By Martin Sadongdong
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday led a gathering of former uniformed men who were either appointed or elected in the current Duterte administration.
During his speech, Lorenzana quipped that there seems to be a “militarization” in the government with the participation of hundreds of former uniformed men in the first ever “Samahang Serbisyong Kawal” fellowship, a gathering of retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officials and personnel who are now in government service. It was held at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club (COC) in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
“Joke, joke lang ‘yun,” Lorenzana later clarified to reporters in an ambush interview.
“Actually, kasi, marami kasing mga dating sundalo at opisyal na nasa gobyerno ngayon (there are a number of retired soldiers and officials in government service now), either appointed or elected,” he explained.
Among the attendees were retired AFP Chiefs of Staff Roy Cimatu, now the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); Hermogenes Esperon, who currently serves as the National Security Adviser; and Eduardo Año, now the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Also present were retired Philippine Army chief and now Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rolando Bautista; retired Army Brigadier General and now Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Danilo Lim; and Army reservist and Senator Francis Tolentino, among others.
There were also former police and military generals who ran and won in the recent 2019 midterm elections, including retired Police Major General and now Lingayen, Pangasinan Mayor Leopoldo Bataoil; and retired Major General and now Alabat, Quezon Mayor Fernando Mesa.
Lorenzana brushed off the critics of President Duterte who claim there is a looming militarization in the government with his penchant for military officials in his administration.
“I think ang fear nila (their fear) is unfounded. Ano bang ikinatakot nila sa (What are they afraid of) militarization? Hindi naman namin dinadala ang culture ng military dyan, ang martial law sa trabaho naming (We do not carry the military culture in our civilian positions),” the Defense chief said.
“We just do our job the best way we can. Bakit wala ba kaming karapatang magserve sa gobyerno kung retired na kami (Do we not have the right to serve the government)? I think we are also entitled to that because we also love our country,” he argued.
He also said that the country gets benefit from the appointment or election of former uniformed personnel in the government “if they perform well.”
“If they will participate in the governance tapos maganda ang kanilang performance, the people will say na ‘okay din pala ang choice ni Presidente sa mga military na maging part ng government’,” he noted.
In 2018, it was Duterte himself who admitted that there is a “militarization” in the government as he said he can “rely” on the ex-military officials since they obey his orders without questions.