“How do you deal with ‘lunatic’ president?” was the question posed by Senator Antonio Trillanes during the confirmation hearing of almost 200 military officials on Wednesday. The senator is worried about how the military would handle the situation if President Rodrigo Duterte would use and abuse the power given to him. He also reiterated during the hearing that the Armed Forces shall serve as the protector of the people and the state, and that there are actually practical applications of that.
He asked AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla a hypothetical question: “If the Commander in Chief the duly elected president would ask, out of a whim, the military to shoot all the civilians, what would now be the action of the Armed Forces in case such an order is given?” Padilla rebutted that the situation already happened during the first people power revolt in 1986, which ultimately lead to the expulsion of the then president. “Based on history, the military never fired a shot because within the ranks of military leadership, a serious debate was conducted,” he explained.
The spokesperson also made it clear that all situations would be dealt with on a case to case basis. “Because Edsa II happened also and the leadership of the Armed Forces withdrew their support against an incumbent president or a duly elected president,” the senator said, referring to another people power that aimed to overthrow former president Joseph Estrada. “So it’s clear to the Armed Forces in case you have a lunatic for a president in the future—it’s just a hypothetical situation—who will now use and abuse the power given to him and assume that the Armed Forces will just follow every order given to them. So it’s reassuring to hear that, sir,” Trillanes further explained.
Prior to this, Senator Gringo Honasan has asked Padilla if they understand fully well that the military that they were not a “Praetorian Guard” of any administration. Padilla replied that, “it’s very clearly enshrined in the Constitution and written clearly to our understanding.” Padilla also cited the recent election is a situation wherein they manifested their understanding of what is in the Constitution. “We said we were nonpartisan and we support the will of the people and we protected the ballots that were cast so our duty is not merely to a certain individual or personality but our duty is entirely to the whole country and its citizens.”