"AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] being turned against Arroyo foes" was the headline of the Nov. 12 front-page Inquirer article by Fe Zamora, my former editor at INQ7.net.
Normally, that bit of news comes as no surprise to us anymore, not after the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime has made it a landmark achievement to use the AFP way beyond the limits of what its officers and men owe their commander-in-chief. In fact, our unresolved crisis that the "Hello, Garci" tapes spawned is rooted in part to the alleged misuse of the AFP in the 2004 elections to favor Arroyo.
One would think that if the regime can use the AFP to subvert the people's will during elections, it would be consistent with such a policy to use the AFP against Arroyo's political foes. Is that not exactly what the Left has been saying -- putting the murders of militant leaders on the doorstep of the AFP, supposedly following orders from the top?
Fe's story exposed the series of ongoing seminars that are being conducted in the AFP camps, which some officers denounced to be an attempt to indoctrinate them on the supposed role of the AFP and to "demonize" known Arroyo critics and political opponents. Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA) secretary general Pastor Saycon was cited as the main source for the information.
The seminars are being conducted under the supervision of the National Security Adviser, Norberto Gonzales, and it comes as no surprise that the seminar content is being provided by Gonzales's ideological guru in the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP, Socialist Democratic Party of the Philippines): Fr. Romeo "Archie" Intengan, of The Society of Jesus.
Called up by Fe Zamora to check out her story, Fr. Intengan not only confirmed the existence of the ongoing seminars but also claimed that it had the personal approval and endorsement of Madame Arroyo.
Reacting immediately to Fe Zamora's story, Senator Rodolfo Biazon questioned the seminars, which he felt are acts that all the more politicize the AFP. Not only that, Biazon underscored the fact that PDSP is a political party and has no business promoting its political agenda in the AFP.
But the biggest issue that is being raised against the seminars is the allegation that the AFP is being conditioned toward creation of an authoritarian regime while political foes of Madame Arroyo are being demonized in front of the officers, as if to set them up for future measures.
Pastor "Boy" Saycon as source for this information is just about the finest source one can have for what hums in the AFP. Saycon has a solid, reliable pipeline of information in the AFP, a network that he was able to establish when he was an aide of former president (also a former AFP chief of staff and former secretary of defense) Fidel V. Ramos.
Saycon was immediately alerted by his military contacts when his name, along with the names of other known anti-Arroyo political leaders, cropped-up during the seminars. In fact, as per Saycon, even I was named as one of the so-called "enemies of the regime."
Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, along with being sued for alleged libel, being tagged as "an enemy of the regime" is par for the course.
Am I surprised? No I'm not. Am I alarmed? Not by a long shot. As the vice of truth and reckoning tighten around the space that this regime still occupies, the more desperate it becomes. The more desperate it becomes, the more vicious the methods that the regime will tend to employ. Just review what this regime has attempted to impose on all of us over the past nine months and you'll appreciate what I mean.
There was Presidential Proclamation 1017, Executive Order 464, the "calibrated preemptive response" policy on street protests, which were all shot down by the Supreme Court. Then there was that reported recommendation to place the country under martial law, which fortunately the more responsible and sober-minded members of the Cabinet rejected. One too will have to consider the claimed existence of government-sponsored "death squads" similar to the Latin American model, which the Left is accusing for the murders of political activists. All these are characteristic of a regime that feels like endangered political specie.
The people's initiative on Charter change was another regime escape hatch, but that was also rejected by the Supreme Court.
Now, we are entering the period when the political attention and energies are focusing on the 2007 elections, an election that the regime would rather not hold for fear of its consequences. The current public dissatisfaction with Madame Arroyo can easily generate more than the 60 votes in the House of Representatives that the opposition needs to elevate an impeachment case to the opposition-dominated Senate.
Sad fact of life for the regime: Congressional elections are not as easily rigged as a presidential election. Every opposition congressional candidate can easily protect the vote in a congressional district -- a small area compared with the entire country, which a presidential candidate has to secure.
The regime's fears have been heightened no doubt by the results of the Nov. 7 US midterm elections, in which the Democratic Party wrested control of both houses of Congress. Should the opposition succeed in duplicating the political feat of the Democratic Party in the US, Madame Arroyo will certainly face impeachment.
Given the range of options that she has left, the martial law card becomes very tempting. But that's if, like Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, she has the troops solidly behind her.
If her military officers cannot even accept a seminar series without denouncing it to one of her biggest critics, how are we to think how these officers will react when they are given a patently illegal, self-seeking order to impose martial law just to save a questionable regime?
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org