|Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin|
Former Senator Joker Arroyo is right when he opined in a recent interview that President Aquino is in a bind, as he has antagonized both the Left and the military in his recent statements following the arrest of retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan by NBI operatives. Palparan now languishes in the Bulacan Provincial Jail, but significant segments of the military want him in military custody or the PNP Crame jail where they feel he'd be far safer.
The problem is that if P-Noy and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin agree to transfer the controversial officer, leftist elements would surely protest to high heavens his "special treatment” inasmuch as he had become a civilian two years back. But if something happens to Palparan while in that Bulacan jail---and this fear is shared by many elements, including his present custodians---there’s no telling what could happen, given the thick rumblings of discontent from military ranks over what they consider the unjust treatment being accorded a colleague who was just doing his duty as a soldier.
It’s a tough balancing act and a highly sensitive issue for the Palace indeed.
The dilemma began with Secretary Gazmin’s impolitic statement upon the wanted officer’s arrest, which sounded like a boast. Gazmin was quoted as saying: "Matagal ko nang gustong ipaaresto si Palparan at iregalo sa Pangulo, para naman mapangiti siya." This sounds like an insensitive thing to say, indication that the DND Chief is far removed in feelings and understanding from the military hierarchy he commands.
Contrast his statement with that of AFP Chief Catapang who knows how to calibrate the feelings of his officers. Contrast, too, the treatment of the former fugitive with that of former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who didn't seem to be really wanted for a long while.
P-Noy followed his Defense Chief's statement by saying that now that the fugitive has been arrested, things could get back to normal in the military.
Palparan has long been roasting in the media, with highly-charged invectives against him, much of which he doubtless deserves for the crimes attributed to him. But this should not have made P-Noy and his Defense Chief less sensitive to the feelings of the AFP about Palparan's capture and imprisonment---more temperate language could have been employed if they know their beans.
What they could have said was that while Palparan has long been wanted for a series of crimes, like every citizen of this country he's entitled to fair and speedy trial UNDER THE LAW. Period. Leave the invectives to the media and the trial to the courts.
I spoke to some active and retired AFP officers about Palparan’s arrest and imprisonment and they told me how texts have been burning among the officer and enlisted personnel about this. They said the military---especially junior officers---are angry about the way he is being treated, and that he's entitled to presumption of innocence until proved guilty. The papers correctly put the dilemma: is Gen. Palparan hero or heel?
There's a more crucial point: an active officer told me that to the rank and file military Palparan was just doing his duty in fighting rebel forces, and that as a result of the recent foul treatment of him, junior officers would now hesitate to fight the insurgents---as they fear they'd also end up with cases.
There's still a graver issue that the Aquino administration has to worry about. The arrest of Palpaparan comes at a time when P-Noy's acceptance and trust ratings are at their lowest in his four years. There are many serious problems besetting his administration, most scandalous of all the DAP issue that has been a source of vast corruption, while the Legislature under his control is now highly discredited.
The military corps is doubtless aware of these developments, and the administration ought to take care that all measures to ensure Gen. Palparan’s safety under custody be taken. For if something should happen to him there’s no telling how events would shape.
|New Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza|
The recent appointment of former Solicitor-General Francis H. Jardeleza to the Supreme Court as its 15th justice was also fraught with conflict. Recall that his name was struck out of the final list of nominees submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to the President some months back. News reports said JBC's chair, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, ordered deletion of his name owing allegedly to some problems of "integrity" affecting him.
That integrity issue is thought of as the Sol-Gen's decision, to quote Daily Tribune, "to unilaterally withdraw the Philippines' claim to the largest island in the Spratleys, in a pleading submitted to the UN arbitration body hearing that territorial dispute (with China)." Jardeleza's move was perceived as an apparent bid to appease the Chinese government, but as an insider argued, it obviously was done with P-Noy's go-signal.
To watchers of the Sereno-Jardeleza conflict, the bigger issue was that the Sol-Gen was deprived of the opportunity to defend himself against what looked like an arbitrary move by CJ Sereno in the JBC. He brought his case ironically enough to the SC and to President Aquino, who ordered that his name be put on the JBC list.
Some commentators noted that the tiff between Sereno and Jardeleza dates back to when they, both outstanding UP College of Law graduates (class '84 and '74, respectively), were faculty members of the premium law school.
Given this conflict background, it was rather surprising to many Court watchers that P-Noy appointed Jardeleza to the SC. But part of the surprise was due to the popular notion that COA Chair Grace Pulido Tan was more favored for the SC. In fact reports say she already did her round of farewells in COA, but it was not meant to be.
Some commentators surmise that the appointment of Sereno's nemesis to the High Court was the President's way of retaliating against her for her failure to successfully push the constitutionality of DAP that P-Noy needs so badly to realize his party's 2016 election agenda. The 13-0 vote was particularly bitter for him, but the High Court could not do otherwise, as public opinion was near-solid vs. DAP. Now the House is giving CJ Sereno hell for this failure via close scrutiny of the Judicial Development Fund and demand for disclosure of the justices' SALNs.
But there are also surmises that Pulido Tan is now revealing many hitherto hidden facts of DAP, because of her bitter failure to get the coveted SC seat. One such revelation from COA is that P239 million of DAP allegedly went into the feeding program of the foundation where Viel Aquino-Dee sits in the board (the Palace quickly cleared her on this issue). Another recent allegation of COA is that the Cayetanos of Taguig, staunch allies of P-Noy, had squandered so much DAP funds in aid of their campaign; in fact plunder charges were filed against them.