Armored trucks on EDSA cause alarm amid coup rumors
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The military has apologized for any undue alarm caused by the presence of two convoys of military vehicles on EDSA – including V-150 armored personnel carrier and military trucks – on Wednesday morning, July 30.
The movements reportedly caused jitters among motorists who witnessed them a day after Senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed that retired military generals are plotting to destabilize the Aquino administration.
"These are authorized movements, logistical movements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We apologize that the people are alarmed. These movements are necessary for administration and logistical support of our troops in the field," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told reporters.
"These are coordinated movements, especially here at the command center at the Armed Forces of the Philippines and among unified command," Zagala added.
The military assured the public that there are no movements among active officers. Trillanes, a former lieutenant in the Philippine Navy who himself joined a failed coup against former oresident Gloria Arroyo, said himself that destabilization plots won't likely succeed under the Aquino administration.
Aquino spokesman Edwin Lacierda also downplayed Trillanes' warning.
"There are no reports of restiveness among the rank and file," Lacierda told reporters.
The Philippines has one of Asia's most vibrant democracies but the military has a long history of interfering in the political process.
It backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos until a people power revolution ended his reign in 1986 that installed Aquino's late mother, Corazon Aquino as president.
The first Aquino president survived a series of bloody coup attempts over the next five years, including a 1987 rising when rebel troops killed three security escorts of her son and future president, who was left with a bullet lodged on his neck.
And he mused in a speech to Congress on Monday night that somebody could try to kill him again in a bid to derail the reforms he has put in place.
"Will there be a day when I go onstage, for work, and – will someone manage to plant a bomb? Will the dark schemes of those who want to bring us back to the wrong way of doing things finally succeed?" he said.
Independent pollsters say Aquino, one of the most popular presidents the country has known, has seen his approval ratings dip this month amid his quarrel with the Supreme Court over his 2011-2013 economic stimulus program worth billions of dollars.
The court ruled this month that the program was illegal because the president neglected to get authorization from Congress. Aquino has appealed the ruling.
The dispute prompted warnings of a potential constitutional crisis.
Product of imagination
Former AFP chief now Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon also dismissed reports of a brewing destabilization plot. It's a product of one's imagination, Biazon said in a radio interview.
In an interview with DZBB, retired Lieutenant General Edilberto Adan, chairman and president of the Association of General and Flag Officers (AGFO), dispelled the rumor and said retired military officers will not support anything that would violate the Constitution.
Adan also said that AGFO supports the Aquino administration's programs against corruption and poverty.
There were two convoys of military vehicles that plied EDSA Wednesday morning – one from an unidentified camp in Northern Luzon; another from an unidentified camp in Southern Luzon. Both convoys were carrying "mission-essential supplies," said Zagala.
"Without divulging the contents, they are critical items. It is important they are escorted to avoid problems such as attacks on the convoy itself," he said.
Malacañang said it respects the opinion of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on the alleged destabilization threat against the President but is not concerned about it.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a news briefing there is no need to conduct a loyalty check in the AFP since it believed its members appreciate the administration's reforms, as well as their improved equipment and housing needs.
Asked if the government is concerned that anti-administration groups would ride on the destabilization rumor, Lacierda said: "We are not concerned about it. Anong tawag doon? (What do you call that?) Deadma (Ignore)."
Mindanao troops behind Aquino
In the southern Philippines, troops rallied behind the Aquino administration as active and retired military officials denied any destabilization plot against President Benigno Aquino III.
Captain Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesperson, said they have not monitored any movement of retired generals in the region meeting with active soldiers for any destabilization plot.
Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilinan, chief of the 6th Infantry Division, said troops under his command remain intact.
“There’s no truth to that report. Our men are professional enough,” Pangilinan said.
Former Brigadier General Agustin Demaala, now a board member in South Cotabato province, said in a phone interview that he has not heard of any destabilization plot among junior military officials in Mindanao.
"No one also phoned me from my colleagues in the military. I only learn the so-called plot in the news," said Demaala, who had served as commander of the 6th Division, deputy commander of Western Command in Zamboanga and head of anti-terror unit of Joint Task Force Comet. – with reports from Jeoffrey Maitem and Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com