DND, AFP eye delisting of Alvarez as military reservist

Michael Punongbayan, Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
DND, AFP eye delisting of Alvarez as military reservist
Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez
Pantaleon Alvarez / Released, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are looking at a possible investigation of Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez and his delisting from the roll of reservists in the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).

The move came after Alvarez called on the AFP to withdraw support for President Marcos to force the Chief Executive to step down.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro reassured the public that “the AFP is standing steadfast in upholding the Constitution under the leadership of the commander-in-chief, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.”

“Any attempt to sway them away from this duty or to patronize them to support a partisan agenda is futile, particularly when this agenda dovetails with a foreign interest contrary to our own national interests,” he declared.

“Calls for them to ‘withdraw support’ will not amount to anything, but to a possible criminal investigation,” Teodoro said in a statement yesterday.

AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said Alvarez, a reservist with the rank of colonel, belongs to the PMC under the Philippine Navy.

“There are two categories of reservist: active and standby. We will check which category Alvarez is in,” Padilla told reporters in a press briefing.

“We defer to the Philippine Marines whether they would be recommending something at this point, but I believe, at this point, Alvarez is not an active reservist,” she explained.

Padilla said Alvarez is, of course, entitled to his own opinion, though the AFP thinks his call for a withdrawal of support “is an uncalled-for statement.”

Generally, she said if there are AFP policies, rules and regulations that would apply to what the lawmaker did as a reservist officer, it will be looked into.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad, for his part, noted that there are cases already in the reserve force wherein there are violations of any regulation or the law, “they are delisted in their particular membership.”

“With reservists, we have what you call a ‘delisting’ and it also happens there are already many who have been delisted from the reserve force on breach of discipline – that they have not met the following standards that they require,” Trinidad said.

The AFP had earlier and repeatedly assured that the military is united, non-partisan and professional, and will follow the chain of command, which is headed by the commander-in-chief.

The Philippine Navy, in a separate statement, said it has initiated an investigation against Alvarez who will be asked to explain. Based on the results of the probe, it will decide on what actions can be taken against the lawmaker.

“We take exception to the recent statement of the 1st District Davao del Norte Representative and Marine reservist, Pantaleon Alvarez,” the Philippine Navy said.

“The Philippine Navy has already directed the 9th Marine Brigade to conduct an investigation and to ask Col. Alvarez to explain his statements. The result of the investigation will be the basis of the Navy’s actions moving forward,” the statement read.

During a rally in Tagum City over the weekend, Alvarez said Marcos could lead the country into a potential war between China and the US.

This prompted him to suggest that the withdrawal of AFP support for the president would bring peace and stability to the nation.

Insulate AFP from politics

Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel III yesterday said the military should be kept free of politics, after Alvarez called on the AFP to withdraw its support for the administration.

But the senator asked for calm, amid calls from his friends in Congress, like Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, to file sedition charges against the former House speaker.

Pimentel said it should be the electorate – not the military – who should decide on the country’s leaders.

“The leadership of our country should not be determined or left to be determined by the armed forces or any armed group. The political leadership in the Philippines should be settled through honest elections,” the senator said.

“Let us insulate our armed forces from politics so that they can develop into a more professional, disciplined and inspired group,” he added.

The senator asked for calm from both parties and reminded Alvarez not to drag the military into politics, and for others not to suppress free speech.

File case

Leaders and administration lawmakers from the House of Representatives yesterday called on concerned agencies like the Department of Justice to assess whether Alvarez can be criminally held liable for encouraging the military to oust the government.

House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Deputy Speaker David Suarez and Reps. Jay Khonghun and Zia Alonto Adiong said charges should be filed “to ensure accountability and prevent any further attempts to destabilize the government.”

They all demanded swift legal action to avert any potential threat to the government’s stability.

“We urge the appropriate authorities to take swift and decisive action against former speaker Alvarez to uphold the integrity of our institutions and protect the democratic process,” Dalipe, who represents the district of Zamboanga City, said.

“Former speaker Alvarez’s irresponsible remarks are not only seditious, but also undermine the stability of our government and the rule of law. We cannot allow such reckless behavior to go unchecked,” he emphasized.

Gonzales, who is the representative of Pampanga’s third district, said the former House chief should not be allowed to incite instability and undermine the democratic process.

“As leaders, we must uphold the rule of law and respect the democratic process. His call for the withdrawal of support from the duly-elected president with an overwhelming mandate from 31 million Filipinos is a direct attack on our democratic institutions,” Gonzales stressed.

For his part, Quezon province second district Rep. Suarez said that inciting military action against the President was “unacceptable” and that such remarks served to “sow discord and weaken the fabric of our society.”

“We must stand firm against any attempts to undermine the duly-elected government,” he said, adding that Alvarez’s statement was “a stark reminder of the importance of upholding the principles of democracy and the rule of law.”

Khonghun, of Zambales’ first district, said the remarks made by Alvarez was “not merely an expression of dissent but a calculated attempt to destabilize the government.”

“Former speaker Alvarez must be held accountable for his actions and charges should be filed against him to ensure that justice is served. The clear intention behind Alvarez’s remarks is to sow chaos and instability in our nation,” the House Assistant Majority Leader declared.

Lanao del Sur first district congressman Adiong, for his part, criticized Alvarez for attempting to influence an institution like the AFP against serving a duly-elected government based solely on differing opinions on foreign policy.

“It is unbecoming of a public official to go to an extent of inducing any government institution from faithfully serving a duly-elected government simply because one holds a different appreciation on foreign policy direction,” he said.

DOJ investigation

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has ordered an investigation into whether Alvarez can be prosecuted for sedition, inciting to sedition or even rebellion.

“I have ordered an investigation on the statements of Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez to determine whether it has risen to the level of sedition, inciting to sedition or even rebellion,” he said in a statement yesterday. — Daphne Galvez, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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