MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said it would no longer pursue charges against actress and activist Mae Paner for her unauthorized use of a military battle uniform.
AFP Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. said a review of the incident revealed that Paner, popularly known as Juana Change, did not intend to ridicule soldiers, but instead meant to "praise their sacrifices,” when she wore a military uniform during a protest held in time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on Monday.
“Based on this information, the AFP will no longer pursue the case, but calls upon Ms. Paner and other unauthorized individuals to henceforth desist from inappropriate use of our uniforms,” Padilla said in a news conference in Malacañang.
Padilla noted that the uniform Paner wore at the protest is used in the battle zone and is, thus, sacred for the troops.
“It is the same uniform our soldiers wear whenever we go to battle and the same uniform many of our heroes die wearing in the battle field and in the defense of [the] motherland and our people,” he said.
“If it is her desire to extol the sacrifices, gallantry and dedication to duty of all our soldiers and help recruit more patriotic Filipinos to the Armed Forces, your Armed Forces is open to have Ms. Paner among the ranks of our patriotic reservists who, without, hesitation continue to be among our most ardent partners for change,” he said.
The AFP had earlier said Paner violated Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code (Unauthorized Use of Uniforms) and Republic Act 493, a law that prohibits the use of military grades or titles by those not part of the service.
Section 2 of the law prohibits persons who are not in military service to "use or wear the duly prescribed insignia, badge or emblem or rank of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine Constabulary, or any colorable imitation thereof."
The penal code provision carries a penalty of arresto mayor, or imprisonment of one month and one day to six months, while violators of RA 493 may face a fine of P100 to P2,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than two years, or both.
USON TO BECOME MILITARY RESERVIST
Padilla meanwhile shielded Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson from criticism that she may have also committed the same violation when she recently wore fatigues in an official trip.
The military spokesperson noted that the one worn by Uson “can be bought commercially” and was not regulation uniform.
Padilla also revealed that Uson was on her way to becoming a military reservist.
President Rodrigo Duterte considers Uson, who maintains a widely followed social media page, an integral part of his presidential campaign.
“Mocha has been with me during the campaign. She offered her services free,” Duterte told reporters in a press conference after his SONA on Monday.
“[She] deals with everybody. Kaibigan niya ang military, kaibigan niya ang lahat. So, bakit hindi ko siya ilagay sa pwesto?,” said Duterte of his decision to give Uson a government post.