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MANILA, Philippines – So it’s come to this. Saying this was his holiday “gift” to Filipinos, a long-retired, little-known military officer went on YouTube during the break to announce two things: that there’s a move to withdraw support from the current administration, and that the purveyors want Vice President Sara Duterte to “save the boat, save the country.”
“You are the president now, as far as I’m concerned,” declared retired Army captain Clemente Enrique, referring to Vice President Duterte. Enrique graduated in 1983 at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) as the baron of the Matikas class – which meant he was the most ranking cadet of the corps at the time. But he left the service early, so that those who were fed his video in various chat groups had to Google his name and check whether the face wearing a beret looked familiar. It didn’t. This is Enrique’s first front act in military politics – and we don’t know where he’s coming from. (Editor’s note: We misspelled Enrique’s family name in an earlier version of this story. We regret the error.)
His incendiary spiel was interrupted by another graying soldier who, before talking about the “anger” of many retired soldiers towards the Marcos government, sipped hot chocolate and – for real! – displayed a phone number where one can order.
It would have been comical if not tragic. These are, after all, men who were trained by taxpayers’ money to serve the public, not strut around with pathetic antics and market their choco business.
The irony is, some of Enrique’s PMA classmates (or mistahs in military parlance) are in the echelons of power. To name a few, there’s National Security Adviser Eduardo Año and retired police general Roman “Popong” Felix, the presidential adviser on police and military affairs.
Class officers sent Rappler a brief statement disowning Enrique’s claims. “Mr. Clemente Enrique is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983. Mr. Enrique’s statements in his VLOG of Pinoy Survivor, in the exercise of his right to freedom of expression, are his own personal views and opinions alone and do not in any way reflect that of PMA Class 1983 or of the individual members.”
The uploading of the video followed the release of a “Manifesto ng Taong Bayan Para Sagipin ang Inang Bayan (Manifesto of the People to Save the Mother Land)” which essentially described President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. as incompetent, greedy, indolent, cruel; declared withdrawal of support from him; and recognized “VP Inday Sara Zimmerman Duterte as the President of the Republic of the Philippines by way of succession.”
On Thursday, January 4, Armed Forces chief General Romeo Brawner, Jr. issued a statement titled, “On the emerging challenges of 2024.” Feel free to read between the lines: “The Armed Forces of the Philippines stands firm in its unwavering loyalty to the Constitution and its solemn commitment to fulfill its mandate. The men and women of the AFP remain steadfast in their role as the guardians of our nation’s sovereignty and defender of democratic principles.”
In November, Brawner admitted that he had spoken with disgruntled retired officers and warned them against recruiting active-duty soldiers to their destabilization efforts. “Some of them [are] former officers of the AFP, and nakausap ko ‘yung iba sa kanila (I’ve spoken with some of them),” Brawner said at the turnover of command of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City. His public information officer had to do damage control later, saying his boss had been “misquoted.”
What’s the context? The breakup of the Marcos-Duterte coalition and the cascade of that quarrel down to the loyalists of both factions in the armed services.
The issues compounding that are the Marcos government’s decision to reform the generous military pension system; its recent announcement resuming the stalled peace negotiations with the communist guerrillas; and the President’s distance from military generals – which is very much in contrast to Rodrigo Duterte’s feudal, personal ties with them.
Power, pension, communism – potent ingredients for agitation even to amateurs in military rebellion. But Filipinos had seen smarter days of past mutinies and actual withdrawal of institutional support from the commander-in-chief. Those days appear to be gone – gauging from the performance of these sloppy copycats.
Will these theatrical acts turn into something more serious? Depends on whether the Marcos government has the ability to separate noise from real threat – and the skills to handle them differently. – Rappler.com