MANILA -- The Armed Forces on Friday sought to downplay pronouncements that the Supreme Court (SC) decision over Chief Justice appointment has invited fresh military adventurisms.
The High Court recently ruled that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could name the replacement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who is set to retire on May 17.
The ruling, according to coup plotter now senatorial bet Brigadier General Danilo Lim, is inviting a new military uprising as it was maneuvered by the Arroyo administration “to control the judiciary so it can avoid persecution for its high crimes against the people.”
But Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said Friday that there are no signs of restiveness or grumblings in the military.
“There is no restiveness in the military. There is no problem. Everyone still adheres to the chain of command,” Burgos said.
He said the military has an enhanced feedback mechanism from its officers and men owing to the modern technology. “Our troop information and education continue. There is no problem with our troops.”
Burgos also said the military has matured much since the days when Lim figured on military adventurisms -- the last time was when he led the siege of the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City in November 2007 and the failed plot to overthrow the Arroyo government in February 2006.
The bemedalled officer is now facing rebellion charges in connection with the November 2007 standoff and charges of mutiny before a military court in connection with the February 2006 coup.
“The military is now very professional...The Armed Forces of the Philippines has transformed well enough. We’ve learned so much already,” said Burgos, while adding that military personnel would not join any future upheavals “because they know where they are going.”
Burgos noted that the officers and men ended up in jail, many of them even discharged, for involvement in military adventurisms.
“Our experiences have taught us a lot of lessons that we should adhere to the chain of command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines so that you will never go wrong… (They know the) repercussions and the consequences of their actions. They know our experiences before; you already know where those involved in adventurism ended up. The safest thing to do is to follow, adhere to the chain of command,” he stressed.
In a statement circulated to the media, Lim believed that some restive elements in the military are “closely monitoring” the developments in the so-called “Arroyo Court,” where all but Puno are the President’s appointees.
The senatorial candidate, however, was quick to distance himself from the possibility of new military uprising, saying he has taken another path to “pursue his advocacy for social change.”
“I have already done my part and I have no regrets. While ‘a new rising’ may not come from our end, I am certain, as long as this government is in power and continues to rule with total disregard for our democratic institutions, the possibility of a soldier’s revolt is always there,” he said.
Lim then called on the SC to reverse the decision unless the justices wanted “to witness an uprising powered by the people and military.”
Aside from Lim, several lawmakers and group leaders have staged protests condemning the nine justices who voted in favor of Arroyo appointing Puno’s replacement.
Party-list group Kabataan, independent presidential candidate Senator Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, senatorial candidate Akbayan Representative Ana Risa Hontiveros, Senator Francis Pangilinan, and Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño staged a rally in front of the SC office in Manila.
Reelectionist Senator Pia Cayetano has also joined other opposition senators in denouncing the SC decision.
“I don't agree with the Supreme Court's decision. The High Court has already ruled in 1998 that the President cannot make appointments to the courts, nor be required to do so two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his or her term. It is disappointing that the SC has taken a different position and reversed long-standing jurisprudence,” she stated.
Earlier, Senators Mar Roxas, Manny Villar, and Francis "Chiz" Escudero slammed the ruling.
Together with Lim, the lawmakers hoped that the SC will reverse itself given that it is not a unanimous decision.
‘Let them speak’
Deputy presidential spokesperson Charito Planas said Malacañang will not stop groups that want to stage rallies since it is their freedom to express their sentiments.
“It is their right to stage rally. We have no appeal to them if they continue to do it,” she said in Filipino.
She, however, said the public should also respect and abide by the decision of the High Court.
She encouraged those who are opposing the ruling of the SC to file a motion for reconsideration to be able to solve their issues in proper court.
“They have 15 days to file it and then, we will wait for the decision of the SC if they deny or grant it,” Planas said.
The group of Pangilinan said they will file a motion for reconsideration against the SC decision. Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said he will support the motion if filed.
Asked if the snowballing opposition would not lead to serious political instability, Planas defied, saying the rule of law would prevent any untoward event.
“Let the law takes its course,” she said.
The SC, for its part, called for sobriety on Friday amid the public outrage over its recent ruling.
Court administration and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said while it is the constitutional right of the groups to hold the protest rallies, a resort to violence and illegal means will not hold water in a court of law.
“It seems to me that many of them are the same people who have given their views on this issue already even before the Court issued the ruling. I can’t blame them for standing by their views. I just hope they would not resort to violence,” he said.
Marquez also warned that members of the Bar who would “go beyond the line” and join violent acts in protest to the SC ruling and try to pressure the court in illegal ways could be disbarred.
He said in its ruling, the High Court gave weight to the opinion of retired SC Justice Florenz Regalado among the views submitted by members of the Constitutional Commission.
The SC, in a 9-1-3 decision, ruled on Wednesday that President Arroyo’s appointment of the next Chief Justice is not a “midnight appointment.”
The High Court has asked the Judicial and Bar Council to submit the shortlist of nominees to Arroyo on or before Puno’s retirement on May 17. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/VR/JCV/Sunnex)