‘Dialogue with GMA could have averted mutiny’

- Marvin Sy -
A dialogue between President Arroyo and soldiers wanting to air their grievances could have averted the mutiny last Sunday, the civil society group Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA) said yesterday.

Some of the soldiers wanted to relay their grievances to the President. One of COPA’s founding members, former Tarlac Rep. Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, tried to set up a meeting during the President’s consultation with civil society groups last Wednesday, COPA secretary general Pastor "Boy" Saycon said.

The move of Cojuangco was reportedly brushed aside by the President, who told him the government was already working on the problem.

Mrs. Arroyo, however, asked Cojuangco to give her the names of the junior officers. Cojuangco gave two names.

To COPA’s dismay, one of the two was arrested the following day by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

"This only shows that there was no good faith on the part of the President," Saycon said.

COPA, which participated in EDSA II but later had a falling out with the President, called on the government yesterday to be transparent in its investigation of the young officers who staged the rebellion last weekend in Makati City.

COPA commended the act of the soldiers to take responsibility for their actions and face the consequences of their acts for the uprising.

However, Saycon said that the ball is now in the hands of the government to "show their sincerity to what transpired during the negotiations" with the soldiers Sunday night.

COPA stressed that the government should fulfill its promise to conduct an impartial and independent investigation on the soldiers and their allegations against the top brass of the AFP.

Saycon argued that what the government did by turning over the mutineers to the ISAFP for tactical investigation is not a good sign as the ISAFP itself was one of the bodies being accused by the young officers of corruption.

He said that the President should have deferred the action and allowed the newly constituted independent investigating body to designate which institution will conduct the investigation.

Saycon suggested that the police together with the National Bureau of Investigation conduct the initial investigation since the incident is considered more of a civil disturbance than anything else.

"Let us not glorify their actions (rebellion), but since they have complied, the government is obligated to heed the Cardinal’s (Sin) pleadings in his last message that we must be sincere in addressing the corruption in government. The grievances have to be heard," Saycon said.

The COPA also revealed that it had been in close communication with the group of young officers prior to the staging of the coup last Sunday.

Saycon claimed that they were approached by the young officers through a retired officer about their grievances in the military.

COPA chairman William Esposo stressed that their organization was approached because of their links to both the militants and the military during the EDSA II event which led to the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada.

Another attempt was made to bridge the soldiers with the President on Friday when Saycon called up Gen. Alberto Braganza, commander of the 7th Division to tell him that the problem has not been solved with the junior officers as claimed by Mrs. Arroyo.

Braganza told Saycon that he will relay this to the President at Bulacan during the turnover of the Scout Ranger’s command to Col. Danilo Lim but according to Saycon, this also turned up empty.

Saycon said that the incident last Sunday could have been avoided had the government listened to the calls of the junior officers.

He pointed out that the statement of former President Fidel Ramos saying that the mutiny could have been avoided had the government maintained direct and periodic contacts with the lower-ranking officers, which was exactly what COPA was trying to accomplish right before the coup attempt last Sunday.

Saycon, once referred to as a "termite" by the President, noted that Ramos created an organization called Cadence during his term which was comprised of members of the Church, civil society and the military.

This group was able to serve as a bridge between the military and the President and was successful in addressing the grievances of the junior officers.

"These are young officers from class 97-2001, you now have a window of all these officers now losing, throwing away their future for what they call valid grievances," Saycon said.

There is now a very large group of young officers and troops closely watching how the government is responding to the incident last Sunday and how it will redress their grievances.











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