WHEN President Duterte challenged Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to resign with him, he also came up with what I would say is a dangerous idea: have the military intervene. The President’s latest rant was made following the announcement by the anti-graft office that it has started looking into the complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV related to the President’s allegedly questionable bank transactions.
“And when the time comes, if we cannot agree with each other, then let us decide to submit it to the Armed Forces kasi magkagulo tayo,” the President was quoted as saying by Rappler during the induction of new officers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Davao City Chapter last Friday. He was referring to the possible investigation for corruption that would be conducted against them once they resign.
Asking the Armed Forces to intervene is always a dangerous move, aside from it being contrary to the principle of civilian supremacy over the military, which props up every democratic and republican state. To have the military intervene when the president bickers with other government institutions is to encourage military takeover of state power and the setting up of a military dictatorship.
We do not want the “genie to get out of the bottle.” I think that phrase is in the report in 1990 by the commission headed by the Cebuano former Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. that looked into the series of coup attempts by the military to oust the government of then president Corazon Aquino. Note that the military, specifically the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, was a major player in the 1986 Edsa people power uprising. The interventionist tendency grew from there.
It took defeats and years of re-education before some military elements could be reigned in. Still, it was only a few years ago, or under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003 when a coup attempt by a few military plotters were quelled. That was not too far away in time.
Incidentally, it was only three years ago when we saw the military intervene in Thailand following the political chaos that rocked that country. That resulted in the overthrow of the civilian government and the setting up of a military junta. Thailand, though, can be different from the Philippines considering that the said country has seen 12 successful military interventions since 1932, with seven failed coup attempts. Thailand is described as one of the world’s most coup-prone states.
Still, the 2014 coup by Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha was a product of a highly polarized setup that saw supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck battle the opposition that wanted Thaksin purged from Thai politics for good. Aren’t we seeing certain similarities now in the Philippine situation where so-called “Dutertards” are battling the so-called “dilawans”?
That is why we should not give some factions of the military the idea that it needs to seize power to “stabilize” the country in case political chaos erupts.