MAJ. GEN. Renato Miranda, the popular and respected commandant of the Philippine Marines, was relieved of his post this afternoon, amid rumors that members of the elite unit were planning to withdraw their support from the Arroyo government and were calling on civilians to support their action.
Miranda, a bemedalled officer and member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, was immediately replaced by his deputy, Brig. Gen Nelson Allaga. The Marine spokesman, Maj. Melquiades Ordiales, told journalists that earlier this afternoon, Miranda had asked the Navy chief, Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga, to be relieved of his post for still unknown reasons.
As news of his resignation made the rounds of text messages in an edgy city, members of civilian groups like the Black and White Movement, Sanlakas and Brother Eddie Villanueva’s Bangon Pilipino Movement rushed to the Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio to support what they believed were embattled Marine troopers.
By 5 p.m., scores of civilians had gathered at the Marine chapel and were subsequently joined by Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, who is said to have been involved in the failed attempt to withdraw support from the Arroyo government last Friday. “We are asking the people to support us from aggression,” Querubin told ANC.
He also confirmed that he and 200 of his men were planning to march down Edsa on Friday to join the protesters there. Gen. Miranda, however, dissuaded them from doing so and asked them to follow “the chain of command.”
“Junior officers are so agitated,” Querubin said. “I am doing this in support of my commandant.”
The Marines are known to be among the most restive units of the armed forces. They are veteran putschists, having taken part in the bloody 1989 coup against the Aquino government and the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.
The resentment of the Marines against President Arroyo is well known, as members of the unit were disenchanted with the relief of Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani a few days after the 2004 elections. Gudani was taken out of his command in the Lanao provinces, supposedly to facilitate the cheating by Arroyo henchmen. The Marines were reportedly further incensed when the top brass ordered the court martial of Gudani and Lt. Col. Antonio Balutan after they testified about the alleged fraud before the Senate in October.
“The relief is unusual because it is put in effect so suddenly,” said Senator Rodolfo Biazon, himself a former Marine Commandant, who rushed to Fort Bonifacio, he said, “to prevent soldiers from shooting each other.”