Any attempt to oust President Rodrigo Duterte is bound to fail.
Retired Gen. Dionisio Santiago, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), declared this on Monday, citing the solid support being enjoyed by the Commander in Chief both by civilians and the men in uniform amid the noise of a coup d’ etat leading to the celebration of the EDSA People Power anniversary.
“Whoever is thinking of plotting or planning a coup d’etat should really think twice. It’s like going against a solid concrete wall,” said Santiago, who have fought coup plotters against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Recently, calls to rise against the Duterte administration are being floated on social media amid issues about the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, the spread of the dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid 2019), press freedom in view of the questioned ABS-CBN franchise, the arrest order against former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, the continued detention of Sen. Leila de Lima, and many other issues hounding the presidency.
The oust call also coincided with the upcoming anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt.
A group called “Bunyog,” allegedly led by a certain Ricky Tomotorgo, who his followers claim uses the alias Enzo Recto (insurrecto), is among those calling for the ouster of Mr. Duterte.
The group is also allegedly using social media to solicit funding for the move slated on 22 February — the first day of the 1986 EDSA revolution.
On the other hand, Tindig Pilipinas, which is identified with the political opposition and the liberals, is set to celebrate EDSA People Power on 25 February in a totally unrelated event to that of “Bunyog.”
Santiago, who last served as Dangerous Drugs Board chairman under the Duterte administration, claimed that nobody from the uniformed service will join any move against the Commander in Chief.
He stressed that no other president except for Mr. Duterte gave so much importance to the welfare of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Apart from this, Santiago cited the more than 80 percent approval rating being enjoyed by Mr. Duterte as shown by latest surveys.
Santiago stressed that the current issues being raised against the administration are not enough to entice people to go against the government.
Once a commanding general of the Philippine Army and chief of the AFP’s anti-coup Task Force Libra, Santiago earned the moniker “Defender of Malacañang” after he led government forces in foiling an attempt by rabid supporters of ousted President Joseph Estrada to overrun the Palace in 2001.
PNP blasts Robredo
Meanwhile, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa on Monday refuted claims made by Vice President Leni Robredo that there is an attempt to whitewash the controversy surrounding the 357 policemen included in the illegal drugs watchlist.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Gamboa branded Robredo’s claim as false and baseless.
“Wrong statement because there is no basis. We will conduct adjudication. Why would she say we’re protecting them?” asked Gamboa.
“Had we intended to protect them, why did we bare that there are 357 (policemen in the list)? That’s the last argument I am going to make with that statement,” he added.
Robredo on Sunday cautioned that the public’s trust and confidence in the PNP may again erode due to the alleged attempts to cover up police officers tagged in the narcotics trade.
Gamboa insisted that adjudication proceedings of those in the list are now ongoing which were preceded by internal disciplinary mechanisms.
“I would like to emphasize that all 357 personnel concerned are presumed innocent until the requirements of due process are completely satisfied. I beg your kind indulgence that the PNP needs to keep the identities of these personnel confidential incidental to their presumption of innocence,” he stressed.
Gamboa gave the PNP Adjudication Board, headed by Deputy Chief for Administration, PLt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, one month to finish its evaluation and validation of information of the said personnel.
Once the process is done, the PNP will then submit its report to Malacañang.
The PNP chief bared that of the 357 cops, 43 have gone AWOL, 15 applied for early retirement and one was already confirmed dead.
“We are going to process them, adjudicate and validate the information that they are involved and hopefully those who are innocent may clear their names, but those who are not may face the full force of the law,” Gamboa said.
“It should be understood, however, that even if they avail of my offer for early retirement, it does not extinguish their culpability as determined by the investigation,” he pointed out.
Espenido not yet off the hook
As far as Malacañang is concerned, controversial police officer PLt. Col. Jovie Espenido is still not yet off the hook despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s vouching for his integrity.
Chief presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo made the remark when asked to clarify during a press briefing at the Palace if Espenido has already been “exonerated” after Mr. Duterte’s pronouncement.
“Any statement that will run counter to subsequent evidence, proof or circumstances that will contradict your previous position on the matter will have to be change,” he said.
Panelo added that no less than Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has already stated that Espenido will still have to go through the adjudication process to further validate his integrity.
Panelo, at the same time, said that the PNP is not affected by the recent statements coming from the Palace about Espenido.
“Obviously, they are not influenced. Like what Secretary Año said, they will still investigate,” he said.
Espenido was recently relieved from his post as deputy chief for operations of the Bacolod City police allegedly after being included in the drug list.
Panelo, however, said that Mr. Duterte believes that Espenido is clean.
Espenido became controversial after leading the operation that neutralized Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and several others while serving as Ozamiz City Police chief.
Parojinog and several members of his family were tagged in the illegal drugs trade.
Prior to this, Espenido, during his incumbency as Albuera, Leyte police head, raided the house of then Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was also a suspected drug lord. Espinosa was killed inside a jail facility later on.
Meanwhile, Panelo reiterated that the “narcolist” is always subject to change given the continuous validations being done on those allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
He said one good example was the narco-list that was provided in 2017. He said a total of 120 of those included then were later removed after evaluation of the adjudicatory board.
“It only means that if you are part of the original list, it doesn’t mean that you will remain there forever because there is continuous validation,” Panelo added.
When asked if the Palace still believes that the “narcolist” is still credible, he said “the presumption is that will always be credible unless new proof is introduced that it is wrong.”
Panelo previously said that as far as the Palace is concerned, there appears to be a black propaganda waged against Espenido to besmirch his reputation in the eyes of the Chief Executive and the Filipino nation.
He added that those linking Espenido to illegal drugs only want to derail his unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs.
Bikoy as state witness?
Meanwhile, Peter Joemel Advincula, alias “Bikoy,” is willing to turn into a state witness in the conspiracy to commit sedition case against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and several other individuals in connection to the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.
Lawyer Larry Gadon, counsel of Advincula, however, said that his client does not want to be placed under the government’s witness protection program which he described as too restrictive.
Trillanes and 10 others were indicted recently by the Department of Justice (DoJ) for their alleged involvement in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos that implicated personalities identified with President Duterte in the illegal drugs trade.
Advincula publicly admitted that he was the hooded man who appeared in the series of videos.
The DoJ panel of prosecutors found probable cause on the complaints filed by the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Apart from Trillanes and Advincula, also indicted were Joel Saracho, Boom Enriquez, a certain Monique, Yolanda V. Ong, Vicente Romano III, Fr. Albert E. Alejo, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Jonnel Sanggalang and dismissed police colonel Eduardo Acierto.
with Kristina Maralit, Francis T.Wakefield
and Alvin Murcia @tribunephl_FTW