Esperon should stay

By Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

I vehemently oppose the call of Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Mar Roxas and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay for former Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon to resign as presidential adviser for the peace process.

Esperon should stay. He is doing the country a favor by fueling the people’s anger towards Arroyo’s illegitimate presidency. He may yet galvanize the people into action to end Arroyo’s illegitimate presidency, something that “Hello Garci”, NBN/ZTE and other scandals failed to do.

The calls for Esperon’s resignation came after North Cotabato Vice-Governor Manny Piñol related Tuesday night in ANC’s “Strictly Politics” how his text message calling for his constituents to be ready in case of attacks by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front came about.

TV host Pia Hontiveros read the text message that has been going around attributed to him: “My beloved people. Tonight I was told by a top government official that if our opposition to be included in the ARMM will result in MILF attacks, the Armed Forces will not be able to help us all out because that’s the policy of this government. Let us be brave and stand firm. God is with us.”

Piñol confirmed that it was his message to his constituents in North Cotabato following a phone conversation with Esperon about the petition he filed before the Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the MILF that was scheduled last Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.

Before that, they were both interviewed on TV. Piñol said he sensed Esperon’s hostility so he called him up. (The former AFP chief is his kumpadre.) That’s when Esperon uttered the famous words: “Pag na-TRO kami diyan, bahala na kayo sa sarili ninyo. We are not going to sacrifice the lives of the soldiers to defend you.”

Esperon never denied that he said those words to Piñol. He just contextualized it to what happened in 2000 when the military attacked MILF camps.

Piñol gave an additional context. He said Esperon might have been piqued with his “lacking balls” description of his stand with the MILF.

Roxas immediately called for Esperon’s resignation saying instead of working for peace, Arroyo’s peace adviser is fomenting trouble. “Labag ito sa batas. Labag ito sa sinumpaang tungkulin ni General Esperon at tama lamang na sibakin ni Pangulong Arroyo si General Esperon sa kanyang tungkulin.

“Itong kasunduan na ito ay hindi nauunawaan ng ating mga kababayan.

“Nakita natin sa proseso na kulang sa konsultasyon at wala halos ang nakakaalam sa nilalaman nitong kasunduang ito. Ito ay pruweba sa maling stratehiya na ginamit ng pamahalaan sa pag-negotiate dito, isang stratehiya ng pagtatago sa katotohanan, at pamumuwersa o pambabraso ng mga maaapektuhan nito.

“Hindi ito ang pamamaraan para mag-negotiate ng isang peace agreement. Kailangan lahat ay nakakaalam ng nilalaman nito, at sumusuporta rito. Kung hindi, nasa papel lamang itong peace agreement, at yung kaguluhan ang siyang iiral pa rin.”

Makati Mayor and UNO president Jejomar Binay said Esperon’s statement “was irresponsible and very unprofessional, and betrays a mindset that ignores civilian rule.”

“A person who threatens to withhold military support to a civilian population out of spite has no business being the country’s leading peace advocate,” he said.

Binay said Esperon’s statement was “very provocative” and tends to further fuel the tension in Mindanao, generated by the suspended signing of the GRP-MILF MOA.

UNO spokesperson Adel Tamano, a Muslim, said in the same way that he is worried over reports about Piñol’s message, Esperon’s statement is “highly irresponsible and unbecoming for someone of his stature and experience.”

“Knowing that tensions are high in Mindanao because of the MOA on Ancestral Domain between the GRP and the MILF, General Esperon should have exercised statesmanship and acted in an appropriate manner as befits someone who is a member of the government peace panel,” Tamano said.

Biazon, former AFP chief and a veteran of the Mindanao campaign, said he is going beyond Mar Roxas’ call for the sacking of Esperon as peace adviser. He wants the whole peace panel reconstituted.

Biazon said way back in May 19, 2008 he said that by appointing Esperon as peace adviser, “the President might have been junking the peace process with the MILF.”

Of course, Esperon said he is not resigning. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita defends Esperon saying that Arroyo’s peace adviser is doing the right thing. “Sinasabi naman ni Gen. Esperon sa palagay niya ang ginagawa niya ay tama, sa ngayon walang dahilan para consider niyang mag-resign.

I agree. Esperon should not resign.

Borrowing Napoleon Bonaparte’s military dictum, let’s not disturb the enemy while he is in the process of destroying himself.


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