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‘Don’t insult my men’

Chito Lozada

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President Rodrigo Duterte warned Congress not to haul his appointees for an investigation and subject them to insults just like what happened to former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Angelo Reyes who was disrespected by Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Jinggoy Estrada during a Senate hearing.

Reyes took his life after being subjected to humiliation from senators during a 2011 inquiry into alleged corrupt practices in the AFP, including pabaons (send-off gifts) to retiring generals (see related story on page 2 “Putting down a general”).

Trillanes and Estrada accused Reyes of a larger scale of corrupt dealings in the military, accusing him of being behind the alleged huge amounts of money plundered from the AFP by former Comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.

Reyes committed suicide on 8 February 2011 in front of his mother’s grave shortly after his Senate appearance.

During his 28 October speech on the 48th birthday celebration of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Mr. Duterte, apparently referring to the possibility of a congressional investigation on the P11-billion smuggled shabu that escaped Bureau of Customs detection that implicated former Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, warned legislators “do not insult my soldiers and police officers”.

“I told (those to be subjected to a probe by Congress), if you go there you state your position clearly: ‘I am here in response or to respond to your summons to me and for me to tell the truth’”.

Don’t take insults

I warned them against insulting military and police officials. “You know, I’m referring to Angie Reyes. How much (was) the money involved? Two million? And look who were investigating them. Where are they now? And so how much? You do those things.

“No, sit down because you have no dignity,” Mr. Duterte said in apparent reference to an insulting statement made by Trillanes to Reyes during the Senate probe.

“So my orders to my police and to the Armed Forces, if that happens to you, you stand up. That’s what I ordered Bato (former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Gen. Ronald de la Rosa) to do. If you are shouted at, insulted, degraded, you stand up and say I am going home,” Mr. Duterte said.

Just tell them that the President ordered you to say: “Senator whatever, I came here for this purpose since I am being pummeled here by so many insults and epithets, curses, I will just go home,” the President added.

“And I told them, if they are caught, call me. And I will go to Congress. I will not use soldiers there,” he said.

“I will go there, I will go to Congress and explain to them my point that their investigation does not include stripping a human, a Filipino of his dignity. Then I’ll bring him out. If they do not want to release him then I’ll close…What now? Tell me. How do you want it played?” he said.

A question of mandate

“That’s what I’m telling the Armed Forces even the police when I offered to resign. I tell them, you know I was elected by the people. You have your own mandate. And everything, if it’s your mandate then do it,” he said.

“So with that I have conveyed to you my personal reaction to – to the days that have passed causing us sorrow because it is downright humiliating. Imagine, Customs being hoodwinked? It was the same case with (former Customs Commissioner Nicanor) Faeldon,” Mr. Duterte said.

He maintained full trust in Lapeña and Faeldon saying “soldiers? They will not sacrifice their career for something like that. They are too smart to do such kind of an idiotic smuggling. They were really deceived, the system is always there,” he added.

“So even if I can’t dismantle the system because the law would not allow me, I can temporarily remove you. I’ll put in soldiers. I have ordered the Army and the Navy to contribute their technical men. They’re already there because I’m asking (Finance Secretary) Sonny (Dominguez) to call the guy who supplied us with that X-ray.”

“They would, in the meantime, go into special lectures (to train them) how to detect (smuggled items),” he said.

“So I told them, me? I am offering here to resign to the Armed Forces. There are three. Army, Navy, including the Air Force. So stand right now and say I have to go and I will step down,” he added.

Dispose of coup

He stressed that the military does not need to stage a coup to oust him. “Do not give me that b***s*** of bringing that armor there. That is a corny move. I’ll do you a favor. I will ask you. So who wanted to do it?” he said.

“You want generals? “Okay you line up there. Repeat after me.” No more papers. “I”, “I, General Esperon under an oath hereby swear to run this government and do the job of the President,” he said.

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