Aside from the solid civilian support enjoyed by President Rodrigo Duterte, National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Wednesday banked on the professionalism of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in belittling calls to oust the country’s leader.
Esperon, who warded off several coup attempts against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when he was AFP chief and Army commanding general, even threatened those plotting that they will be “erased.”
“If they are really (brave), they should come out, identify themselves. Or else, they remain as rumormongers, they are nothing,” Esperon told the Daily Tribune in an interview.
“I will erase them if they come out. The AFP will erase them. Very unprofessional,” he added, but he refused to elaborate.
He stressed that AFP personnel are thinking professionals as he dismissed the possibility that soldiers would go against the Duterte administration.
“I don’t believe in coup d’ etat, I was able to face a lot,” Esperon said. “Our soldiers now are thinkers, they are nationalistic and patriots.”
Esperon maintained that the issues being raised by the alleged plotters are not enough to entice the military.
Even the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, which could be an issue to some AFP officers, is not enough to make the oust-Duterte call gather steam.
If there are some military officials disappointed and have sentiments on the government’s decision to terminate the VFA, Esperon said that they can keep their personal opinion and will remain loyal to the chain of command.
“There are (some), but its only their personal opinion. They will follow the command,” he said.
The NSA stressed that even military officials who have studied in the United States could not be considered sympathetic to the Americans on the issue of VFA.
“If you were able to study there (US) what’s the connection?” Esperon asked. “What is important is our national interest.”
AFP junks Joma’s claims
The AFP also brushed off claims by communist leader Jose Maria Sison of yet another ouster plot against Mr. Duterte, supposedly by pro-US military officials.
Sison asserted that the Philippine government’s termination of the VFA “has aroused quite a number of pro-US military officers” to speak ill against Mr. Duterte and “curse him for prejudicing hundreds of projects under the VFA.”
Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, blasted the Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman, describing him as merely “hallucinating.”
“He (Sison) mistook the AFP for his ragtag terrorist army — the NPA (New People’s Army) — where his orders are violated and his stand unsupported,” Arevalo said in a message to reporters.
Such pronouncements from Sison, Arevalo added, are “expected” and should not even be receiving attention anymore.
“You should stop paying mind to Sison’s statements. You are just giving him and his statements undeserved credence,” the AFP’s mouthpiece maintained.
Sison’s statement came after calls to oust the Duterte administration were floated amid issues surrounding the VFA, the spread of the dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), press freedom in view of the questioned ABS-CBN franchise, the arrest order against former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. dismissed such talks and reiterated that the uniformed ranks have been “loyal ever since.”
Malacañang on Tuesday said that any attempts by groups to topple the Duterte administration is just a “pipe dream” and surely will not succeed.
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, 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.”
with Kristina Maralit