|Retired generals who served the late President Cory Aquino vow to protect votes for Liberal Party presidential bet Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III in the country's first nationwide elections on May 10. (Photo courtesy of Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)
MANILA, Philippines - Retired generals who joined the 1986 People Power revolution and served the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino have re-grouped to protect the votes of her son, Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
“We are prepared. Our group has prepared to protect and ensure that each of the Filipino voter's vote shall be counted,” said retired Major General Ramon Montaño in a press conference on Wednesday.
The former chief of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary, which was later absorbed into the integrated Philippine National Police (PNP), said Aquino is the clear choice of the Filipino people.
Ten retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) officers signed a manifesto, “The EDSA 1986 veterans support Senator Noynoy Aquino in his presidency of true people empowerment.”
Montaño said there are around 100 of them nationwide.
'Uphold the Constitution'
In the manifesto, they appealed to those in the active service to uphold the Constitution.
“We appeal to our comrades still serving the AFP and the PNP to join us in this crusade for reforms by remaining true to the Constitution and resist the pressure of the present cabal of political leaders and vested interests to frustrate the people’s will in the 2010 elections by use of guns, gold, and naked abuse of political power,” the retired soldiers and policemen said.
The other retired officers who signed are: Lt. Gen Voltaire Gazmin, Lt. Gen. Raul Urgello, Jaime Gopilan, Lt. Gen Eduardo Batenga, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dominguez, former PNP director-general Recaredo Sarmiento, Police Supt. Francisco Zubia, former police deputy director Reynaldo Acop, and Captain Jaime Balansay.
Although retired, Montaño said they still have influence among soldiers and policemen, who are jointly responsible for the security of the May 10 polls.
“Being retired generals, most of those officers now in the active service have served under us,” Montaño said.
Montaño said electoral fraud is impossible without the help of the AFP and the PNP. “If the police and the armed forces will not allow it, no cheating can be done,” he said.
Montaño is particularly confident in the leadership of PNP chief Jesus Verzosa, whom he previously worked with. Both were together in the Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command. Montaño was chief of staff when Verzosa was still a junior officer.
No to parallel manual count
Montaño, who is convinced the poll automation system cannot be manipulated, opposed the parallel manual count demanded by business groups, information technology experts, and other civic organizations.
“It’s a stupid call. We have studied the voting now. No way can the machines cheat. Parallel counting is a waste of time,” he said.
What should be guarded are the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and the ballots, Montaño said.
“Gwardiyahan namin yan. From the Commission on Elections warehouse, we will escort it to the clustered precincts,” he said.
He said they will join other watchdog groups like the Parish Pastoral Council or Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in this endeavor.
New forms of cheating
“We have enough guards. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry will be there to guard the elections. No one will monkey around with the machines,” he said.
Sarmiento said they will they will also watch out for possible new forms of cheating.
“It’s the first [nationwide] automated elections that we are holding. Di pa natin alam kung ano pa yung ibang modus operandi ang gagawin ng mga nagbabalak mandaya. We will advise our people we organized to keep watch and be very vigilant on whatever actions that tend to alter the results of the elections,” he said.
The retired generals also appealed to the Comelec, the teachers who will serve in the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), and the Department of Justice to keep the polls orderly.
In the manifesto, the retired generals said Aquino is the best among the 9 presidential candidates.
"We believe that Senator Aquino has the strength of character, the moral uprightness and the selfless love for the Filipino people to lead and unite all Filipinos in this crucial struggle for survival against the forces of evil and return dignity and honor to the public service," they said.
"We also believe that Senator Aquino has the courage and the unswerving determination to dislodge the well entrenched vested interest groups in our country now controlling our political leadership, and return real political power to the Filipino people," they added.