Respect Esperon’s extension — Army chief

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE commanding general of the 80,000-strong Philippine Army yesterday urged the officers and members of the Army to respect the decision of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to extend the term of Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. for three months.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano made the appeal in the face of warning by some sectors that the extension of the term of Esperon, who is supposed to retire on February 9, would be sparking fresh demoralization in the military ranks.

“The President and the Commander-in- Chief has exercised her prerogative and every soldier must follow and respect the decision,” said Yano in his first comment on the issue since the announcement was made last weekend.

Arroyo said Esperon’s term is being extended so that the government’s campaign against the insurgents would be sustained.

She has issued orders to the military about two years ago to end the insurgency problem on or before she finishes her term in 2010.

“I’m confident that the soldier will follow the decision of the President. I’m very confident that it was a well-studied decision for the good and the interest of the nation,” Yano said.

“I can confidently say there is no demoralization and there would be no demoralization because the soldier follows the chain of command, so his loyalty resides in the chain of command,” he added.

On the possibility that Esperon’s extension might be used by military adventurists as the jumping board in recruiting soldiers for the launching of another destabilization move against the government, Yano replied: “I only heard about rumors.”

“But I have not felt it on the ground, not with the Philippine Army but as I said professional soldier will respect, must respect and adhere and observe the decision as the decision of Commander-in- Chief being at the top most of our chain of command,” he said.

He thanked Mrs. Arroyo for appointing him as the successor of Esperon when he finishes his extended term.

Yano is from the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1976, while Esperon belongs to the PMA Class of 1974 — the same class of Philippine National Police chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr.

“It is an honor not only for me but for the entire Philippine Army, I being the chief of the Philippine Army, the biggest service branch of our Armed Forces and I can only say that this, to me, is a challenge and a sacrifice more than a victory or source of jubilation on my part,” Yano said.

“We have many urgent tasks to do but it is an honor and privilege for me to be given such greater responsibility and I thank the President and the Commander-in- Chief for that honor, for the trust entrusted to me,” he said.