HUNDREDS of Marine troopers escorted by three armored vehicles marched in formation and gathered in front of the headquarters of their elite unit in Fort Bonifacio shortly before 6 p.m. today to protest the relief of their popular commandant, Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda.
Military authorities announced Miranda’s relief less than three hours ago and said that the general had voluntarily asked to be removed from his post for unknown reasons. But Col. Ariel Querubin, who had earlier admitted planning to join the protests last Friday, said that Miranda had not resigned and remained the Marine chief.
He was joined by Lt. Col. Archie Segumalian, a tall, well-built officer who is the commander of the 2nd Marine Battalion. Segumalian marched toward the office of new Marine chief Brig. Gen. Nelson Allaga, telling journalists in a bellowing voice, "‘Pinakikita lang namin na masama ang loob namin na na-relieve ang commandant namin (We are just showing that we feel bad about the relief of our commandant)."
"Gusto naming malinis na eleksyon," he told journalists, who were airing the event live on cable television. "Para sa Marines lang ito, wala kaming ipinaglalaban (We want clean elections. This is just for the Marines, we are not fighting for anything else.)" Segumalian was apparently referring to the alleged attempt by the Arroyo camp to rig the elections in Lanao in May 2004, which were supposedly resisted by the Marines. Segumalian was assigned to Lanao del Sur during the polls and it was also during this period that his commander, Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani was forced to go on leave, allegedly because he was sympathetic to the opposition. (Click here for the PCIJ’s account of the Lanao elections and how men working for the president allgedly tried to get the Marines to cheat for Arroyo.)
Brig. Gen. Allaga, who was barely two hours in his new post, emerged from the headquarters building to meet Segumalian, whom he invited to come to his office. The colonel’s men remained outside the headquarters as this is being written.
Querubin, a Marine batallion commander assigned to Lanao, who had protested Miranda’s relief at about 5 p.m., also met with Allaga. Earlier, he arrived at the headquarters surrounded by rings of civilian supporters, including former Sanlakas party-list representative, JV Bautista. Querubin only said that he and his men were declaring support for Gen. Miranda, and declined to say whether they were remaining loyal to the chain of command.