MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday, September 12, slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for dragging the military into his political mess.
Sereno said Duterte put the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in danger when he revoked the amnesty granted to opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
“What President Duterte did by not consulting even the military is very dangerous. In other words, kumbaga 'pinahamak ni President Duterte ang AFP (President Duterte has put the AFP in danger),” Sereno told reporters after visiting Trillanes in his office.
“Paano? Biruin mo namang buksan ang ideya na lahat ng mga amnestiya na naibigay na sa libo-libong mga sundalo na nagkaroon ng problema sa batas, hindi lang sa time ni Cory ngunit sa kaninu-ninuan na nagkaroon ng mga aklasan sa hukbong sandatahan, eh lahat pala 'yan ay maaaring buksan,” Sereno said.
(How? Imagine opening the idea that all amnesties granted to thousands of soldiers that had legal problems, not only during the time of Cory but from way back, during the time of our ancestors when there was a mutiny in the Armed Forces, that all of that can be reopened.)
“Eh ibig sabihin 'yung amnestiya na alam ko nakuha mismo ni General Carlito Galvez 'pag nagbago na po ang administrasyon ay puwede ba pong buksan?” she added.
(Does this mean that when there is a new administation, the amnesty granted to General Carlito Galvez can be reopened?)
Sereno, who was in the Senate to visit Trillanes and other opposition senators, warned of the grave implications of Duterte’s actions for the military.
“Ang implikasyon po nito ay napakalalim at nakakabahala. Ibig sabihin po, imbis na buo ang Sandatahang Lakas ay magkakawatak-watak sila at laging may agam-agam na ang nasarhan na ay maari pang buksan. Malagim po ang maaaring mangyari,” she said.
(The implication of this [order] is very deep and alarming. This means that instead of a united Armed Forces, they would become divided and would always be worried that something that had been resolved can be reopened. Something dreadful may happen.)
In issuing the proclamation, Duterte also ordered the AFP to arrest Trillanes, his fierce critic. He and the AFP, however, later changed tune and said they would submit to civilian courts.
But Duterte on Tuesday could not hide his dismay at the military for not following his orders. (READ: Duterte dares AFP: You want another president? Fine)
'Lesson' for Duterte
Meanwhile, opposition Senator Leila de LIma said in statement on Wednesday that the AFP's position on the Trillanes issue should serve as a "lesson" for the President on how to regard the military.
"Duterte thought that by using the AFP against Trillanes, he can prove once and for all who is the boss. The test backfired, after the AFP promised to uphold the Constitution and protect the people, instead of following an order that was illegal on its face, even if it came from the President," De Lima said in a dispatch from her jail cell in Camp Crame.
"Duterte should learn his lesson here. He bit more than he can chew when he pushed the AFP to choose between their institution’s integrity and unity, on the one hand, and, on the other, loyalty to a petty President who has no understanding whatsoever of the cost in blood with which the military has purchased such integrity and unity in its history," she added.
De Lima said that by ranting against the military – particularly those who are sympathetic to Trillanes and his Magdalo party – during an interview with Chief Presidential Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, "Duterte showed that hell hath no fury like a President scorned by his own military."
"Duterte engaged in a diatribe against the military for choosing Trillanes over him. Of course, the choice that the AFP made was not between Duterte or Trillanes. The choice that the AFP made was between upholding the rule of law or implementing an illegal arrest," said the senator. – Rappler.com
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Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org