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PIA Press Release

Troops to 'respect' Ebdane as defense chief, says Esperon

Quezon City (24 November) -- SOLDIERS will "respect" Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. should the current public works secretary be appointed to take over the defense department, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

Esperon acknowledged receiving reports that Ebdane, a former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), is supposedly set to replace Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr., whose resignation takes effect on November 30.

Asked if soldiers would be offended if a former policeman takes over the department that supervises the 120,000-strong AFP, Esperon said: "Not at all."

He gave the same answer when asked if he foresaw any problems working with Ebdane.

"As I said, the President has the sole prerogative of appointing the next secretary of national defense. It's an order from the commander-in-chief so we will follow that, we will respect that," the military chief told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Not only are the two graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, Esperon said he and Ebdane were classmates in intelligence school. Ebdane belongs to the PMA class of 1970, four years ahead of the AFP chief.

Esperon reiterated that "it doesn't matter" whether a civilian or former soldier is secretary of national defense, notwithstanding recommendations of fact-finding bodies that investigated failed coups d'etat.

The Davide Commission in the late 1980s and the Feliciano Commission in 2003 recommended that a civilian should handle the defense portfolio to insulate the military from politics.

The Feliciano Commission's recommendations led to Cruz's appointment as defense secretary in August 2004.

"I must tell you that there have been outstanding civilian defense ministers but there are also outstanding secretaries [of defense] from the retired [generals'] sector," Esperon said.

Earlier this week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she would sit as concurrent defense chief for at least two months after Cruz's retirement, amid reports Ebdane had the defense portfolio in the bag.

Aside from sharing first names, Esperon and Ebdane were also both linked to the political scandal involving former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Esperon was mentioned in purported wiretapped tapes of Arroyo and Garcillano's phone conversations that government critics say proved electoral fraud in 2004.

Ebdane, on the other hand, was accused of helping Garcillano when the latter went into hiding soon after the scandal broke. (PIA) [top]

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