Gary Alejano to Malacañang: Listen to grievances of AFP personnel
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano reminded President Rodrigo Duterte not to ignore the grievances of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Allow them to express their grievances, listen to them and don’t muzzle them,” he told Rappler editor-at-large Marites Vitug on Thursday, February 26.
“The moment you do, time will come that they will reach a boiling point,” he added.
Alejano was referring to the AFP modernization project embroiled in controversy following the ouster of former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado after being accused of "insubordination" for supposedly disregarding directives to allow the winning bidder Heavy Hyundai Industries (HHI) to select the supplier of the Combat Management System (CMS). (READ: Timeline of the PH Navy's frigates project)
The Senate probe, however, showed that senior Navy officers preferred Tacticos Thales as provider of the CMS and not the inferior one provided by HHI and as ordered by the Department of National Defense. (READ: Senate probe exposes root of frigates deal mess)
The probe, however, failed to dig deeper into the involvement of Malacañang – through Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go. (DOCUMENTS: How Bong Go is linked thrice to frigates deal)
According to Alejano, this just shows that the Duterte administration succeeded to cover its tracks. Prioritizing to save face first than actually addressing the issue can create “demoralization” among the ranks, he added.
“I would like to remind Malacañang that the officers have been serving the Armed Forces for so many years in a dedicated manner and they risk their lives serving this country.” he said. “Don't destroy their service by in just a whim, by favoring contractors.”
‘Legal processes important’
While he may be known for participating in two mutinies under the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Alejano reminded AFP personnel – especially young officers – to course their grievances to the right channels.
“I do not encourage young officers to do that because we're already saying to them that we're here, you can already relay to use things which are not addressed in the organization and maybe we can intervene in a legal and proper way in order to address the problems,” he said, adding that the situation is “very different” now.
The former Navy officer himself has been pushing for accountability “through legal processes.” Aside from the communication he filed before the International Criminal Court in 2017, Alejano also filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte in 2017 but was junked by the House of Representatives immediately.
Going through these processes strengthens democracy, he said.
“We want to uphold democracy, we want to strengthen democratic institutions, we want to strengthen democratic processes, because it would provide stability in the long run,” Alejano explained. “Because if you resort to extrajudicial means, it will further endanger democracy in the country.”
But while he pushes for tapping legal processes, the Magdalo representative does not discount the possibility of mutinies and uprisings especially if the grievances of officers are left unchecked and unaddressed.
“As long as there are issues in the Armed Forces that are not addressed, uprisings could still happen,” he warned.
'No grievances from AFP'
Asked about Alejano's unsolicited advice to the Commander-in-Chief, AFP Spokesman Brigadier General Bienvenido Datuin said on Tuesday, February 27, that so far, military personnel have no grievances to be relayed to Duterte.
"Wala (None). All we are is for modernization, capability upgrade and the improvement of the armed forces as your protector of the people," Datuin told reporters during his first briefing as AFP spokesperson.
Datuin said there is an established "grievance system" in the AFP to hear out personnel.
He said it's not their "cup of tea" to engage in politics though the AFP will gladly cooperate in probes initiated by other institutions such as the Senate. (READ: 5 nagging questions after the Senate frigates probe)
"We respect the democratic process dito and whatever happens is a result of a very good investigation, justified investigation, well-handled investigation so we are still working towards our mandate working on our daily task and duties...separate political issues from our work," Datuin said. – With a report from Rambo Talabong / Rappler.com