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Why the Philippine military remains loyal to Arroyo

Updated On: Jul 19, 2005

Manila – The Philippine military's top generals have a good reason to remain loyal to embattled President Gloria Arroyo: Many of them owe their jobs to her. Under her much-criticised "revolving-door policy", the President has appointed a total of eight generals during her four years in office.

     Her latest appointment is Lt-Gen Generoso Senga, who will take over as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff from Aug 15. 
    By contrast, former President Corazon Aquino had four military chiefs in six years; former President Fidel V. Ramos had three in six years, and deposed President Joseph Estrada had two in three years. 
    Under the "revolving-door policy", Mrs Arroyo would appoint generals who were nearing retirement age and then extend their stay for a few months more. Critics say this has contributed to the AFP's instability since a chief of staff would need to stay in office for at least two years to be able to carry out meaningful reforms in the 110,000-strong organisation. 
    Some argue that by keeping the military leadership insecure and unstable by this strategy, Mrs Arroyo  has been able to neutralise the military's power to change presidents.
    A source in Malacañang told the Inquirer that by appointing a number of influential generals to the top military post - even if just for an average of six months each - the President  has been able to build a broader base of support that she can turn to, particularly during critical periods such as the present when some of her closest allies have abandoned her.
    The AFP chief of staff's power to sign the promotion papers of junior officers gives those who occupy the post "residual influence" in the organisation long after they have left the service.
    Even when the generals have retired, the government makes sure that they remain loyal and happy by appointing them to juicy public posts.  
    The Arroyo administration has followed the same revolving-door policy in the Philippine National Police where four police chiefs have been named in just four years. 
    An Arroyo economic adviser, Representative Joey Salceda, said the practice was "more serendipitous than deliberate" although it admittedly reflected "her accommodative world view towards the military in gratitude for their critical role to her 2001 accession".

* Arroyo reaping benefits of AFP 'revolving door' (Inquirer News Service, July 16)