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Wednesday August 22, 2018

Malilong: Collateral damage

CEBU Third District Rep. Gwen Garcia has added another title to her growing list of distinctions. She is now a full colonel in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Her promotion was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments the other day, along with those of seven other legislators including Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The former Cebu governor is, without doubt, deserving of her promotion in the reserve force of the Army but I hope that she and her six colleagues will not serve as inspiration to her other colleagues to also seek commission in the AFP. It is not the politicization of the military that worries me but the militarization of Congress and other political institutions. Can you imagine a congressman rising on a question of privilege addressing the presiding officer, “permission to speak, Colonel Speaker, sir”?

Actually and levity aside, I think it is not a bad idea to have members of Congress embedded in the AFP as it would give them not only the opportunity to observe and hopefully absorb the military’s ethos and working habits but also achieve a deeper understanding of the needs of the military organization and its members.

But first they have to address the apparent contradiction of their commission with an age-old military practice. I refer to the AFP’s policy to compulsorily retire soldiers upon reaching the age of 55. How can an organization that ships out of its ranks professional soldiers at that age, at the same time welcome new officers who have not undergone military training and are five or 10 years older, even if only to the reserve force?

It doesn’t figure. I do not even know if the military retirees are automatically inducted into the reserve force. That it is only a reserve force is not an excuse for admitting overaged officers. Reserve soldiers are supposed to be ready to be called to active duty, aren’t they?

But again, congratulations on your promotion, Col. Garcia, ma’am. You look good in uniform, too.

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It couldn’t have been an earthquake that caused the collapse of that bunkhouse on Archbishop Reyes Ave. last Tuesday. I understand that all possible angles should be looked into in the investigation of the incident but please let’s not highlight those that not only insult the intelligence but more importantly, do injustice to the memory of those who perished in the tragedy.

I fully support Mayor Tommy Osmeña’s move to review the policy on the erection of bunkhouses that provide accommodations to construction workers. These are poor people who will readily agree to any arrangement on their lodging because they need the job and we need the strong arm of the State to level the playing field for them,

But I do not see the logic in suspending the projects of the construction company that assembled the scaffoldings to provide overnight shelter for its workers. That call should be made by the owners of the buildings being constructed. If they don’t trust their contractor anymore, let them fire him. Let’s not make them collateral damage in the bunkhouse collapse.


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