F L A S H!
(ZAMBOANGA JOURNAL / 26 Feb) The chief of the Philippine Marines Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda has been relieved Sunday afternoon (4.30 pm Philippine Time) from his post, and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Nelson Allaga is named new commandant of the Philippine Marines.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Tristan Kison has confirmed this report and said Miranda requested that he be relieved for a still unknown reason.
"General Miranda requested for his relief due to personal reasons. He filed a personal action form requesting that he be relieved. And Gen. Allaga took over from his post," Kison said.
Military sources said Miranda was relieved after reports suggested that he was planning to withdraw his support to the embattled President Gloria Arroyo.
The commander of the elite Army Scout Ranger, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, was also relieved on Saturday after he was linked to a failed coup.
Aside from Lim, Marine brigadier Col. Ariel Querubin is being investigated for his supposed links with military rightist groups calling for the resignation of Arroyo.
Querubin on Sunday said Miranda's relief was unjust and told reporters that he his group join the resigned commandant in the Philippine Marines headquarters.
He said he spoke with Miranda, who told him that the relief came as a surprise.
"Our commandant was himself surprised by his sudden relief. He did not resign, but had been relieved for a still unknown reasons," Querubin said.
He called on the people to proceed to the camp in Fort Bonifacio, also the headquarters of the Philippine Army, and protect them from possible retaliation.
"We call on the people to go to the headquarters to protect us from aggression.
We will cross the bridge when we are there," Querubin told reporters in Manila.
Querubin said the Marines had originally planned to march and join anti-Arroyo protesters last Friday, but had been prevailed upon by Miranda.
"The junior officers are raring, they are agitated, and so as not to kill each other, we decided to join the protest without our arms. We also wanted to express our true sentiments, but we were prevailed upon by our commandant."
"Now, we don't know why our commandant was suddenly relieved. Gen. Miranda is my commandant and Gen. Miranda is the commandant of the Marines," he said.
Allaga said the relief of Miranda was internal to the Marines and that politics had nothing to do with the order.
"This is internal to us, politics have nothing to do with this," he said.
Dozens of armed marines, led by Lt. Col. Archie Segumalian, were spotted rushing around their headquarters obviously to reinforce Querubin's group.
"We are doing everything from Lanao, we want the elections clean and honest, we don't want the country to be in chaos, but you are putting our nation in chaos," Segumalian, commander of the 2nd Marine Battalion, said.
He was refering to the May 2004 presidential polls, where a marine brigade commander was relieved after he ignored alleged orders to rig the elections in favor of Arroyo.
"This action is unilateral on our part and we are not siding with any group. We are just showing our symphaty with our commandant Gen. Miranda. We feel bad by his sudden relief, why did they relieve him," Segumalian said.
He was also seen giving order to dozens of heavily armed soldiers. "Listen up, don't shoot your fellow marines," he said.
Marine tanks rolled inside the headquarters and soldiers were seen mounting machine guns on top of them, and soldiers, their bodies heavy with ammunition links and backpack, deployed around.
Civil society groups and leaders of anti-Arroyo protesters trooped to the headquarters after they heard Querubin's appeal for people power. Dozens of civilians have surrounded Querubin, their arms locked with each other, as more people started arriving.
Allaga exerted his authority and troops inside the headquarters dispersed before midnight.
Malakanyang has ordered Querubin's arrest. Allaga said the outspoken officer is now under his custody.