Bangit leads troops in interfaith rally for clean polls

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at May 03 2010 12:13 PM | Updated as of May 08 2010 02:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - With exactly a week to go before the elections, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Delfin Bangit and Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa led government troops in an interfaith rally on Monday morning at Camp Aguinaldo.

Priests, pastors and imams prayed over military troops who will soon be deployed to help secure the first ever nationwide automated elections.

"I've seen how the Philippine National Police worked 24 hours a day, and also, the components of the armed forces, just to be able to deliver a very good and a very credible election for our nation," Bangit told the soldiers.

"Kaya naisip ko halos nagawa na natin at ginagawa na natin lahat ng pupwedeng gawin ng isang tao, ng isang nilalang. And probably, after all we have exerted all the human efforts possible, then it is now time to turn to him," he added.

Verzosa said the country faces a "very challenging period in our nation's history with the coming elections."

He also said it was "an opportunity for both the AFP and the PNP to show that we remain focused on rendering nothing less than the best services we can give and with only the interests of the Filipino people foremost in our hearts and minds."

"We march with more confidence, with more vigor and with more dedication towards clean and honest elections, and towards a future that is truly peaceful, safe and progressive," Verzosa said.

The interfaith rally came amid talks that there are factions in the military which are planning a takeover in case of failed elections, and in case President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo does not step down by June 30.

In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Civil Relations Service said "it is paramount for the AFP to be proactive and responsive in safeguarding the sanctity of votes."

"The election has to succeed. It has to be credible, and the AFP is dead serious and working doubly hard to ensure that a credible election is achieved," it said.

No destabilization

On Sunday, the military downplayed warnings some factions may join a possible people power scenario in the event of a failure of the May 10 automated elections.

Reacting to fugitive Captain Nicanor Faeldon's recent statements, suggesting the possibility that some factions of the military may take part in an armed uprising if the elections are marred by massive cheating, AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos said the military remains solid and apolitical, committed only to the rule of law and to ensuring clean and peaceful elections.

(Read: Fugitive soldier warns against GMA power grab)

Burgos noted the military's election preparations are in place, adding the military establishment does not want another uprising by the people.

"We don't want such scenario taking place. The people will not allow it, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not allow it. We will be for the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines," he said.

Interfaith rally not a loyalty check

"We're solid and professional," Burgos said on ANC's Dateline Philippines Sunday. "As what General Delfin Bangit says, the AFP will be on the side of the Filipino people, on the side of what is good and right. All your AFP is loyal. There's no price tag to it. It is our honor," he said.

Burgos insisted the interfaith gathering, with the participation of around 3,000 enlisted men, was just a routine formation and part of the AFP's election preparations, not a loyalty check among officers and soldiers.

"This is an activity intended to invoke divine intervention for the protection for our soldiers who are deputized to ensure honest and peaceful elections," Burgos explained. "This is just a formation. Here in Camp Aguinaldo, during red alert, we have mastering of troops so we can check on the readiness of our troops in case there is a need to send them to an area upon the request of Comelec."

The AFP has said it is prepared to secure the elections.

AFP: Faeldon no credibility

The AFP and the PNP also sought to discredit Faeldon's credibility.

Burgos said they are just ignoring the fugitive soldier, whom, he said, has no authority or credibility to speak for the AFP.

"First of all, who is Faeldon? He has no authority or credibility to speak for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He has no men so we are just ignoring him. The best thing for him to do is turn himself in and then face charges, that's it." Burgos said in a statement.

He added it would be best for Faeldon to just turn himself in and face charges against him pending before civilian and military courts.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) spokesman Superintendent Rommel Miranda said Faeldon has "no credibility" adding that, try as they might, these few individuals will not be allowed destroy the united front that the AFP and PNP have built. 

Speaking to ABS-CBN News on Friday, Faeldon expressed fears that the Arroyo administration is cooking up a possible failure of the elections so that President Arroyo will remain in power beyond the end of her term on June 30.

Faeldon, a fugitive leader of the short-lived Oakwood mutiny in July 2003, remains at large after escaping from military custody in November 2007.

There is a P1-million peso bounty for his recapture.