MANILA (Mabuhay) – What’s a soldier to do when the government he serves is ruled in violation of the Constitution he’s sworn to defend?
Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang, the new Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, had a ready answer for the troops when he visited the 1st Air Division headquarters in Clark, Pampanga – “Let It Be” and “Let It Go,” and steer clear of the issue.
Catapan, who was installed on July 18 and has until July of next year to lead the military, is on a “Talk to the men tour” that he kicked off at the Northern Luzon Command, which he used to head and which is based in Tarlac, President Benigno Aquino III’s home province.
“The President, our commander-in-chief, is clear that the DAP was a mechanism created by government precisely to accelerate services to the people. The government felt that it is unconscionable to close its eyes to the problems that can aggravate especially when there is no money made available,” Catapang told the troops at Clark, referring to the Disbursement Acceleration Program, key provisions of which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.
“This is a concern that all officers and soldiers must understand. Recently, the nation has been preoccupied with this issue on DAP … And of coruse, we are also a beneficiary of this DAP,” Catapang said.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said his department and the AFP received more than P600 milion in DAP funds but, following the high court decision, at least P10 million supposed to be for a Navy housing project had to be returned to the national treasury.
“Whatever the ruling of the court is, that it is unconstitutional, sabi ko nga (as I said) so let it be kung unconstitutional ‘yan, parang kanta ng (if it’s unconstitutional, like the song of the) Beatles…’When I find myself in trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.’ So, sige (all right) let it be, e dinesisyonan ng Supreme Court e (the Supreme Court has decided). Pero sa bagong [kanta ng] mga bagets (But in the new song of the youngsters), ‘Let it go’… so, let it go,” Catapang said.
“Let It Go” is the theme song of the animated movie “Frozen.”
The AFP chief reminded the soldiers that the continuing row over the DAP “is part of the dynamics of democracy. Let the legal experts share their ideas and opinions while the executive branch awaits the decision on its motion for reconsideration. The DAP has become a political issue [and] we should be reminded that as members of the AFP we should remain professional and non-partisan.”
The government has filed a motion for reconsideration on the high court’s decision, which has dealt Aquino a devastating setback and paved the way for the filing of impeachment complaints against him.
“We should allow the democratic process to take its course and let the judicial, the executive, the legislative branches of government deal with this. Magkakaintindihan rin naman ‘yan (They will come to an understanding) in the end dahil (because) you know, they are people we have elected or put in position. Their ultimate goal is to serve the country, to serve our people. So, I know that after all things have been said and done, these things will be properly reconciled. Huwag tayong makialam, trabaho lang tayo (Let’s not interfere, let’s just work),” Catapang said.
Nevertheless, he also stressed that the DAP “helped our modernization kaya may mga bago tayong eroplano, barko (which is why we have new planes, ships), housing, among others. Tayo ang naging (We became the) beneficiary of the honesty of the ‘tuwid na daan’ na ginagawa ng ating Pangulo (the straight path of our President) … These are the funds that the President made available to us in order to show appreciation sa ating ginagawa para sa bayan (for what we do for the country).” (MNS)