There is no split in Philippine military, says defense chief

Soldiers take part in a parade during the 79th anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Quezon city, Metro Manila December 18, 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 September 2018
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There is no split in Philippine military, says defense chief

  • Officers and men and women of the armed forces might differ in opinion, “but cannot expect them to make unusual activities over political issues
  • I command the troops to adhere to the rule of law and always obey the chain of command

MANILA: Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stressed on Monday that troops’ morale is high as he downplayed reports of military unrest due to the political situation in the country.
This came as Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez reminded soldiers to obey only the chain of command and to stay out of politics.
The statements were issued by the Philippines’ top security officials amid reports of destabilization against President Rodrigo Duterte after his controversial order revoking the amnesty of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, an ex-Navy officer-turned-lawmaker.
“That (split in the military organization) is just a rumor,” Lorenzana told reporters in a press briefing at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. He said some groups were making up the story that there many disgruntled active military personnel, but he had not seen any indication.
When asked about the soldiers’ morale, the defense chief replied: “Their salary was increased ... so they have high morale.”
However, Lorenzana also said there was indeed a destabilization plot from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army which was hatched in 2016 and finalized in 2017. “They have a plot to oust Duterte ... now I don’t know if there are other groups that will connive with them,” he said.
Lorenzana said Galvez’s warning to soldiers not to meddle in partisan politics was “just precautionary” in case someone tried to recruit them for the plan to oust Duterte.
Galvez also belied claims by some quarters of divisiveness in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). “I assure our people that, as in many times in the past, the AFP will be one and undivided as an organization,” he said.
He likewise warned anyone attempting to divide the military by sowing intrigues and discord: “You will not succeed.”
Nonetheless, Galvez reminded “every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine not to meddle or take part in partisan politics,” as he emphasized that their loyalty should be to the Constitution.
“I command the troops to adhere to the rule of law and always obey the chain of command. Violation of these instructions will be dealt with severely and personnel who get involved will be immediately relieved from their post and investigated,” he said.
“While I am aware that the troops have individual views on many issues, those merely hallmark an intelligent and mature organization like the AFP. But we always put the interest of the organization and the nation above our own.”
Further, he said that the AFP submits to the majesty of the Supreme Court (SC) and yields to its wisdom as it tackles the petition filed by Trillanes pertaining to Presidential Proclamation 572 (PP 572) that voided his amnesty.
“In deference to the SC that has taken cognizance of the case, we will not anymore comment on its merits as we hope other parties would follow suit,” said Galvez.
Meanwhile, a retired army general said Trillanes’ claim of political persecution by the Duterte administration will not have a major impact on the AFP, which he said has grown into a professional organization.
He pointed out that officers and men and women of the armed forces might differ in opinion, “but you cannot expect them to make unusual activities over political issues.
“So far, we don’t have any indication that our military will resort to any ‘unusual activity’,” said the former general, who asked not to be named. He pointed out that not even Trillanes’ classmates in the Philippine Military Academy had given him their support.
“That is because is (Trillanes) is being hounded by his past actions,” the source said, referring to the failed uprisings led by the mutineer-turned-politician against the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“There was a split within their ranks, among the classmates of Trillanes,” the former general said, adding that money was one of the issues that caused the division within their group.
“So they were jailed after the failed Oakwood mutiny. In the end they learned that there was money and Trillanes was the one who held on to it. However, he only supported the Navy elements among the Oakwood mutineers. Those from the Army service, they had to produce their food and supplies ... and they’re even his classmates.”


British PM fights rebellion over Brexit deal

Updated 16 November 2018
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British PM fights rebellion over Brexit deal

  • Members of parliament on all sides warned her there was no way the plan could win their approval
  • The 585-page draft aims to ensure a smooth divorce from the EU after more than four decades of membership

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May battled to salvage a draft Brexit deal and her political future on Thursday, as ministers resigned and members of her own party plotted to oust her.
The Conservative leader said she believed with “every fiber of my being” in the Brexit course she had set, hours after facing a hostile parliament and seeing four ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, quit the government.
Members of parliament on all sides warned her there was no way the plan could win their approval, but she dismissed calls to quit, saying: “Am I going to see this through? Yes!”
The Daily Telegraph newspaper said Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 MPs help May command a slim majority, would vote against the deal.
Their alliance with the Tories is over unless the prime minister is replaced, the paper said, citing sources close to DUP leader Arlene Foster.
The prime minister admitted “concerns about the backstop” solution to the Irish border question within the deal, which Brexit supporters fear would keep Britain tied indefinitely into a customs union.
Critics also believe May has conceded too much to Brussels in other key areas, while EU supporters are calling for a second referendum on a final deal.
May, however, said there would be no second vote “as far as I’m concerned.”
The 585-page draft aims to ensure a smooth divorce from the EU after more than four decades of membership and outlines a transition period for both sides to adjust to the break.
Key provisions seek to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, protect citizens’ rights and settle Britain’s last bill.
Amid the political turmoil, the pound dropped by 2 percent against the dollar to a one-month low and a similar amount against the euro.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Brexit hardline European Research Group, submitted a letter of no-confidence in the prime minister saying: “It would be in the interest of the party and the country if she were to stand aside.”
At least 48 letters from Conservative MPs are required to trigger a vote of no-confidence in the party leader, but a majority of the party’s 315 lawmakers would have to vote against May in order for her to be ousted.
Although other MPs have already sent letters, all eyes were on Rees-Mogg given his influence over Brexit supporting MPs.
The MP told reporters that a challenge could be launched within weeks.
But veteran MP Kenneth Clarke, an arch-europhile, told Sky News that May would win any confidence vote, saying “there isn’t an alternative.”
EU leaders will hold an extraordinary Brexit summit on November 25.
If they approve the agreement, the British parliament is scheduled to vote on it in early December.
Raab said there would be a devastating impact on public trust in the government unless it changed course on Brexit.
“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto,” he said in his resignation letter.
Brexit hard-liner Esther McVey also quit her work and pensions secretary post.
Suella Braverman resigned as a junior Brexit minister and Shailesh Vara quit as a junior Northern Ireland minister.
In parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, told May: “The government must now withdraw this half-baked deal.
“This is not the deal the country was promised.”
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, later led a rally in Parliament Square over the “botched deal,” with protesters carrying placards reading “Brexit is failing” and “We need a people’s vote.”
“It’s total chaos. She’s never going to get anything through parliament. The whole house of cards is collapsing,” said writer Emma Roper-Evans, 53.
May had secured her cabinet’s “collective” approval for the agreement during a stormy five-hour meeting on Wednesday and European leaders hailed the tentative deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “very happy” that the EU and Britain had reached a draft agreement but French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned the prospect of Britain crashing out without a deal was “still on the table.”
In Brussels, EU President Donald Tusk said member states would have until Tuesday to examine the deal and to agree the wording of a parallel political statement setting out goals for the bloc’s future relations with London.
The agreement was also welcomed along the Irish border.
“If Theresa May has got any sort of a deal I think it’s a miracle,” said businessman Patrick Hughes, owner of an animal feed business in the border village of Jonesborough.
“I think she was fed to the lions a bit,” he said.