Jojo A. Robles

A strange incident

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President Noynoy Aquino didn’t plan on staying nine days in Zamboanga City originally. But it appears that he was forced to do so, because the military and his own security group decided that he was safer there until the threat of an alleged plot to remove him from office was evaluated.


The supposed plot involved two groups of soldiers belonging to a Zamboanga-bound military contingent that broke ranks with their main convoy, which was headed to Sangley Point in Cavite, the transshipment point of reinforcing troops bound for that troubled southern city. The two groups, both led by a Scorpion light tank backed up by several truckloads of soldiers each, missed going to Zamboanga, as a result, and startled civilians traversing main roads who saw them on that day.

A source in the military explained that the two tank-supported groups would later be investigated for failing to join the main contingent because of suspicions that they had been enlisted in a plot to bring down the Aquino government. In their defense, one group said it failed to join the Sangley Point deployment because it had gotten lost on the way to Cavite; the other group explained that it had encountered mechanical problems in their vehicles and decided not to join the main convoy headed for Zamboanga.

At the time, Aquino was still in the provincial city, supposedly monitoring the defense of Zamboanga after the bloody attack staged by the Moro National Liberation Front. As a result of the incident, the Presidential Security Group decided to keep Aquino in Zamboanga for a few days more, after ruling that the President would be much safer in Mindanao instead of Manila.

Naturally, both the military hierarchy and the PSG did not really buy the excuse of the leaders of the two tank-led groups of soldiers that they had merely gotten lost or had experienced a mechanical breakdown. For the moment, though, no sanctions were imposed on the officers and men who belonged to both Army groups.

However, at least one other source told me that it’s possible that the supposedly unplanned breakaway was indeed staged by members of the military who were trying to “test the waters” in the event of a full-scale uprising. “The PSG was correct in not believing the reasons they gave for not proceeding to Sangley,” this source said. “The two tank groups could have been staging a dry run, to see if they could gather support from other sectors of the military.”

Meanwhile, as a result of the incident, top officials of the military are closely monitoring their men, to ensure that no similar events happen in the future. Just to be on the safe side, of course.

* * *

Unless the Aquino administration can sufficiently prove to a corruption-weary populace that Congress was not bribed to dismiss former Chief Justice Renato Corona and that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. had acted on his own in establishing, in 2011, a whole new pork barrel fund for Congress, the belief that President Noynoy Aquino has strayed from the straight path will continue. And given the latest disclosures about how Malacanang put up a whole new fund to give tax money to the Senate and the House, disbursing these funds right before and after the removal of Corona, it doesn’t seem like the people will be convinced that this self-proclaimed righteous administration is on the up-and-up.

(Aquino didn’t dream up the “tuwid na daan”  tagline himself. That was the brainchild of a retired advertising executive drafted into Aquino’s campaign, a man whose biggest success was in marketing a brand of fast-food fried chicken; the line’s author is now serving in a Cabinet position as his reward.)

This is the trouble with Abad’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, the pork fund that it cannot blame the previous administration for, having been established a mere two years ago: former Senator Joker Arroyo says that by putting up DAP, the pork scandal has reached the very doorstep (if not the private bedroom) of the President.

It is not enough, after all, that Aquino doubled the regular pork allocations of Congress as contained in the Priority Development Assistance Fund. He also put up his own pork funds.

Arroyo and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago have both castigated the Palace for creating a fund that is illegal because it is not authorized by any law. And former National Treasurer Leonor Briones has noted that the use of the savings of other agencies for other purposes is prohibited, unless they are savings accumulated by the Office of the President itself.

And Abad, who claimed not to have known what Senator Jinggoy Estrada was talking about when he said senators were rewarded for convicting Corona, suddenly remembered that he had been giving out money through the new fund. And, in doing so, Abad only heaped more opprobrium on the Palace for bribing Congress.

There is still no “endgame” in sight for the Aquino administration, but the present situation certainly doesn’t look good. As for daang matuwid, well, it’s now being proven to be an empty boast, a lie foisted upon an unsuspecting populace by an administration that is as dirty as any that went before.

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