Wednesday, April 28, 2010


The man who may know a lot about what could happen on May 10 insists there are no sinister plots, no brewing conspiracies to steal the elections.

“I don’t know where media is getting all this. There is no such thing as ‘August Moon’ (an alleged secret plan for the military to form a junta and keep President Arroyo in power),” stressed Rear-Admiral Victor Martir, deputy chief of staff for intelligence (J-2) and a member of the controversial PMA Class 78.

He was defense attaché at the Philippine Embassy until 2006. Tonight he was guest of honor in a sumptuous dinner prepared by a dear colleague at ABS-CBN Maloli Espinosa Manalastas and her husband Brig. Gen. Antonio Supnet in their home in Bethesda, MD.

Gen. Supnet is the current defense attaché here.

Vic was in town to conduct an “audit” of the Philippine’s overseas military posts, but he admits he was also trying to get some R&R before going home to the arduous task of overseeing a “fusion center” in Camp Crame, which aims to marry efforts by the military and police to protect voters as well as the electoral process on May 10.

Over bottles of Corona, and in his deep baritone that seems to suggest some serious stabs on the karaoke, Adm. Martir stressed there was nothing afoot and was even encouraged by the relatively low election-related violence.

While he shudders at the thought of sleepless nights and long days working the “fusion center”, he came across as someone who’d wish he’d wake up tomorrow with the elections over already. His heart was obviously somewhere else – modernizing the Philippine Navy.

That could be expected – he reportedly has the inside track for the top Navy post.

The current Flag Officer in Command (FOIC), Vice Adm. Ferdinand Golez (younger brother of Congressman Roilo Golez) is set to retire in a few weeks, but the President can’t appoint a successor because of the election ban.

Another contender is an old acquaintance – Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue, chief of the National Capital Region Command and also PMA Class 78. His name cropped up in the “Hello Garci” investigation because he reportedly refused to go along with alleged attempts to rig the vote in Tawi-Tawi.

An old friend from the Defense Department, Rear Admiral Alex Pama (PMA Class 79) who commands naval and Marines forces in Western Mindanao, is considered a “dark horse”.

Adm. Martir debunked suggestions appointing so many Class 78 officers in key military positions was part of President Arroyo’s grand plan to use the military to keep her in power. She is an honorary member of Class 78.

He offered instead his “theory” about “ruling classes”. He said that before 1986, the so-called ruling classes belonged to years ending in odd numbers (starting with Class 51 – the first batch of graduates who entered PMA after World War II). After 1986, they reportedly shifted to even-number ending years.

We’d have to do a little more research to verify that “theory” but it seems a large part of that could be attributed to how big their graduating batch was to begin with and what happened in the intervening years.

For instance, those who graduated in turbulent years – the late 60’s and much of the 70’s were likely to see a lot of combat right after their graduation. Some were actually ordered to the field even before they could march for their graduation.

Many – like a distant cousin who was ambushed in one of his very first patrols and killed just weeks after graduating from PMA – were decimated by the wars against communist rebels and Muslim separatists.

Ultimately, he says it boils down to that most unquantifiable of elements – fate. “Pinagpala” (blessed) is what some fellow PMAers call their Class 78 “mistahs”.

But Vic preferred to talk about “real news” – the approval of the multi-year defense modernization spending bill, the imminent activation of Coast Watch South, and prospects for acquiring new ships and planes.

Four US-funded radar stations are due to become operational by summer. Phase One of the Coast Watch South project – a string of overlapping radar stations stretching from Palawan to Davao – will monitor shipping in the Sulu and Celebes Seas – a favorite route for the Jemaa Islamiya and Abu Sayyaf, as well as smugglers, pirates and drug traffickers.

They’ve already acquired coastal properties for five additional radar stations.

He disclosed the AFP is studying bids from South Korean and Singaporean shipbuilders for a new multi-billion-peso, multi-role vessel that can do long-range patrols, troop transport and even serve as a hospital ship in case of calamities.

The Air Force can now buy maritime planes because the multi-year fund will allow them to enter into long-term contracts to be guaranteed by the government.

But a lot of that will depend on ending ISO (a euphemism for counter insurgency operations) this year so they can focus on external defense.

Talking about the military’s grand plans, the elections a few days away may look on the surface like so much distraction but even they know there’s a lot riding on holding credible election – especially for a military eager to move forward.

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