MANILA - Talks about a supposed move to destabilize the Marcos Jr. administration were triggered by a move of retired uniformed personnel to spearhead a crusade for clean and honest elections in the future, former senator Panfilo Lacson said.
Lacson, a former Philippine National Police Chief, issued the statement Monday when sought for his thoughts regarding Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr.’s pronouncement last week, that a group of military generals are reportedly spearheading a “destabilization plot” against the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
“It was triggered by the TNTrio rally mostly participated in by retired uniformed personnel in support of former DICT (Secretary) Eliseo Rio’s tenacious crusade for future clean and honest elections,” Lacson said in a text exchange with ABS-CBN News.
“The protest was primarily against Smartmatic and COMELEC for their failure and refusal to clarify the 20M votes mysteriously counted over an unbelievably short period of time,” he added.
The rally, which was staged on the day of the Martial Law declaration anniversary itself, was not even directed at the administration, Lacson stressed.
“Such protest action was not even directed at PBBM, although it may have been taken advantage of by some political groups in pursuit of their own political agenda,” Lacson pointed out.
Lacson revealed he was invited by the rally organizers to speak in the activity, but opted to decline the invitation because he ran in the 2022 presidential elections and others might misconstrue his participation in the event.
“My name was initially included as one of the speakers and [I] even received an invitation. I declined because I thought it was not proper for me to join since I myself was a candidate who may have been one of the possible victims of such Smartmatic scheme as there are indications that there was evidence of election fraud presented by Gen Rio and other like-minded retired military and police officers in several forums and through social media,” Lacson said.
“Kung hindi ako kandidato last year, yes I would have joined. Who doesn’t want clean elections?” he asked.
Brawner, in his November 4 speech during the change of command ceremony at the Western Mindanao Command, also added that the recruitment started last September 21 and even talked to a group of military generals and dissuaded them.
A day after making such a statement, however, Brawner modified his earlier pronouncement and claimed that he was misquoted by the media.
Asked if he is aware that Brawner indeed talked to a group of retired military generals, Lacson replied: “Yun ang wala na akong alam, kung may kinausap siya at sino?”
Lacson also has a theory as to what stemmed that supposed September 21 recruitment of retired uniformed personnel.
“Meron kasing unofficially coined September Twenty One Reform Movement (STORM) being formed by several retired uniformed officers which is actually advocating for clean and honest election, not to oust PBBM. Since September 21 is associated with the declaration of martial law by the president’s late father, wittingly or unwittingly, nai-connect sa destabilization,” Lacson said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, meanwhile, wanted journalists to interview Brawner again so he could clarify his earlier pronouncements.
Pimentel also quickly reminded the people on the proper way to push for “change.”
“My call to the People is that if we are after change, no matter how radical, let us follow processes allowed under our Constitution. Let us first and foremost give the Constitution a chance to work,” Pimentel, in a separate text statement said.
On Teleradyo Serbisyo’s ‘Ano’ng Ganap?’ program Sunday, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa stated that he has yet to hear talks about a supposed destabilization plot against the Marcos Jr. administration.
"Wala man, unless pumapalpak na ang aking koneksyon, intel monitoring. Pero wala akong narinig. Sino bang magkainteres na magkagulo?" dela Rosa said.
"Mamo-monitor naman 'yan, pero as of now kahit sabihin natin na mayaman tayong bansa, we can't afford to have that kind of uprising. We have to take care of our future. Kung merong ganun, isa ako sa haharang dahil wala nang mangyari sa ating bansa kung sige na lang gulo. Walang pupuntahan yan kulungan lang ang mappuntahan," he added.
A retired four-star police general himself, dela Rosa is doubtful that any such attempt would succeed in recent times, saying that uniformed personnel are now fully supported by the government with higher pay and sufficient benefits.
Dela Rosa also reminded soldiers and policemen not to join such plot if ever there is really one, as this will only negatively affect their career path just like what he experienced when he joined the 1989 coup d’ etat against the Cory Aquino administration.
“I am advising them na wag silang magpadikta sa mga taong gustong manggulo sa gobyerno,” dela Rosa said.
CALLS FOR CLEAN ELECTIONS 'VALID': HONASAN
Meanwhile, former senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan defended those retired uniformed officers advocating for honest and clean elections in the future.
Interviewed over the phone by ABS-CBN News, Honasan said any form of expression regarding issues at hand concerning the nation’s interest must be answered in the September 21 rally of the retired military officers is, “is it good for the country?”
“To me, yes. It is part of the democratic space that we want to enjoy... I’m referring. To everything, for every issue, we have 120 experts. This is good. We would rather have everybody articulate, express their views, even emotionally and passionately in the open, than meet clandestinely,” Honasan pointed out.
“When you start to meet clandestinely, that’s called plotting, Who don’t want to say things in the open,” he added.
Honasan, who prominently figured in a number of coup d' etat against the Corazon Aquino administration, sees the September 21 rally staged by his fellow retired military officers as a proof of a “democracy in progress.”
Honasan defined himself as a public servant who served the military for 17 years, seven of which are as a rebel.
He also served as a senator for 21 years and two years as a Cabinet member.
The Philippines as a “young nation” given its geographical location, he said, has a really promising future, provided that the country can fix and reengineer our backyard’s “damaged institutions.”
Asked if one should look at the gathering of retired military officers as a sign of a destabilization attempt, Honasan said: “Ibig sabihin nyan di ba, we are going through an uncontrolled paranoia. Ibig sabihin nyan, we lack confidence in our institutions.”
Honasan said one should not ask “who” is staging the action, but “why” are they doing that.
“Are they raising valid issues? Are they competing freely, fairly, openly, in the fair market of vision, ideas and leadership? Let the Filipino decide. But it does not constitute, it does not mean that there is a destabilization going on,” Honasan said.
Previous mutiny experiences of the country have proven that any destabilization effort that results to a polarized situation have “legally authorized armed groups” as “fulcrum,” Honasan said.
Asked if one should fear seeing retired soldiers going out of streets to rally, Honasan said: “No.”
“They are citizens first before they are retired military personnel,” Honasan stressed.
Asked how he views his fellow retired soldiers’ rally for honest and clean elections in the future, Honasan said: “That’s their right. That’s their duty.”
Honasan described former Information and Communications secretary Eliseo Rio – who is spearheading the crusade – as a “technically competent” officer.
The former senator said that while he was not invited by Rio’s group to join their September 21 protest action, he looks at their call to having clean and honest elections in the future, as a legitimate cause.
Honasan said that he, along with other active soldiers then, also made the same call “almost 40 years ago.”
“We were part of it, almost 40 years ago. We were articulating this. so, why should I inflict color again their effort. These are new personalities who are articulating valid issues. But again, if you keep on asking who, sino ba yang mga yan. Then start commenting on personalities... the question that should be asked is, why are they raising this? What are they saying. Not, who are you. Ginagamit lang yan sa text. Hu u?" Honasan said.