A Tale of Two Generals

Manuel Buencamino writes political commentaries for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, October 3, 2005 edition, page S1/5.

Malacañang spokesman Taunting Bunye does not like investigations “in aid of legislation.” He said:  “Our collective experience has shown that, with very few exceptions, these investigations wasted taxpayers’ money, and served no other purpose than to damage the reputations of those who agree to appear and who are persecuted as though they are guilty of unsubstantiated charges.”

Indeed, in the past several months the reputations of Bishop Oscar Cruz, Sandra Cam, Boy Mayor, Michaelangelo Zuce, and others have been damaged because they testified against members of the Arroyo family “in aid of legislation.” They also face persecution through prosecution by Gonzales’ justice department.

Taunting is correct, “Public servants who dedicate their lives to their country deserve to carry out their duties without fear of persecution.”

Take the case of General Francisco Gudani, deputy superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and Lieutenant Colonel. Alexander Balutan, assistant commandant of the PMA corps of cadets.  They testified in a Senate investigation “in aid of legislation” despite being told they should avail themselves of E.O. 464’s mantle of protection.

As a result, Mssrs. Gudani and Balutan were relieved of their posts. They will also be investigated and charged for not using EO 464 as a cover.

In addition, a testimonial parade for Gudani’s retirement had been cancelled. PMA Superintendent Lieutenant General Cristolito Balaoing explains: “If you have served well, you will be given honor in a ceremony… But if you have a pending case, you will be stripped of all privileges and honor,”

Contrast the swiftness and severity of actions taken against Gudani and Balutan to the way General Carlos Garcia was treated

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) first found out Garcia’s offenses six months before the news hit the headlines. What did they do when they found out?

Let Narciso Abaya, then the AFP chief, tell us:  “He (Garcia) tried to explain the sources of that fund…He said he had business, business, etc. etc….There was no specific mention.”

He added, “We did not terminate the investigation [but] we cannot proceed that fast because there is not much evidence other than the [oral] information. The hard evidence was not forwarded to us, it was directly sent to the Ombudsman.”

The AFP gave Garcia enough time to cash out his investments from the various AFP trust funds. They did not charge him with plunder. And they refused to him hand over to the custody of the Ombudsman. Instead they detained him in quarters worthy of his rank. When it seemed like Garcia had to move to less worthy quarters, they said he would have to be confined in a hospital because he was suffering from sleep apnea, a serious sleeping disorder. Sleep apnea in the vernacular is malakas humilik.

General Garcia certainly understood that he could carry out his duties without fear of persecution. Just ask at least half a dozen AFP chiefs why.

An AFP spokesman, Lt. Col. Buenaventura Pascual, has this to say of the sacking of Gudani and Balutan sackings: “Our officers are intelligent enough not to be carried away by this scenario. The Senate hearing is politically motivated.”

If I were a junior officer or a PMA cadet, I wouldn’t be planning a coup or even dreaming of one. I would begin closer to home and do something about the PMA Superintendent, the AFP spokesman, and all those other senior officers who believe that they can fool junior officers into thinking that intelligence is measured by one’s willingness to act as somebody’s fool.

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