A creeping militarization

"No less than the President has admitted this."



The plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to place Bureau of Customs operations under military control ran into constitutional barriers. This was after smuggled shabu shipment valued at P11 billion slipped through the graft-ridden bureau. In a fit of rage, Duterte replaced Customs chief Isidro Lapeña with Marina head Ray Leonardo Guerrero, former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff.

The President on Thursday admitted that his government is indeed militarizing the civilian offices. Guerrero’s appointment as Customs chief and Duterte’s statement have confirmed our suspicion that indeed he has militarized the civilian bureaucracy,

Call it bragging if you will but sometimes I get scared by own prescience. Perhaps it’s all a matter of reading the straws in the wind. But because it was a holiday when most people were either in the cemetery honoring the dead while some took the occasion to take a four- day vacation in nearby Hong Kong, Taiwan or other visa-free Asean countries and even Japan, many missed this major news story.

My fellow columnist in this paper Antonio La Vina cited provisions in the Constitution that prohibit military men from assuming functions of a civilian office.

“Unless they resign or retire from the service, a military man cannot even be appointed as janitor in the customs bureau,” said Lavina who stressed the supremacy of civilian authority over the military.

There are at present several officials, retired or resigned from military service, who are occupying positions in the Cabinet and other government agencies. Aside from Lapeña who was transferred from the BoC to Tesda. the former soldiers include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu (former AFP chiefs), National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office General Manager Alexander Balutan, National Food Authority Administrator Brig, Gen. (ret) Jason Aquino and retired Brig, Gen. Ricardo Jalad who is the current head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

We do not see anything wrong with Lorenzana as DND secretary nor Esperon as National Security Adviser. I think they are perfect choices for these positions. But eyebrows are raised with the other generals and former military men. It’s like having an unofficial military junta.

This creeping militarization gives me the creeps more than those Halloween masks. I’m quite sure others feel the same. But they missed this major story as they were busy having fun at Halloween parties. Today Saturday, Filipinos must have been jolted by Digong’s confession.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigating the smuggled shabu shipment and the conspiracy of BOC examiners, has also voiced his concern about the government’s creeping militarization of civilian offices.

With Mindanao under an extended martial law because of the ISIS terrorist siege of Marawi, the citizens are wary about the whole country being placed under martial law without presidential proclamation. They look back at martial law declared by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos who did it openly based on legal and constitutional bounds.

On the other hand, the people are beginning to fear the Duterte administration is placing the entire country under martial law surreptitiously on a piecemeal basis. The Filipino people could be wrong but we cannot blame the citizenry for being apprehensive about another decades-long military rule.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo clarified Duterte’s order was merely military presence to deter corruption at Customs. Panelo said military men working in tandem with BOC officials was to put fear on corrupt personnel. No sooner had Panelo said these words did President Duterte make him lose credibility by admitting he is indeed militarizing the government.

Job openings for nurses

The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency announced job openings for 1,000 Filipino nurses in Saudi Arabia. The POEA said there will no need for applicants to pay placement fees as the hiring is on a government to government basis.

The Saudi Ministry of Health, according to the POEA, will provide living accommodations, P50,000 monthly salary and annual vacation paid leave. Requirements are a valid six-month validity passport. a nursing graduate certificate and a two-year working experience in a hospital.

This is good news coming after 10 Filipino workers were arrested by Saudi police for attending a noisy Halloween party in the capital Riyadh. The Philippine embassy has provided legal counsel for the detained Filipinos.

Topics: Alejandro del Rosario , A creeping militarization , President Rodrigo Duterte , Bureau of Customs , Ray Leonardo Guerrero
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