Military officers warned vs supporting 2016 bets
MANILA, Philippines – It was the message of President Benigno Aquino III to the troops during the 79th anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in December: Stay neutral in the 2016 presidential elections.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin reiterated it in front of the country's top military officers on Tuesday, January 6, to drive home the message as the election season gets into high gear.
"In anticipation of the forthcoming national elections in May 2016, I wish to remind the members of our armed forces to strictly abide [by] their constitutional mandate, that they should not be involved in partisan politics, and they shall not engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity, except to vote," Gazmin said in his speech before the toast at the New Year's Call, a tradition in the military where the top military officers and their wives gather in Camp Aguinaldo on the first Monday of the New Year.
The message also comes a month before the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) homecoming in February, an annual military event usually graced by politicians posturing for higher office.
The Philippine military has been dragged into allegations of massive poll cheating in past elections especially after the 2005 "Hello, Garci" controversy that accused former President Gloria Arroyo of cheating to defeat actor Fernando Poe Jr in the 2004 elections.
In his speech in December, Aquino admonished those who intend to revert the military to its "old ways."
"To those who want to bring the institution back to its old ways: Shame on you, and be afraid too. Reforms will continue, as well as our efforts to ensure that the corrupt would be held accountable," Aquino said.
– Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com