DAVAO CITY, Philippines – By offering too much favor to retired officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), President Rodrigo Duterte will soon turn his cabinet and other key positions in the government into full military control, a group warned.
In a statement on Thursday, human rights group Karapatan condemned what is said the blatant positioning of militarists who usurp and cripple civilian functions to give way to nationwide military rule.
“Retiring or retired uniformed officers have a guaranteed career ahead of them under the Duterte regime. As a reward for the incessant human rights violations directed and funded by the government, these butchers are appointed to key civilian positions. Duterte not only coddles the masterminds of the most atrocious crimes but ensures they are positioned in strategic roles to perpetrate more abuses,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.
Duterte appointed last February 15 retired Major General Rene Glen Paje as undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Paje served as commander of the First Scout Ranger at the height of the Marawi siege.
“Less than a month prior to Paje’s appointment, Duterte also awarded another undersecretary position to retired Brigadier General Felicisimo Budiongan. Budiongan was assistant deputy commander of the Mechanized Infantry Division before his retirement,” Palabay continued.
She said both Paje and Budiongan will be working under former AFP Chief of Staff Rolando Bautista who is now serving as DSWD secretary.
Karapatan said a total of 40 ex-military and police officers, some of whom were already favored during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now occupy vital posts in the Duterte administration.
The group named these former military and police officers, aside from Bautista, as Ex-AFP Chief Eduardo Año as DILG Secretary, Ex-AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. as National Security Adviser, retired general Delfin Lorenzana as Defense Secretary, ex-AFP Chief Carlito Galvez as Secretary of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, retired army general Eduardo del Rosario as HUDCC chairman, ex-AFP chief Roy Cimatu as DENR Secretary, and retired police general Isidro Lapeña as TESDA Director General.
“The Duterte regime is doling out these positions under the guise that these butchers are competent when scrutiny of their credentials leads us to a big question mark. This gap can be bridged by the fact that they are compañeros of the President and loyal lapdogs who killed and violated people’s rights on command,” Palabay added.
With the former military men still in the high posts of the government, militarization is rural areas, particularly in Mindanao will continue, she said.
Palabay also noted the recent nod made by the Supreme Court (SC) for the validity of martial law in Mindanao.
“Like the chaos that the military has perpetrated in Mindanao, we are noting spikes in military operations in communities across the country, resulting to harassment, displacement, and other violations. Martial law did nothing to resolve conflict, nor did it solve the socio-economic concerns of Mindanaoans.,” Palabay said.
A military Cabinet, she emphasized, will aggravate the situation and spread state terrorism all over the country,” Palabay explained.
Karapatan also sees great risk among the Filipino people when Duterte decides to position more ex-military men in the government.
“This existing set-up will no doubt steer the country towards intensified repression, corruption and unaccountability, paving the way to a full-fledged dictatorship. This regime will not only exacerbate the already deteriorating human rights situation in the country but will also remove transparency and checks and balances within the government,” the statement concluded. (Ray Villarias, HCDC Intern/davaotoday.com)