Alejano: Duterte must listen to military's grievances

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1) — President Rodrigo Duterte seems to have secured strong ties with the military since assuming office, but the recent Navy controversy puts the spotlight on other issues that may strain this relationship.

A former mutineer-turned-legislator tells the President to listen to the gripes of his men.

Over a hundred thousand members of the Armed Forces quietly observed from the sidelines as the infighting between Defense and Navy officials exploded during the recent Senate probe on the frigate controversy.

RELATED: Senate probes controversial frigate deal

As it has always done, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there was no sign of restlessness among its ranks.

Representative Gary Alejano of the Magdalo Partylist said, "Walang nagsasabi sa leadership ng Armed Forces na magulo sa loob, o may problema sa loob. Laging 'okay kami.'"

[Translation: No one in the Armed Forces leadership is saying that there is turmoil inside, or there are problems inside. It's always "things are fine."]

Alejano was a Marine captain when he joined other junior officers in leading the infamous Oakwood mutiny in 2003.

Aside from the frigate deal, the AFP has been put in awkward situations due to some of President Duterte's security policies.

Among them, the President's flip flopping stance in confronting the long drawn insurgency problem which included appointing leftist leaders to his Cabinet.

And then there's the issue with China.

While the President and his men hobnobbed with Chinese officials to push for better relations, the Philippine military is still bravely defending the country's territory in the West Philippine Sea.

Alejano said, "Sa mata ba ng sundalo na nakakaharap lagi ng aggression ng China, mare-reconcile yan? No, pakiramdam nila binebenta tayo."

[Translation: Will the matter be reconciled in the eyes of soldiers who routinely face China's aggression? No, they feel that we have been sold.]

The recent move of Congress to amend the Constitution without the concurrence of the senate may be a sticky issue for the AFP, even as it boasts of being apolitical .

This, along with the now-disregarded proposal of a revolutionary government may force the military to assert what it is sworn to do.

Former AFP Chief and Senator Rodolfo Biazon said, "You can call on your soldiers to stand by their oath of office...which is uphold and defend the Constitution."

The AFP is quick to downplay any sign of discontent among its troops.

Aside from military pay having been significantly increased, their needs continue to be taken care of.

RELATED: Duterte approves pay hike for soldiers, policemen

B/Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, AFP spokesperson. said they have an effective mechanism to address grievances.

He said, "We respect the democratic process dito [here]...after the '89, the 80s coup. We have learned our lessons, and never again."

But Alejano added there's no stopping another mutiny from happening again, especially if gripes pile up.