General Denies Soldiers Ordered to Vote for TU

May. 10, 2007

TAGUM CITY —- It is wise to listen only to credible critics, Brigadier General Carlos Holganza, commanding general of the 1001st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, said today.

Holganza suggested a scrutiny of the background of the people behind Bantay Boto which alleged that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr. ordered the chain of command to ensure a straight vote for Team Unity of the administration.

He cited the allegation as an attempt to cast aspersion on the integrity of the AFP. Sinisira nila ang kredibilidad ng military, he said in a phone interview.

Noting that people behind Bantay Boto were known to have staged a rebellion against the government, he said the organization is tainted and biased and therefore, not credible.

Holganza said there is no such order to vote only for the administration ticket. Lahat ay binigyan ng pagkakataong bumoto kung sino man ang gusto nilang iboto, he said referring to military personnel under his command.

Part of the 10th Infantry Division, the 1001st IB covers portions of Compostela Valley outside of the area of responsibility of Task Force Raptor based in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

Davao Oriental and the municipalities of Veruela, Sta Josefa and Loreto of Agusan del Sur (CARAGA Region), are also under the wings of 1001st IB, based in Mawab, Compostela Valley.

He denied reports that military officials were pressuring soldiers to go only for administration bets during the absentee voting conducted earlier in Davao Oriental.

Bahala sila kung sino ang gusto nilang iboto, he said.

However, he admitted that there were instances that officers informally talked about such things as who among the candidates are worthy to be voted with their subordinates.

May mga tao kaming nagtatanong kung sino ang dapat iboboto. Napag-usapan pero informally. That is not electioneering. We are just exercising our freedom of speech and our right to suffrage, he explained.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesman Major Randolph Cabangbang said military commanders were well aware of their mandate during elections and that there was no instance that they had campaigned for any particular candidate.

However, they had conducted voters education for their personnel, outlining qualities and attributes of ideal candidates who could contribute to security and national development without mentioning names of individuals or groups.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Antonio Amodia, commanding general of Task Force Raptor, was expecting that the absentee voting among soldiers would create a lot of controversies as he had seen flaws in conducting it.

But he was sure that the sanctity of the ballot was intact except that there was no representative from the COMELEC to oversee the entire proceedings.

But in spite of that, our soldiers were never forced nor compelled to vote for the administration candidates (only), he said in a text message.

He also belied reports accusing Esperon of pressuring troops to vote only administration bets.

I am not protecting our chief-of-staff but he is a man who gives value to sense of propriety (delicadeza). It was his brainchild (idea) for the AFP not to participate in election-related activities except to vote, he said.

Task Force Raptor covers Davao del Norte; Laak, and western side of the municipalities of Mawab, Nabunturan and Montevista of Compostela Valley; and districts of Calinan, Paquibato and Marilog of Davao City. (PIA/Jean Duron-Abangan)

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