Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Class of ‘78

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, is a wit’s description of how “boring” operas end. Those who do not appreciate the long arias and have ears only for the operatic highlights often wonder when it would all end.

What this country has had to suffer through the years has been a long and badly sung, badly-scripted, badly-acted opera. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has inflicted her unworthy presence in the life of the nation far too long. First she pushed off the popular troubadour, Joseph Estrada, off the stage, even before the half-way intermission. Then she connived with Garci and Abalos and “her” generals in both the military and the police, in order to keep the klieg lights focused on her bad act for six more years.

It has thus been eight years, four months, and eleven days since she mounted the stage as our prima donna. Before her, no other don or donna except Ferdinand Marcos stayed in power as long. The latter had been president by genuine election for two legal terms. But on his seventh year in office, he declared martial law, and proceeded to rule for another 13 years and 5 months until a mutiny in the ranks of his praetorians, supported by people power, got him and his family packing into Hawaii, courtesy of the United States military.

In all, Ferdinand Marcos was president since December 30, 1965 until February 25, 1986, a total of 20 years, one month and 25 days. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo served out the remaining three years and five months of Erap’s duly-elected term. On December 30, 2002, after a tumultuous reign where even Malacanang Palace was besieged like the Bastille by thousands of the “masa” on May 1, 2001, this daughter of a former president declared before the nation, with the national hero’s monument as mute witness, that she would not seek election for a legal term. Ten months later, in the heartland of her father’s province, in an auditorium built to commemorate a hundred years of inglorious independence, she took back her words.

What followed was not just the infidelity of her spoken word, but worse, the shameless manner by which she ensured her election. All bets were on her table, from government resources to include immoderate proceeds from the allocation of fake fertilizers to unsuspecting farmers (and some suspect, even the conversion of military funds to add to her campaign kitty, cared of the longest-serving military comptroller, Carlos F. Garcia), all the way to the use of military personnel to guarantee the success of the evil plan she and Virgilio Garcillano had conspired to undertake with the concupiscence of Benjamin Abalos.

The last five years of illegitimate power have been as tumultuous as the first three years of usurped reign. Reeling from suspicions that she had tampered with election returns, and nonetheless proclaimed by “noted” cohorts in Congress, Raul Gonzalez for the lower House, and Francis Pangilinan for the upper, her first “elected” term wobbled unsteadily. Then Hello Garci was discovered, clumsily pre-empted by her bumbling press secretary no less (“I have two discs, the left and the right…”), and the veneer of legitimacy was peeled off, despite layers and layers of lying. Lying which even ten of her closest confidantes in the cabinet could not withstand.

She survived the crisis by buying off with tons of money the lower House where impeachment was almost certain, and her governance was hostage ever since to these ever-hungry lacoste’s and every other official with his share of knowledge of other terrible secrets, including l’affaire NBN with ZTE done in stealth “like a thief in the night”. Secrets of stealing and cheating and the lying that covered up for all these became the staple of her political longevity.

When conscientious generals and officers of the uniformed services could stand her evil no longer, they decided to “save the Republic” and “protect the people”, on the 20th anniversary of people power even, but their noble ends were thwarted because of the clumsy mistake of believing that their superiors in the chain of command had similar regard for the virtues taught them in the Academy where they were schooled. Now these officers languish in her jails, and those who thwarted their noble ends are rewarded no end by a grateful prima donna to the highest posts in the military service, and beyond, to cabinet rank in the civilian bureaucracy.

To consolidate her power over the uniformed ranks, she got her chief bodyguard, one “highly” regarded by Garci because of his willingness to “follow” orders no matter if unlawful in the elections of 2004, to become her operational commander of the soldiers of the Republic. But age and tradition caught up on Hermogenes Esperon, now the Chief of the Presidential Management Staff where all papers that lead to the sanctum sanctorum of Malacanang undergo what former President FVR called “complete staff work”. Soon he will be the Secretary of National Defense, after a gullible Gilbert Teodoro is inveigled into running for a presidency where defeat is certain.

But retiring Esperon did not come easy. There were the Classes of ’75, and ’76, and ’77, cavaliers in the Academy, of whose utmost and unquestioning loyalty she was uncertain. So, with Esperon always on the watch, she reluctantly gave way to the appointment of Alexander Yano of the Class of ’76. But as ’78 was closest to her heart, being their honorary classmate, their idol, their patroness, she quietly placed them in strategic positions in the interstices of the military echelon. Likely because Yano showed signs of being “independent”, a quality anathema in the bowels of the stinking palace beside the stinking river, she cut short his term, and sent him packing to the holy wilds of Brunei where his favourite cognac could not publicly be imbibed, as an insignificant ambassador. Insulting him to the last, she rewarded his deputy, Cardozo Luna of ’75, with the more glamorous retirement job of ambassador to The Hague, an hour away from the sinful pleasures of Amsterdam.

That gave her opportunity to make her other classmate, once her favourite bodyguard as well, Delfin Bangit, to be the chief of staff. But Esperon cautioned her from jumping that fast, and bade her to appoint Army chief Victor Ibrado of the Class of ’76, lest she roil the troubled waters of the military any further than it should. Yet, appointing Ibrado as chief of staff made the appointment of Del Bangit seamlessly pass. The Army, after all, is 75% of all the armed forces.

Recall likewise that I wrote in this space months ago about a meeting where Jess Versoza, PNP Chief by the grace of Herr Ronaldo Puno, was ushered into the regal presence at the stinking palace. To his surprise, with the prima donna was Roberto Rosales of the favourite Class of ’78, then WPD Chief. Right then and there, Versoza was directed to yank out Leopoldo Bataoil and replace him with her Boysie Rosales as Chief of the NCR Police. Versoza had to invent an effete position for the accomplished Bataoil somewhere in the wilds of the North, just to please the dona and install Boysie. And Boysie showed his unswerving loyalty right off, with the highhanded tactics against “enemy” Ted Failon in the recent crisis of his life.

Versoza, it is certain, will be made to retire early, a year or so before his 56th birthday on Christmas of 2010, and if he accepts, be posted in where else but the wilds of euro-Russia, as ambassador in charge of its freezing steppes. By then too, likely before the appointed date, Ibrado shall be on the exit, and Bangit shall be “emperor” of the Armed Forces, with Boysie Rosales his ‘rasputin” in the PNP. Over and above them all, of course will be the Tsarina, la Prima Donna de Lubao y Binalonan, Iligan y Kabankalan, their classmate in the Class of ‘78.

But what if the Class of ’76, and the remnants of ’75, as well as the hold-outs of ’77, feel they had been shafted from the behind?

Well, they have been royally screwed already, because as I wrote earlier in this piece, the Class of ’78 is all over the woodwork, and how!

The following are 22 Class ’78 members occupying sensitive posts within the AFP:

In GHQ, Camp Aguinaldo:

J2 (Inteligence) – Rear Adm. Victor Martir (PN – Philippine Navy)
Deputy J2 – Commodore EfrenTedor (PN)
J3 (Operations)- Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza (PA – Philippine Army)
J6 (Commel) – Maj. Gen. Jonathan Martir (PM – Philippine Marines)
J7 (Civil-Military Relations) – Maj. Gen. Sealana (PA)
DND-BAC Chairman – Brig. Gen. Gregorio Paduganan (PAF – Philippine Air Force)
Chief of Engineers – Maj. Gen. Rudyval Cabading (PA)
ISAFP – Maj. Gen. Romeo Prestoza (PAF)
Presidential Security Group – Brig. Gen. Celedonio Boquiren (PAF)

In the Army, six out of 10 infantry divisions are under the control of the Class of ’78 members), namely:

Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit – Commanding General of the Philippine Army
Maj. Gen. Roland Detabali – CG, Southern Luzon Command
Maj. Gen. Romeo Lustecteca – CG, 1st Infantry Division (Zamboanga del Norte)
Brig. Gen Florante Martinez – OIC, 2nd Infantry Division (Tanay, Rizal)
Maj. Gen. Vic Porto – CG, 3rd Infantry Division (Panay Island)
Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva – CG, 7th Infantry Division (Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija)
Maj. Gen. Manuel Tabaquero – CG, 8th Infantry Division (Catbalogan, Samar)
Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu – CG, 10th Infantry Division (Caraga Region)

In the Air Force, there is Maj. Gen. Oscar Rabena as Commanding General, and Brig. Gen Jesus Fajardo – CG, 710th Special Operations Wing as well as Col. Carlix Donila – Commander, 530th Air Base Wing (Zamboanga).

And in the Navy, the chief of the Naval Staff, Commodore Feliciano Angue, as well as heading the most strategically-located naval station in Cavite is Commodore Nestor Los Banes.

Go figure. The little lady has carefully chosen every actor, every extra, even the props, the lights and the sound system (J-6, Commel).

The “fat” little lady will never croak her last song. Like Marcos, she “does not intend to die”.

Get your long stored disc, even phonograph, of Handel’s Messiah. “For (she) shall reign, forever and ever…Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleluyah! Haaa-lehhhh-lu-yaaahhh!

* * *

Postscript from history: In 1972, Ferdinand Marcos assembled twelve of his loyalists, mostly generals, but including a crony-politician and a cabinet member. He gave them copies of his “Oplan” to declare martial rule. One of them got Oplan Sagittarius, and he supposedly leaked the same to a rising political star who happened to be the cousin-in-law of the crony politician. But Sagittarius was coded, and the infidel general soon died. Soon after, the rising political star was incarcerated.

Fast-forward to 1985, by which time Marcos had consolidated his hold over the entire polity through his KBL, the entire military through his Fabian Ver, and society even, through cronies who had parcelled out the nation’s wealth among themselves. Like a bolt from out of the blue, the dictator called for snap elections, and the frail widow of the by now-assassinated political star challenged his might. After Congress proclaimed Marcos notwithstanding cheating, stealing and lying, two of his original 1972 apostles declared a mutiny on February 22, 1986. The apparatus of hegemony broke like Humpty Dumpty. Sooner than later, the long-laid plans of mice and men unravelled, and Marcos boarded a helicopter for Hawaii.

There are no military bases now that the US of A then held dear, and the man at the White House is no longer a friendly like Ronald Reagan but a distant Barack Obama. But then again, these benighted islands are just specks in the Pacific, as far as Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon are now concerned.

Will Ferdinand’s reincarnation in little Gloria succeed? Will history be allowed to repeat itself in this “patria adorada”? Go figure.


lucio said...

i believe Mgen jonathan Martir is not a member of class 78 but rather class of 79 as shown in thier class website.