The sacking of the NSA and the takeover by the generals

Carlos ascendancy For comments:



The Manila Times


BBM, who was never academically predisposed, did not know Carlos. At that notable presidential debate at SMNI. Carlos’ questioning about how each presidentiable, as future architects of Philippine foreign policy, would treat Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) alliance was the turning point. Most respondents were unfamiliar with the topic at hand. Norberto Gonzales, who could have excelled having once been NSA himself and onetime Defense secretary, mumbled with a short 50-second answer. The rest were off-tangent, except for BBM, who was given leading follow-up questions from Claire, an excellent professor applying faultless classroom manners — inadvertently giving him some slack and a leg up. This non-debate was forgettable but not Carlos who was impressive in her role as moderator. She ruled the roost, primed her feathers showcasing her wide knowledge and expertise and perhaps the only person who understood and grasped the concepts of foreign policy, defense and security, exposing the wannabees’ illiteracy. It was a Claire Carlos show! Her subsequent post-debate presence in mass and social media invested her with star quality, setting her squarely in BBM’s sights. But hubris, nonetheless. Implications for BBM Today she’s out, a victim of presidential whim swayed by decisions taken in reaction to realities he should have been in control of but wasn’t. Consider these Keystone Cops scenarios. BBM in August 2022 fired AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino and installed Centino’s PMA ‘88 classmate Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro. Three-star General Bacarro was slated to be given the first fixed three-year term, but couldn’t due to the still active floating fourstar General Centino, retiring only on Feb. 4, 2023 after Gen. Bacarro’s own retirement. Instead, five months later, BBM fired Bacarro and reinstalled Centino. The reason for this revolving chair is the Duterte-era law RA 11709 prescribing a fixed three-year term for senior military officials, discontinuing the decades-long practice allowing AFP chiefs to serve shorter terms of months, accommodating their seniority. But the law was to take effect in April 2023 — after the retirement dates of General Bacarro, but before General Centino. The Defense department officer in charge Jose Faustino Jr. was not consulted. He resigned. BBM then appointed retired general Carlito Galvez as Defense secretary. It is known in some quarters that Galvez was not happy with Carlos as NSC. Replacing her with retired Gen. Edurdo Año, a former Duterte AFP chief and interior secretary, was a nobrainer. Whatever the reasons, Carlos was no match for the Duterte generals back in the helm of the country’s security and defense portfolio. The cabal’s alibi that all these appeased the grumblings in the ranks, including Carlos as collateral damage, is frivolous, yet BBM unsurprisingly wryly corroborated: “Secretary Carlos, I think she found that position to be a little bit political. Kasi hindi talaga siya sanay sa ganon at she is an academic, a retired academic.” As a sop, she was offered to head the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD), a minor post. Bruised and beaten, she was loyal to the boss, to the end. With the Duterte generals back at the helm, the conspiracy theorists and Marites are having a field day. In social media, “revolutionary government and junta,” ideas that waned during Duterte’s closing years are back in fashion. Perhaps the son of a dictator, who loves to spend time abroad with his barkada, may need to hunker down and be more serious in his governance.