Philippines: Retired colonel challenges Esperon, AFP top brass — ‘All right, sir?’

May. 09, 2007

Below is a letter addressed to AFP chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon and the military top brass:

The recent absentee voters exercise in the Armed Forces of the Philippines is an added unhappy revelation to me, a retired officer and graduate of the Philippine Military Academy.

Information reportedly given by soldiers from different areas in the country claim that they were supervised by their commanders and ordered to vote straight Team Unity and for party list Bantay of retired general Palparan. The soldiers come from Tarlac, from Samar, and from Davao. Personally, I also have my own informant confirming the same. Although out of the service, I still have a few soldiers in the active service who maintain contact with me.

However, a news item in the Inquirer, dated 7 May 2007, says, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. Sunday said there was no order or instruction from the military top brass for AFP officers and enlisted men to vote for administration candidates and pro-government party-list groups in the absentee voting for military personnel and on election day itself. The other generals named in the story are Philippine Army commander Gen Romeo Tolentino, PMA Class 1974 (a mistah of Esperon), and Gen Armando Cunanan, PMA Class 1975.

The official denial came from AFP Chief of Staff Esperon during an ANC interview, disclaiming authorship of any order requiring soldiers to vote straight TU and for Bantay. No statement came from the other two named generals.

As graduates of the PMA we usually give the benefit of the doubt to a fellow alumnus. Why should we believe the soldiers whose training is mainly to obey without question and not a PMA graduate who has risen to the topmost rung of the military hierarchy and whose training included being true to his word and deed? But recent history makes me have second thoughts about trusting Esperon. He seems to embody the ideals of the Academy, namely, Courage and Loyalty. But about Integrity, that seems to be another matter. He did demonstrate his loyalty to his Commander-in-Chief, and undoubtedly just as strongly his courage to defend her. Was it not him who suppressed the truth by ordering Gen Gudani not to testify in a Senate hearing on the 2004 elections and had him court-martialed for doing so? Until now, I have yet to read and know the Mayuga report on the matter. To me, either Esperon is telling the truth, or he is lying.

On the other hand, if Esperon was truly not the source of the order to his soldiers on how to vote, who gave the order? If he is telling the truth, then he has lost control of the AFP because someone in the organization can give out operational orders without his knowledge. And the soldiers, who have followed the instructions to vote according to his order, will, in the future, have doubts that orders from the AFP Chief of Staff may not really be those that come from him. And even if these orders really came from him, these may be ignored and disobeyed.
To me the recent implementation of absentee voting is a blatant betrayal of the pledge given by the AFP that it will remain non-partisan in the 2007 elections.

Either way, whether Esperon lied or not, he has lost not only the respect of the soldiery but also of those alumni who share my views regarding his integrity. His behavior is giving us PMA graduates disrepute and dishonor. Those of us who continue to live by the PMA principles do not deserve such degradation and distrust.

I hereby invoke an Honor Code challenge to each of you Generals Esperon, Tolentino and Cunanan, as well as to AFP spokesman Colonel Bacarro: In all these things happening in the AFP, are you ALL RIGHT SIR?

Colonel, PA (Retired)
8078 Mangga St, Marcelo Green Village
Paranaque City

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