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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Seeds of destabilization

“The country needs a stable AFP for it to be able meet the various security challenges”

The abrupt relief of the AFP Chief of Staff Lt General Bartolome Bacarro apparently generated rumors of destabilization the PNP had to raise its alert level especially for units operating in the National Capital Region.

However, these were denied by both the AFP and the PNP. Specifically, the rumor was about mass resignations of senior officers.

As it turned out, only the DND Officer-in-Charge, Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr., was the only one who resigned.

But did something happen when General Bacarro was abruptly relieved after just about five months of a supposedly three year tour?

From what I have been able to gather, apparently there was although the AFP is keeping mum.

On that day, communications using Viber lit up and was quite busy all the day long. And why was that significant?

Because there are Viber groups among active and retired military and police personnel.

These groups use Viber to coordinate, disseminate and exchange information.

This must have alerted some people in Camp Crame which caused the raising of the alert level which was subsequently lowered immediately.

I agree, however, that there is currently no danger of an overt destabilization move from the military or police.

But I would caution our leaders not to take things for granted.

The position of AFP Chief of Staff is a consequential position that must not be treated like a Company Commander position wherein one can be replaced anytime – because the stakes are high especially with the current geopolitical tensions in the region.

The country needs a stable AFP for it to be able meet the various security challenges.

If we study the two instances wherein two of our Presidents had to end their terms prematurely, the political atmosphere prevailing at the moment is nowhere near the 1986 and 2001 situations.

The Philippine model in this case needs two to tango, unlike in other countries like for instance, Thailand or Myanmar wherein the military establishments of those two countries can take political control as they have done many times.

In this country, that is not the case.

In 1986, the initial move was initiated by the military establishment and then the civilian opposition decided to support the military in ousting the existing government.

The alliance of the two were simply tactical and temporary and only for the purpose of achieving a common goal: ousting the then existing government.

It was something akin to a marriage of convenience.

What this showed was that it was possible for the two sides to coalesce even if the ideologies of the two were poles apart.

In the 2001 case, it was the civilian opponents of the existing government that initiated the destabilization move and then the military and police came in to throw their support in ousting the government.

In fact, it could be said that three groups with diverging political ideologies came together for a fleeting moment to oust a government because, in this instance, the progressive left came in and joined.

The first from the military to throw in their support were the Brigade and Battalion Commanders then followed by some Division Commanders.

Only then did the higher ups of the AFP saw the writing on the wall and joined, egged on by wives and other family members.

Currently, however, many of the elements present in the years before 1986 and 2001 are not there today.

In fact, this administration is in an enviable position because there is no opposition to speak of that can threaten its dominant position.

Everyone seems to be singing the same tune.

There is wide support for the government and the political capital of PBBM remains sky high.

Furthermore, the civilian opposition is in such a disarray that there is no threat at all. Former VP Leni Robredo, who was supposed to carry the torch for the opposition going forward, appears to have completely vanished from the political scene in the past several months.

And thanks to what former President Rodrigo Duterte did to the AFP and Police – both uniformed services remain contented as of this time.

It does not mean, however, that this prevailing rosy situation will last forever.

In fact, it can turn sour pretty fast in no time at all.

It will just take a spark here or a misstep there to trigger a crusade.

This happened during the time of former President Joseph Estrada.

From a very promising start, everything went downhill in just a matter of two-and-a-half years.

But right now, we can say that PBBM is in a political sweet spot.

He can go ahead with his travels to market the country as an investment haven, confident that the political situation in the home front is stable.

It seems that all the stars have converge to give him all the chances to succeed.

There have not been many of his predecessors given that opportunity.

A politically stable situation and a wide latitude to maneuver.

To borrow a sporting term, it is therefore, all his to lose the ballgame.

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