Sunday, May 13, 2007

SOLDIERS ORDERED TO VOTE FOR TEAM UNITY, DND EMPLOYEE CONFIRMS

In an interview with Bulatlat, an employee at the Department of National Defense corroborated reports that soldiers were instructed to vote 12-0 for the administration senatorial candidates as well as a military-backed party-list group.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

In an interview with Bulatlat, an employee at the Department of National Defense (DND) corroborated reports that soldiers were instructed to vote 12-0 for the senatorial candidates of the administration coalition Team Unity, as well as the party-list group Bantay (The True Marcos Loyalist) –- which has retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. as its first nominee.

Soldiers are among those covered by the Absentee Voting Law -– which allows voting ahead of schedule. Also covered by the said law are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), policemen, and teachers performing election duties.

“They had orders to vote straight for Team Unity, and to vote for Bantay,” the DND employee -– who asked not to be named for security reasons -– told Bulatlat in an interview.

Team Unity’s candidates are: Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Mike Defensor, Jamalul Kiram, Vicente Magsaysay, Cesar Montano, Teresa Aquino-Oreta, Prospero Pichay Jr., Ralph Recto, Luis “Chavit” Singson, Vicente Sotto III and Juan Miguel Zubiri. Based on a list of party-list nominees recently released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) upon orders following a Supreme Court ruling, Bantay’s other nominees aside from Palparan are: Ramon Garcia, Benjamin Angeles, Alan Guevara, and Agnes Reaño.

“General Esperon himself issued the order,” the DND employee said, referring to Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The DND employee’s revelation corroborates the allegations made by a Col. Romeo A. Solina of the Philippine Army in a statement now circulating through the Internet. Solina’s letter was originally posted on the website http://sundalo.bravehost.com/, and began circulating around the Internet late last week.

“Information reportedly given by soldiers from different areas in the country claim that they were supervised by their commanders and ordered to vote straight Team Unity and for party list Bantay of retired general Palparan,” Solina said in his statement. “The soldiers come from Tarlac, from Samar, and from Davao. Personally, I also have my own informant confirming the same. Although out of the service, I still have a few soldiers in the active service who maintain contact with me.”

Before Solina’s statement started to circulate, senatorial candidate and former Navy officer Antonio Trillanes IV –- who is presently detained on mutiny charges -– had also told reporters that Esperon had issued a radio message to soldiers ordering them to “ensure victory” for Team Unity.

Esperon has denied the allegations of Trillanes, saying it is the military’s policy to remain non-partisan. “Internally, we have not been given or been giving instructions to our soldiers, officers and men, to vote for particular candidates and party-list groups,” the AFP chief of staff also told media.

Solina, however, is not convinced. “If he is telling the truth, then he has lost control of the AFP because someone in the organization can give out operational orders without his knowledge,” he said in his statement.

“And even if these orders really came from him, these may be ignored and disobeyed,” Solina added.

The DND employee expressed a similar view in the interview with Bulatlat. “I don’t know why the soldiers allowed themselves to be used in this manner,” the DND employee said. Bulatlat

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