By Ellen Tordesillas
Amid rumors that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would be replaced next year, President Aquino heaped him praises during ceremonies to honor those who have battled with members of Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga last month. He called Gazmin the “timon ng ating mga kawal sa tuwid na daan (the rudder that will steer the soldiers to stay in the right path). “
Aquino said when the Zamboanga siege happened, Gazmin immediately reported to him and did not hesitate to be in the frontline. He asked: “Sinong hindi matutuwa sa tulad niyang walang pinipiling panahon sa paglilingkod? (Who would not be happy with someone like him who knows no time when it comes to service?)
As he reminded soldiers of the supremacy of civilian authority over the military, Aquino recalled again (as he has recalled in past occasions) his traumatic experience during several coup attempts against his mother, Cory Aquino.
“Ilang coup ang dinaanan ng administrasyon ng aking ina, pero hindi po kailanman pinanghinaan ng loob si Sec. Volts. Biruin po ninyo, sa gitna ng putukan at habang nagsisimula nang umikot ang mga tora-tora sa ere, puwede siyang kinabahan, puwede siyang nag-panic. Pero hindi niya kami tinalikuran. Pinili po niyang protektahan ang ating Republika, at ipaglaban ang demokrasya. Maraming salamat kay Sec. Volts; talaga naman pong hanggang ngayon, tinatanaw ko pa ring utang ng loob ang kanyang katapatan sa serbisyo. (In the many coups that my mother’s administration faced, never did Sec. Volts waver. Imagine, he could have panicked in the midst of shooting and while we were the rebels were threatening the country by flying the tora-tora. But he chose to protect the Republic and fight for democracy. Thank you, Sec. Volts. Up to now I am grateful to you for your loyalty.”
He said he feels secure because he knows that the military’s operation and strategy is in good hands with Gazmin in the DND and Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista as Armed Forces Chief.
Aquino’s tribute to Gazmin should scuttle talks that Aquino was displeased with him for his blunder last September when he alleged at the budget congressional hearing that the Chinese put concrete blocks within Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough shoal, as foundation for structures that they plan to establish on the reef.
It turned out later that the concrete blocks had been there for many years and were put by the American military as sinkers for wreckage of ships that they used as targets in their shooting practice. This was the time when Subic was the U.S. naval base.
Gazmin’s departure from DND was being talked even before the September concrete blocks blunder. It has something more to do with his lack of vision as defense chief.
What we heard was the Liberal Party would like Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya to head the defense department.
Abaya, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was a Philippine Navy officer.
The LP would like Hernani Braganza, former Alaminos mayor and defeated gubernatorial candidate, to replace Abaya at DOTC.
But Braganza would only be qualified to hold a government position in May 2014, when the one-year ban for those who ran in the last election expires.
An Inquirer report said Gazmin asked Aquino about rumors that he would be replaced. Aquino’s reply: “Pinagti-trip-an ka lang (They’re just making fun at your expense).”
Who could that be?