Magdalo's Alejano wants probe into Navy chief's sacking
MANILA, Philippines – Citing its being "highly unusual and unceremonious on so many counts," Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said he would file a resolution calling for a probe into the sacking of Philippine Navy Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado.
Alejano said he would ask the House committee on national defense and security to look into the matter once Congress resumes session in January 2018.
Mercado was sacked from his post ahead of his scheduled retirement in March 2018. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the instructions to relieve him came from "higher authorities."
Sources in the military earlier told Rappler that Mercado resisted the Department of National Defense's implementation of the Navy's P16-billion project to acquire two modern warships or frigates.
Alejano echoed this information in a statement.
"I suspect that this has something to do with the lingering issue of the Navy's frigate acquisition project," said Alejano, himself a former Marine officer.
"Months ago, I have received information from various sources about anomaly in the ongoing procurement of frigates in the Navy. Accordingly, Mercado stood his ground that proceeding with the procurement of the frigates under the present contract would be disadvantageous both to the Navy – which is the end user – and to the Filipino taxpayers. On the other hand, one information states that Mercado is delaying the project," he added.
The lawmaker cited the following observations in calling Mercado's removal from his post "highly unusual":
- Relief just 3 months before retirement. "It is rare that commanders are relieved a few months away from their retirement unless this is due to compelling reasons such as health or that he is accused of committing grave misconduct."
- The setting of the relief. "Relief of commanders are traditionally undertaken at the Headquarters of the concerned unit, in this case, the Headquarters Philippine Navy in Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. The event is usually attended by guests, subordinate commanders, troops, and even members of the media. Futhermore, the event is highlighted by service protocols and ceremonies to give honor to the outgoing commander in recognition of his service to country and dedication to duty."
- The Change of Command Ceremony. "It is a much anticipated event where names of candidates to the position are circulated among officers and enlisted personnel and even floated in the public. This culminates when one of them is chosen by the president of the country. In the case of Mercado, there was no announcement of his relief. The relief was done almost in secret and very unceremonious."
- Military tradition. "It is [a] very ungracious time to relieve a Commander – in the middle of an otherwise festive holiday season and just a day before our men and women celebrate the AFP Day."
Alejano was part of two coup d'etat attempts in 2003 and 2007 staged by the Magdalo group. Among their grievances then was the persistent corruption in the military.
The lawmaker said Magdalo, composed of both former military personnel and civilians, is still gathering more information about Mercado's sacking.
Alejano is part of an independent minority bloc in the House, among the few opposition lawmakers in a supermajority-led and Duterte-allied chamber. – Rappler.com