What coup? Army chief says soldiers ‘fully behind’ Aquino

What coup? Army chief says soldiers ‘fully behind’ Aquino
Armed Forces chief Gregorio Catapang Jr says there is no need to conduct a loyalty check among the soldiers

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Another political crisis has prompted rumors of a coup yet again, but it’s all baseless talk, according to Army chief Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri. 

“The military is fully behind the Aquino government and the people,” the chief of the 90,000-strong Philippine Army told reporters here on Thursday, February 5. He led the 45th founding anniversary of the 4th Infantry Division in Camp Edilberto Evangelista. 

In Manila on the same day, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said in a press conference that several groups are organizing to take advantage of public anger because of the Mamasapano clash that killed 44 police Special Action Force commandos.

President Benigno Aquino III suffered public flak largely because of his failure to attend the welcome honors for the slain cops at the Villamor Air Base. (READ: Trillanes: Buck stops with Napeñas, not Aquino)

Trillanes said groups that supposedly include communists are seeking to gather support for ouster calls against Aquino. The coup-plotter-turned-senator claimed he has relayed the information to the intelligence community.

No need for loyalty check

Iriberri also said the military should let the investigation of the Board of Inquiry come up with its findings. “We should just wait for the findings of the investigation of the BOI into the Mamamsapano incident,” he said.

On Wednesday, Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr also dismissed the coup rumors. There is no need to check the loyalty of troops, he said. 

Wala nang kailangang (There’s no need for) loyalty check. We are loyal to the Constitution and to our duly constituted authorities,” Catapang said. 

Catapang added: “I think the President has a mandate with the people. The election is coming soon. We have to allow the President to finish his term because he is the duly elected, duly constituted authority of the country.” 

Word war: AFP vs PNP

The Mamasapano clash also prompted a word war betwen military and police officials. Questions are raised why soldiers and fellow cops failed to reinforce the beleagured SAF commandos

In an earlier speech, President Aquino scored the failure of the SAF to properly coordinate with the military on the ground. This resulted in the failure of the military to provide the SAF immediate assistance.

Relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas Jr has belied claims by the military that they failed to provide grid coordinates that should have allowed the military to provide artillery support at the very least. He also lamented insinuations that the SAF reinforcement team – about 300 in the highway a few kilometers from the encounter area – failed to reinforce their comrades.

Catapang said they upheld the primacy of the peace talks. Troops were deployed in Mamasapano not to join the firefight but to extract the SAF commandos, he said.

Iriberri echoed this. “We put primacy in peace and we have invested so much in peace.”

Catapang acknowledged that the police and the military have to fix strained relationships. 

“We are trying to concentrate on this issue so that, between the AFP and PNP, we will bring back the relationship, the trust and confidence that we have built for the longest time,” he said. – Rappler.com 

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