trillanes pertaining to PP 572.

• In deference to the SC that has taken cognizance of the case, we will not anymore comment on its merits as we hope other parties would follow suit.

• Let me belie claims by some quarters of divisiveness or rumblings in the AFP. I assure our people that, as in many times in the past, the AFP will be one and undivided as an organization.

• Let me then, as the AFP Chief of Staff, take this occasion to warn persons who or groups that attempt to divide the AFP by sowing intrigues and discord among its Officers and Enlisted personnel. You will not succeed.

• I am nonetheless reminding every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine not to meddle or take part in partisan politics. Our loyalty is to the Constitution. I command the troops to adhere to the rule of law and always obey the Chain of Command. Violation of these instructions will be dealt with severely; and personnel who will get involved will be immediately relieved from their posts and investigated.

• While I am aware that the troops have individual views on many issues, those merely hallmark an intelligent and matured organization like the AFP. But we always put the interest of the organization and the nation above our own.

• Finally, I have, as the appointing authority, commissioned the General Court Martial (GCM) that shall continue hearing the case of the erstwhile Navy Lieutenant Trillanes IV. When the GCM resumes, it shall proceed from where it stopped in its proceedings when Presidential Proclamation 75 was signed.

• The proceedings, however, will be held in abeyance until the SC has ruled on the merits of PP572.

The way I see it, from what has been reported about Senator Trillanes and the way he has conducted himself publicly through the years, he does come across as a cocky obnoxious Manchurian candidate, someone controlled by foreign and local principals to divide institutions and society, so that they can rule us. We should research whose bidding he did that for; for how much; and at what cost to the nation given all his malicious machinations, misadventures and miscalculations?

His fellow PMA cavaliers have spoken out against him. My estimate is that the Senate and the House would have a low opinion of him as well. If a survey was done today to gauge the extent of society’s support for him, I believe he’d receive low marks too. Social media circles spew fire and brimstone against his outlandish claims and calumny. He didn’t fool BBC’s Stephen Sakur, that’s for sure, who unmasked him for what he really is — fraudulent.

Now comes the issue of amnesty. He insists he was granted that. But wasn’t the process improperly executed to begin with and did he actually fulfill all of the requirements? Here’s someone whose shattered credibility and integrity as mutineer, coup plotter, backchannel and oppositionist, wants us to believe him one more time.

On Jan. 5, 2011 GMA News Online reported Trillanes’ “general admission of guilt” for violating military rules and the Revised Penal Code (RPC). Despite the admission, he said he never regretted participating in the 2003 mutiny where some 300 “Magdalo” rebels took over the Oakwood Hotel in Makati to air their grievances against the Arroyo administration. He says they never denied what he described was “something out of the ordinary.” While admitting to “violating some rules,” they did not own up to the mutiny and coup d’etat charges lodged against them in civil and military courts.

Let’s see where all this will lead us to. But for now, the uncertainty is destabilizing the business climate. Investors are on neutral mode to wait out the fluid situation. Both friend and foe say the President isn’t helping the situation any. As a friend, I’ll stick my neck out to express my thoughts on mitigating risk.

1. Less talk, less mistake.

2. Insist on timely, accurate and thorough info to make informed decisions.

3. Avoid rash decisions or speaking in public when you’re angry.

4. You’re on the global stage. Anything you say or do could be used against you.

5. Insist on strategy-based performance and results from well selected teams.

6. Appoint new whips if incumbents are not up to the job to carry out your intent.

7. Clean up the stables of those unfit to serve and hire professionals to help you.

8. Choose your battles, don’t overextend.

9. Win the war on crime and corruption with criminal justice system reform.

10. Threats to quit demoralizes society and emboldens its enemies.

11. You’re damned, right or wrong. Just do what’s right and do it the right way.

Mr. President, your enemies want you out of Malacañang on or before the end of this year. That, plus your threats to quit, are destabilizing and deflating. They offer no stability nor clarity, no hope nor solutions to the people’s daily crosses.

Hang tough and let them tighten their own nooses around their necks. Don’t let them wear you down. Rest easy, the AFP-PNP and the people are behind you.


Rafael M. Alunan served in the cabinet of President Corazon C. Aquino as Secretary of Tourism, and in the cabinet of President Fidel V. Ramos as Secretary of Interior and Local Government.