The 145,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was reminded not to be biased or partisan to a particular political group in the upcoming May 22 national and local elections.
Col. Xerxes Trinidad, spokesperson of the Philippine Army (PA), said the directive was issued to the Army, Philippine Navy (PN), and Philippine Air Force (PAF) by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“It’s a guidance from the Secretary of National Defense and we have been reminded that the armed forces, particularly on the level of our Commanding General [Lt. Gen. Andres Centino], to remain non-partisan in this coming national election,” Trinidad told reporters on Thursday, Oct. 21.
“It only means that the Army will always be fair and secure everybody if needed, and [won’t] join in any activity that is considered as political in nature,” he added.
Earlier this month, Lorenzana spearheaded the AFP’s third quarter command conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City where he directed the military’s top commanders and senior officers to “maintain the professionalism” by being non-partisan in the forthcoming polls.
“Soldiers are not allowed to campaign for anybody. This is wrong. Let us isolate the AFP from partisan politics so they can focus on their noble work of protecting the people and the state. Let us maintain the professionalism of the AFP,” Lorenzana said during the command conference held on Oct. 8.
According to the 1987 Constitution, no member of the military “shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any partisan political activity, except to vote.”
Around 70 percent of the 100,000-member Army are registered voters, Trinidad said.
He said the Defense Chief’s instruction was taken “very positively” by the commanders and senior officers.
The Army spokesman said no military unit has so far been monitored to have engaged in partisan politics, although he warned that erring officials may be charged should it be proven that they have violated Lorenzana’s order.
“These people could be charged particularly if in any violations, we have the General Articles of War 96 [conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman],” Trinidad said.