MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In a surprise outburst at the military, President Rodrigo Duterte dared soldiers to oust him if they found him no longer qualified to govern.
“I have stated my clear stand on the matter. If the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) thinks I am not competent, that I am not qualified to be sitting here – I discussed this with them in a command conference – bahala kayo (it’s up to you),” the President said during an interview with Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, September 11, in Malacañang.
“If you want another president, fine,” the commander-in-chief said, and reiterated his past pronouncements that he did not want to see soldiers fighting fellow soldiers.
Duterte’s remarks came a week after his order voiding the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was made public. Trillanes, a former Navy officer, was granted amnesty by the previous Aquino administration for his participation in two mutinies against the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now Speaker of the House.
The military said last week that it was ready to arrest the senator, but changed its tune later, saying it will defer to whatever the Supreme Court will say on the matter.
On Tuesday, an upset Duterte said Trillanes never did anything for the military, but that if the institution does not recognize that, it can always “go to [Trillanes] and stage a mutiny or revolution or whatever.”
“You are free to do that. As a matter of fact, I am encouraging you to do that para tapos na (so it ends here),” he said.
Protect the people
Duterte reminded them of their mandate to "protect the people," although, he added, they were also free to destroy that. He made the statement while explaining why he had been frequenting military camps, especially those in Marawi after the siege, to talk to the troops.
"Hindi ako nagpapalakas. Alam mo kung bakit? Sabihin ko sa military: Hindi ako nagpapalakas sa inyo. Kasi inihalal akong Presidente. Ngayon kayo may mandate kayo to protect the people and preserve the nation. Gusto ‘nyong sirain ‘yan? Okay lang. Panahon ko? Okay lang," he said.
(I'm not trying to win you over. You know why? Let me tell the military: I'm not trying to win you over. It's because I was elected President. Now you have the mandate to protect the people and preserve the nation. You want to destroy that? That's okay. During my term? That's okay.)
In the same breath, he stressed that if they disagreed with him, they should do so in a peaceful manner, like shaving their heads. "That is a way to show respect for democracy. If you disagree you do it that way. Good!"
These are Duterte's most critical remarks of the armed forces, which he has consistently praised for winning the war against state enemies.
In his Proclamation No. 572, Duterte voided Trillanes' amnesty on two grounds: that the senator "did not" file his amnesty application, citing a certification from a unit in the military, and that he did not admit guilt. Documents show he did both.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said it was Solicitor General Jose Calida who had asked for access to Trillanes' papers in the miliitary, without stating the reasons for it.
Lorenzana also said Duterte did not consult him when the order was issued against Trillanes.
The Philippine military was behind two peaceful revolts that ousted presidents: one in 1986, when the EDSA People Power Revolution forced dictator Ferdinand Marcos to leave the country; and the other in 2001, when the military withdrew its support from then-president Joseph Estrada following massive protests against him.
Why so 'insecure?'
Responding to Duterte's statements, Trillanes said, "Tungkol naman sa Armed Forces, he has become so insecure. Wala pong nakikipag-kompetensya sa inyo. (Regarding the Armed Forces, he has become so insecure. No one's trying to compete with you."
"Siya yung commander-in-chief ng Armed Forces, ako ay isang senador," Trillanes explained. "Tumutulong ako whenever I can not only to soldiers but to everyone… ganun din dapat sya. Di kami nagpapataasan ng ihi dito, walang kompetensya."
(He's the commander-in-chief of the the Armed Forces, and I'm a senator. I help whenever I can not only to soldiers but to everyone, and that's how he should do things too. This isn't a pissing contest, there's no rivalry.)
"I believe yung mga sundalo maliwanag yan yung (it is clear to soldiers that) loyalty is in the chain of command and constitution so I don’t know where this insecurity is coming from," Trillanes added. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com