Army chief pledges neutrality in 2010 polls

Reuters

Posted at Nov 18 2009 08:43 PM | Updated as of Nov 19 2009 04:43 AM

MANILA - Philippine soldiers will not stop or manipulate results in national elections next May, the Army chief said on Wednesday, brushing off rumors that troops could be used to favor the administration's candidates.

Filipinos are electing the president, vice president, about 300 lawmakers in the two houses of Congress and more than 17,000 local government officials in the elections.

"I cannot allow these lies to instill fear and panic in our countrymen," Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, commander of the 70,000-member Philippine Army, said in a statement.

"This is being done at the expense of the peace of mind of our people. The only participation that soldiers must have in the coming elections is the exercise of their right to suffrage."

"I deeply understand the importance of having credible elections in 2010 for the sake of peace," he added.

Philippine soldiers have played a key role in twice changing the leadership. In 1986, the Army backed a popular revolt to oust dictator Ferdinand Marcos and in 2001 it helped remove President Joseph Estrada over corruption allegations.

Rumors have been swirling in Manila about a plot to install generals loyal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in senior posts in an effort to prevent an opposition poll victory.

Part of the supposed plot was to install Banguit, who served for two-and-a-half years as commander of Arroyo's elite Presidential Security Guard, as the military chief before the election. But there has been no move to do so yet.

Arroyo herself has been hounded by allegations of election fraud in 2004, when she was elected to office. There were rumors then too that soldiers helped manipulate election results, but she shrugged off four attempts to impeach her on the charges.