Former generals Jose Almonte and Ramon Montano articulated the sentiments of some segments of the military in yesterday's interview with the media. Almonte said the appointment of Lt. General Delfin Bangit as the new AFP chief of staff is "alarming" due to his perceived closeness with Mrs. Gloria Arroyo who is set to leave office by June 2010. Almonte opined that the appointment will cast aspersion to the entire poll exercise because Arroyo has this penchant of using the military institution for her personal gains, one of which was the highly controversial "Hello Garci", which involved thousands of troops and a few generals. Such a scenario is likely, given the personal loyalty of Bangit to his appointing power.
The same fears were expressed by former general Montano who says that some idealistic officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have expressed alarm and fears that the military institution will again be used to influence the elections. More than this though is the prospect of this administration serving in a hold-over capacity once a failure of elections happen. Montano believes that the military and the people will not allow this to happen and the outbreak of violence will eventually be bloody if Bangit and his mistahs at PMA Class 1978 allow themselves to be used by the political elite in conserving power.
NCR director Roberto Rosales, a great gentleman and an officer, tried to squelch these speculations by reiterating that most members of their class deserve their promotions. Rosales say they will never allow their class to be manipulated by anybody. Same goes to Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the AFP spokesperson, who said that the new C-S will "abide by the Constitution and protect the rights of the people". Even the palace through Executive secretary Leandro Mendoza says that Bangit is a "professional soldier, completely loyal to the Constitution and to the Filipino People."
I sincerely do not doubt the loyalty of Bangit, whom I know to be that of a tireless soldier, someone who knows his place under the sun and is intelligent enough to discern what is truly right and what is entirely wrong.
However, I cannot but erase from memory the role he played in the 2004 elections. He was privy to that entire rigging exercise and by keeping silent, Bangit was also complicit in that illicit affair.
It is of course, ideal for Bangit to really remain "apolitical" and think of the interest of the entire institution rather than of his own. However, the situation right now is unfortunately very explosive that one false move from him will inevitably spark something serious.
The question really is--is Bangit willing to exorcise his past for the sake of the institution he loves? Will he disassociate himself from Arroyo at a crucial moment? Will he disallow an order from the palace to use members of the military in election operations?
The other question is---will Arroyo sacrifice the future of this country just for her personal survival? I think yes. She did it before and she will do it again. Such is her unquenchable thirst for power that she will use all of her power to survive.