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Opinion

NSA Carlos gets different deputy, defends own nominees

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos will be assigned a different right-hand man, rather than her controversial nominee. Malacañang is vetting possibilities for deputy director-general of the National Security Council secretariat. A recently retired general heads the list. Appointment will be made soon.

An anonymous letter by “NSC Employees” aborted the designation of Carlos’ personal choice, university instructor Rommel Banlaoi. Addressed to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., the complaint alleged Banlaoi to be a “seller of intelligence information.” As well, that “he is considered a security risk up until present.”

Marcos referred the letter to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency. NICA turned up old derogatory files.

Interviewed in Sapol-DWIZ last Saturday, Carlos extolled Banlaoi’s reputation as “a scholar in defense and security.” She said he was her undergraduate and masteral student in political science at the University of the Philippines.

Banlaoi backed out of a separate interview that day on Carlos’ counsel. Acknowledging he was no longer in the running as NSC second-in-command, he said he is “transitioning again from government to non-government work.” He intends to revive the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, which he founded in 2005 with police generals Rodolfo Mendoza and Albert Ferro.

Banlaoi has been blacklisted in defense, intelligence and foreign affairs circles for a decade now. On Aug 18, 2010, then-Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin memoed the Armed Forces Chief “to exercise extreme caution when the said person approaches AFP units under the guise of being a consultant of this department. The AFP is also enjoined to refrain from engaging the said person as his actions may be inimical to the interest of this department and the AFP.”

The memo stated that Banlaoi “has been presenting himself as a consultant of the Dept. of National Defense in an attempt to obtain information and data from various AFP units. Said person is not a consultant of this department, as records show. Information from the Dept. of Foreign Affairs also indicates that the said person has been making presentations about the South China Sea in international conferences using the AFP’s reconnaissance photos of the area.”

On June 11, 2013, then-NSA Cesar Garcia Jr. requested NICA director general Trifonio Salazar “to investigate the counter-intelligence implication of Banlaoi’s sources of information as well as his linkages.” Also, to “coordinate with Col. Herminigildo Aquino, senior military aide of SND [Gazmin] regarding a report that some of the institutions that Banlaoi is associated with have been receiving funds, through conduits, from the Chinese government.” And to “reconfirm if the Aug 18, 2010 memo of SND regarding the advisory on Mr. Banlaoi continues to be in effect.”

A Philippine Star report on June 10, 2013 quoting Banlaoi about Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, triggered Garcia’s memo to Salazar: “It appears that Mr. Banlaoi has had access to classified information.”

The persona non grata status of Banlaoi continued under Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and NSA Hermogenes Esperon, 2016-2022, sources said.

Carlos challenged Banlaoi’s accusers to substantiate their assertions and file charges.

She acknowledged that President Marcos received the anonymous complaint last week. Reported in the STAR, it detailed derogatory info on two other recommendees of Carlos:

• Mariel Castañeda, who supposedly “does not possess the necessary qualifications and credentials” for Assistant Director General. Purportedly, “her husband is a cadre of CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army]. Like Mr. Banlaoi, her hiring as ADG could create security risk for the NSC.”

• David Nye, also as ADG, “who is the current editor of Global Times, China’s official mouthpiece. While we respect the President’s choice of who to appoint as high-ranking officials in the government, we are also afraid that the appointment of Nye could compromise the NSC. Hence, we are requesting the President to reconsider this appointment for security purposes.”

Carlos said she shrieked upon reading the item on the Castañedas. She said she was very close to the scholarly couple and was their wedding godmother. “I hope they are given a chance to clear their names.”

Nye is director for communications, Carlos said. She took him in as a longtime broadcaster in the Philippines who then worked in China and mastered the foreign language. “There’s nothing sub rosa about his being senior editor of Global Times; it’s in his curriculum vitae,” Carlos said. “I don’t think he has a say in the content.”

Global Times is the English edition of People’s Daily, official organ of the Chinese Communist Party. Its articles have been strident against the Philippines, particularly during the 2012 Panatag Shoal standoff between Philippine and Chinese navies and coastguards. Also, when Manila protested Beijing’s concreting of seven Philippine reefs starting 2013. More so, when Manila won in July 2016 The Hague arbitration against Beijing’s illegal occupation of the eight features in the West Philippine Sea.

In the Philippines, America, Europe and most of Asia, newspaper editors have authority over content. They fact-check inaccuracies and biases. To that, Carlos interjected, “In academic writing, to which we are used, editors do not meddle with content but only with style, like commas, semi-colons and punctuations.”

As NSA, Carlos is also director general of the National Security Council chaired by the President. All intelligence reports and security plans are submitted to her staff for analysis. That includes the intelligence service – AFP, National Bureau of Investigation under the justice department, and the Office for Transportation Security under the transport department. “Terrorists can weaponize buses, trains and airplanes,” she explained.

NICA is under NSA supervision. Still, Carlos expected that NICA checked her and her recommendees’ backgrounds.

In designating Banlaoi, Castañeda and Nye, Carlos said she first vetted them for submission to Executive Sec. Vic Rodriguez, whom she anticipated to conduct his own vetting.

Two generals said NICA is background checking only now after Marcos relayed the NSC employees’ complaint. “At least they’re now going through the right process, even if belatedly,” they said.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

NSA

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