Esperon should stop promoting Trillanes
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-06-21
Tyrants seem to have a special knack for turning their adversary into a hero of sorts. Call it Divine Justice or the Law of Karma but the enforcers of this world have invariably ended up mortified by the very nemesis of their own creation.

Ferdinand Marcos persecuted Ninoy Aquino and Ninoy Aquino’s assassination triggered the fall of Marcos. The pro-apartheid South African regime persecuted Nelson Mandela. Mandela eventually gained enough world sympathy and support to pressure the South African regime to capitulate.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, General Hermogenes Esperon, is now committing the same mistake. Obviously still in denial over the fact that his prisoner is now Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, he makes an awkward and pathetic attempt to assert his authority.

Despite a Regional Trail Court order allowing Trillanes to leave detention in order to be proclaimed, the proceedings at the Comelec (Commission on Elections) had to be delayed for three hours all because Esperon held the release orders.

Senator Trillanes assailed Gen. Esperon for this act of pettiness which also smacked of arrogance and defiance of a civilian court’s order. Esperon did not deny keeping Trillanes away from his proclamation as long as he could. He justified his actions with “following procedures” in accordance with Court Martial protocol.

Gen. Esperon’s contempt for the rising political star is quite obvious and understandable. It must be tormenting for an AFP chief of staff to have to address his prisoner as “your honor” in a Senate session, especially in a Senate session where the general will be the subject of an investigation.

Esperon has been known to loathe recognizing civilian authority over the military. He insisted on enforcing the order to deploy troops in depressed areas in Metro Manila when this move was seen by many as something designed to promote the chances of the administration’s candidates.

Even former president and former AFP chief of staff Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) acknowledged that the AFP was infringing on purely police and civilian turf when it deployed troops in the Metro Manila area. Neither did FVR see any security problem that warranted troop deployment in Metro Manila.

Shortly before the May 14 elections, junior officers leaked to media alleged orders from Gen. Esperon that all AFP camps are to register a 12-0 victory for the administration’s Team Unity Senate slate.

A highly-reliable source (the very same source who tipped me that Trillanes will be elected long before he started to rank within the Magic 12) told me that Trillanes ranked among the top Senate winners in all the AFP camps, even ranking higher than Gringo Honasan. Nothing could be a worse statement of repudiation for Gen. Esperon.

That would tend to suggest that Senator Trillanes is now the darling of the troops. Now, if provoked and the choice has to be made between Gen. Esperon and Trillanes — who do you think the legions will support?

I’m sure the astute politician in Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) is not insensitive to this new political reality. Despite what many of us can say against GMA, she has exhibited one of the finest survival instincts in politics.

GMA gracefully accepted the administration defeat in the Senate elections. She adopted the famous battle dictum of the ferocious Scottish Highland warriors — better a good retreat than a bad stand. GMA displayed better generalship than Gen. Esperon who can’t seem to override personal feelings in favor of superior strategy.

You’ll know that the Arroyo regime has been greatly unsettled by the phenomenal victory of Trillanes. That is what the Trillanes Survey in the AFP is all about. They want to gauge just how potent a threat Trillanes now poses.

But then, the regime’s high-handed methods are what will prevent them from knowing the true sentiments of the officers and soldiers of the AFP. It is doubtful if the officers and soldiers will open up and answer the survey questions truthfully.

Now that Trillanes has been proclaimed, Esperon appears to be shifting his tactics. This time, he seems determined to prevent Trillanes from working as a Senator.

Of course, a shift in objective to “non-performance of his senatorial duties” will be another monumental blunder. Nothing could be better for the political fortunes of Senator Trillanes than to be persecuted in this manner.

Just as persecution made Ninoy Aquino the tallest Opposition figure against the Marcos regime, this will make Trillanes the most feared Opposition figure of the Arroyo regime.

In the Senate, Trillanes will not be able to outshine the likes of Dick Gordon, Miriam Santiago, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ping Lacson, Chiz Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Kiko Pangilinan et al. However, if he is prevented from performing his duties as a senator, Trillanes becomes a towering Opposition figure.

Nothing could better propagate a Trillanes myth.

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