By Jessie Kho Sanchez and Gerry Albert Corpuz
MANILA, Philippines—Staunch critics of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III said the P 75-billion budget being asked by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its modernization program in the next five years indicates that the direction of the current administration is to unleash tyranny, all-out war and civilian-military dictatorship.
"The P 75-billion modernization fund asked by the AFP reflects the thrust of President Aquino in the next five years, which is full-blown authoritarian rule backed up by strong military support courtesy of the AFP modernization program," the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a press statement.
"The rising tyranny and the creeping dictatorship is highly evident in all bureaucracies of the Aquino administration. The P 75-billion AFP modernization program is the military component of this evolving police state direction of the incumbent administration," said Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice chairperson.
The Pamalakaya official said the P 75-B being asked by AFP will serve the best interest of the Filipino people if the government re-channels the budget for the purpose of mass housing, health, education and production subsidies.
" The people are asking for an arsenal of food, subsidies and medicines, a colony of mass housing, more class rooms, more teachers and more basic services. They are not asking for an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction under the Oplan Bayanihan escapade of the Aquino-AFP regime," said France.
The AFP needs P75 billion in the next five years to upgrade its capabilities and provide the country with a “minimum credible defense posture.” Defense Undersecretary for Finance Fernando Manalo said AFP brass had asked Congress to allocate P75 billion from 2013 to 2017, or P15 billion a year, to revive the military modernization program that lapsed two years ago.
He said the budget would help the defense department to achieve a minimum credible defense posture. The 15-year modernization program that began in 1995 under the Ramos administration ended in failure in 2010 despite the profitable sale of vast military lands.
AFP officials lamented that only 10 percent or P33 billion of the promised P331-billion allocation for 15 years had been given to the AFP. Manalo said the proposed P 75-billion modernization plan will be used to fun 39 projects worth P75 billion to be implemented over five years.Among those to be acquired are lead-in fighter trainer jets, close-air support aircraft, long-range patrol aircraft, radar systems and engineering equipment.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin presented the P75-billion proposal to President Aquino on May 25. Pamalakaya said aside from the issue of Panatag Shoal, President Aquino is expected to bring up the P 75-billion AFP modernization plan with US Presidentin next week's state visit to US.