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Economic concerns a bigger threat to Marcos gov’t than military internal squabbling

AN UNEXPECTED change of command at the military took place Saturday with the reappointment of General Andres C. Centino as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. — ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

THE ADMINISTRATION of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. could face threats of political instability more from economic concerns that affect ordinary citizens than internal bickering among the military, according to analysts.   

“An economic crisis triggers political instabilities since any crises have an impact on the income and welfare of specific sectors and groups in a society,” Philip Arnold “Randy” P. Tuaño, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said in a Viber message.   

“We have witnessed economic crises in the past, and all of them have had political effects,” he said.   

Chester B. Cabalza, a national security expert, noted that economic risks are affected by global events and developments.   

“Economic crisis could be triggered by uncontrolled external factors caused by mismanaged macroeconomics including prolonged recession and inflation brought by a pandemic, wars, and economic sanctions,” he said in a Messenger chat.  

“These could affect the microeconomics and widen poverty gaps, unemployment, crimes and violence,” he added.  

Inflation in the Philippines hit another record high in December at 8.1%. Last month, the Philippine government lowered its economic growth target for 2023 to 6.0% to 7.0% from 6.5% to 7.5%. Manila’s target was more optimistic than that of the World Bank, which expects the country’s economic expansion to slow to 5.7%.  

“The domino effect of the global recession could also cripple the political stability of ruling political elites if it espouses cronyism, monopoly, corruption, and greed,” Mr. Cabalza said.   

Halsey A. Juliano, a political economy researcher, said that “usually,” an economic crisis only triggers political instability “if the public sees political engagement as something that directly impacts their economic life.”  

If people feel that their quality of life is not worsening – “even if it’s not improving” — they do not tend to rock the boat, he said.   

Mr. Tuaño of Ateneo said the ouster of two sitting presidents before — the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, father of the current Philippine leader, and Joseph E. Estrada, who was implicated in corruption scandals — should be a lesson for the government today.  

The military-backed uprisings were named after the capital region’s major thoroughfare called EDSA, on which thousands marched during the two events.   

On Saturday, reports of alleged “destabilization moves” by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) circulated on messaging apps and social media platforms.   

An unexpected change of command at the military took place Saturday with the reappointment of General Andres C. Centino as AFP chief of staff.  

Deputy Minority Leader France L. Castro said in a statement on Sunday that the alleged “squabblings” within the AFP might trigger a destabilization plot.  

“The supposed reason of the squabbles is Republic Act No. 11709, a law enacted by former President Rodrigo Duterte in April last year that, among others, set a fixed term of three years for eight of the most senior AFP officers, including the chief of staff and the commanders of the Army, Air Force and Navy,” Ms. Castro said.  

At the change of command ceremony, Mr. Centino discussed the new law, underscoring that it “seeks to strengthen the capabilities of the AFP and enhance its professionalism.”  

“As we strive to put this law into effect, we as an organization cannot afford to remain or to be divided and squabbling on how its interpretation stands to benefit one over the other and lose focus on what is best for the armed forces as a whole,” he said.   

Jan Robert R. Go, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines, said any calls for regime change via extraconstitutional means may not prosper “at this point” because the president and vice president “have consolidated their ranks” especially among the critical sectors — the political elite and the military.   

“But once these are shaken, then probably we can see a different scenario or possibility.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza with a report from Beatriz Marie D. Cruz 


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