From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 18): Catapang tours military camps amid putsch talk
ARMED Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang visited major military camps Tuesday amid reports of a coup plot being hatched by groups outraged over the administration’s mishandling of the Mamasapano operation in which 44 police commandos were killed on Jan. 25.
Military spokesman Col. Restituto F. Padilla Jr. said the visits had nothing to do with the coup rumors and brushed aside speculation that they were loyalty checks.
“Our troops are dedicated professionals who are mindful of their constitutionally mandated duties and always ready to defend the country from threats-–foreign and within,” he said.
Catapang first showed up at the headquarters of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija under Maj. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, where he talked with his lieutenants.
After the dialogue with the rank and file, Catapang trooped to the Army’s Special Operations Command headquarters also inside Fort Magsaysay, and met with senior officials led by Maj Gen Donato San Juan.
Catapang then flew to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, the headquarters of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division led by newly appointed commander Brig Gen. Romeo Gan, the former chief of the Civil Relations Service based in Camp Aguinaldo.
Padilla said Catapang visited the camps “to check on infrastructure and environmental projects.”
“He went to check on the facilities of the Light Reaction Regiment and the Bamboo Nursery and Plantation Project, a priority project.... to mitigate climate change and its effects,” Padilla added.
“These are not loyalty checks. It has been a long delayed visit of the chief of staff to check on ongoing projects and to award deserving troops for accomplishments they have not yet been recognized for,” he added.
The chief of the Armed Forces Public Affairs Office, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, said the visits were aimed at boosting the morale of the troops.
“If there are officials who are trying to persuade us into joining coup attempts, we will not follow them. They are not part of our chain of command,” Cabunoc said.
“We have no valid reasons to remove our loyalty from the President of the republic.”
The Philippine National Police, which suffered the loss of 44 commandos in Mamasapano, said it had not monitored any illegal activities associated with a coup.
“We have nothing so far,” said PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. “We have standing directives. We know that our people are professional enough that they won’t be swayed by this kind of illegal ac-tivities.”
He added that the PNP was confident that the rank and file would abide by their sworn duty.
“That’s why we don’t need a loyalty check,” he said.
Coup rumors began to dominate political chatter last week when Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago told a Senate hearing that unnamed military figures financed by a wealthy individual were plotting to overthrow Aquino.
Aquino became the focus of public outrage after the Jan. 25 assault against Islamic terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir.
Zulkifli was killed but 44 police commandos also lost their lives after poor coordination saw them ambushed by Muslim rebels. At least four civilians and 11 guerrillas died as well.