Army chief cool to use of troops as politicians' bodyguards
- James Mananghaya () - December 22, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The chief of the largest branch of service in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) does not like the idea of his men serving as bodyguards for politicians and suggested that the police and private security guards do the job.

Army chief Lt. Delfin Bangit said in an interview yesterday that he would air his sentiment when the military leadership and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) meet to discuss the guidelines of the new resolution by the poll body that allows troops to serve as bodyguards.

"My wish as commanding general of the Philippine Army is that the soldiers would not be used as bodyguards so that we could focus on our mandate of area security and the soldiers would only be called in when there is serious armed threats and if the police force would be insufficient," he said.

Bangit said he does not agree with the idea of soldiers joining politicians in political activities.

"Protection is different from projection. If we are allowed to focus on our mandate, then there might not be a need for personal bodyguards anymore," he said.

Bangit also said having only two soldiers securing a politician could pose some risks.

But he said that as a professional organization, the Army would still follow legal orders once these become final.

At the same time, Bangit said the Reserve Officer Training Corps should be utilized to augment police forces in securing polling places on election day.

"It could be a good suggestion but we need funding for it," he said.

Comelec Resolution 8714 allows soldiers to act as bodyguards to politicians facing threats to their lives and safety.

The designation of soldiers as security escorts was the only provision that was changed from the old Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2006 between the poll body and the AFP.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said a new memorandum of agreement (MOA) being drafted after the issuance of the resolution would put the AFP at the "full disposal" of the poll body "to safeguard the sanctity of the 2010 elections."

He added that it is also intended to help prevent a repeat of the issues that resulted from the 2004 and 2007 elections, such as the "Hello, Garci" scandal.

The old MOA, signed between the DND and the Comelec in 2006, prohibits soldiers from escorting candidates and election paraphernalia during elections as well as using camps for polling precincts.

Soldiers, under the old agreement, are also prohibited from serving as members of the Board of Election Inspectors.

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES BANGIT BOARD OF ELECTION INSPECTORS COMELEC COMELEC RESOLUTION DEFENSE SECRETARY NORBERTO GONZALES DELFIN BANGIT MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT PHILIPPINE ARMY SOLDIERS
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