Cruz quits amid calls to resign

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — AMID fresh reports that the majority of the Armed Forces officers corps wants Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, Jr. removed for allegedly delaying the AFP modernization program, the beleaguered Cabinet official resigned yesterday, according to Defense Undersecretary Rodel Cruz.

Cruz’s resignation was irrevocable, the defense undersecretary said.

Cruz was caught up in the controversy over people’s initiative which he openly opposed, gaining the animosity of his fellow Palace officials. His stand ran squarely against Malacañang’s move to change the Constitution through a people’s initiative.

The defense secretary, who was appointed by President Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004, did not say why he was resigning.

He has recently been under intense pressure, however, from critics who called for his resignation after the defeat of people’s initiative at the Supreme Court and his stand against the movement was made public.

A signature campaign reportedly was underway in the military camps urging Mrs. Arroyo to appoint a DND chief who is more adept at military matters particularly in the administration and management of the AFP Modernization Program. These reports came in the wake of speculations that Cruz is on his way out following the defeat of the Malacanang-backed people’s initiative in the Supreme Court.

An unsigned “open letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo” circulated in Camp Aguinaldo claimed that demoralization is slowly creeping into the AFP rank-and-file following the failure of the DND leadership to act expeditiously on several pending contracts to procure much-needed war materiel needed by the military in fighting insurgents and terrorists.

The letter blamed the DND chief’s failure to immediately act on the pending contracts as mandated by DND•AFP rules on procurement of military hardware.

It also cited Cruz’s “total lack of military background as one reason for his failure to oversee the implementation of the AFP’s Modernization Program” at the time it is badly-needed by soldiers battling the insurgents and terrorists.

The letter claimed that contracts for the procurement of armaments, mobility and communications equipment which are badly needed by AFP units involved in counter-insurgency have been pending at the DND chief’s office for more than 10 months.

In particular, the letter cited a repeat order of Squad Automatic Weapons (SAW) from FN Herstal S.A. Belgium and VHF handheld radios from Harris RF Communications Division, USA which were approved during the term of former AFP chief Gen. Narciso Abaya.