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We are, once again, eyewitnesses to another crucial development in the political existence of this country. Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation Nr 1017 dated February 24, 2006 - issued a day immediately preceding the commemoration of the 20 th Anniversary of February 25, 1986 people power uprising that put an end to the 20-year rule of then President Ferdinand E Marcos, the President of the Republic Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo placed the entire country under a state of emergency and called out the armed forces to prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all laws and to all decrees, orders and regulations promulgated by her or upon her direction
The calling out of the Armed Forces pursuant to the President's mandate under Section 18 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, in her capacity as the Commander-in-Chief, was triggered by her informed assessment that there was clear and present danger to the security and safety of the republic on account of perceived tactical alliance to bring down the duly constituted Government elected by the people on May 2004 by the political opposition, the communist guerrillas and right wing so-called "military adventurists", as supported by some segments of the media. The exercise of the President of her executive prerogative as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines underscores the extremely sensitive role that the military organization and the defense establishment play in society today.
The subsequent lifting of the presidential declaration of a state of national emergency by the President on March 03, 2006 does not seem to create any whale of difference considering that even under the emergency proclamation, the mandated implementation by the Armed Forces of Proclamation Nr 1017 and that of the implementing General Orders, in coordination with the other law enforcement and other concerned agencies of the Government, requires observance of the principle of supremacy of civilian, at all times, over the military.
Therefore, despite the fact of the recent development brought about by the lifting of the proclamation, the Armed Forces remains mandated to be vigilant at all times. Mounted on a constitutional behest to serve and protect the people and the State, we continue, within the bounds of our mandated tasks, to maintain peace, order and safety throughout the country, secure and protect all national and local government machineries, secure all vital installations and facilities and prevent and contain mass actions, civil unrest and violence and to identify and neutralize all threat groups and conspirators that attempt to overthrow the government.
In so doing, we, the Officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are being reminded to ensure, at all times, strict adherence to the supremacy of civilian authority over the military. In the fulfillment of our sworn duty, we must uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, protect civil liberties, observe due process of law and show healthy respect for human rights and human dignity.
Time and again, we are being called upon to play the delicate role of sowing order in society.
The constitutional role of the Armed Forces as protector of the people and the State should, however, be prudently construed and interpreted not as a vehicle for military adventurism. As a stern reminder, this defined role of the AFP is not a license comfortably used to wrest leadership of the Government from public officials duly elected by the people on the basis of perceived imperfections in governance. Any such imperfection should be dealt with in accordance with the rule of law and constitutional processes.
We should consider ourselves in the light of this role as professional soldiers and public servants, oath-bound, to follow the chain of command and the duly constituted authorities. The fundamental necessity for obedience and subordination to superiors exercised through the chain of command and the consequent necessity to impose discipline on us to satisfy enforcement of the requirement for obedience should never be questioned by any member of the armed forces as a form of derogation or curtailment of his or her constitutional rights. As professional soldiers, we do not enjoy an unbridled license to engage in partisan politics or publicly speak our minds against the government without having to face serious accountability for our unauthorized actions. We, in the uniformed service, cannot equate ourselves with that of our civilian counterparts.
The peculiarity of military service requires us to be circumspect. As members of the noble profession of arms, there are imposed limitations as to the validity of our actions. The Supreme Court has set the distinctive parameters when it ruled that certain civil liberties of persons in the military service, including the freedom of speech, may be circumscribed by rules of military discipline. (
Kapunan, et al vs AFP Chief of Staff, G.R. NR 831777, 06 December 1988
) Thus, to a certain degree, individual rights of military personnel may be curtailed, because the effectiveness of the military in fulfilling its duties under the law depends to a large extent on the maintenance of discipline within its ranks.
We are not to be regarded as a potent political force to be used by politicians in the furtherance of their vested interests. As mandated, we must remain apolitical. We shall yield no loyalty to any person but to the State. And as we sow order in this society, let us be reminded of our sworn duty, at all times, to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.
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