Former Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado should not despair over the deplorable turn of events in the controversy surrounding the Frigate Acquisition Project.
From the very beginning, he has taken the right path in exposing the administration’s choice of an unproven and inferior weapon system, at the risk of his own career. Instead of keeping silent, he chose to speak his mind and stand for what he thinks is best for his men and the country he served his entire life.
All of a sudden, Mercado, who has called out irregularities in said project, has been made the scapegoat by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in yesterday’s House hearings. This is how Malacañang, together with the DND and some navy officials, is covering up its role in the lobbying for an inferior and unproven combat management system (CMS).
Rather than disclose what transpired in the Malacañang meeting between Bong Go’s undersecretary and the Navy, Sec. Lorenzana instead chose to sacrifice Mercado by turning the tables on him and calling out his supposed inordinate interest in the choice of the CMS.
This is not the first time that this happened. In the span of this administration’s 19 months in office, it has brooked neither dissent nor complaints.
Those who dare raise a protest on government irregularities or anti-people policies are vilified and crucified. Those in the executive are fired or forced to resign. Those not under the executive, like the Chief Justice, are impeached, or worse, imprisoned like me.
This is a scorched earth strategy on dissenters, non-conformists, or just plain decent public officials who can no longer take the corruption in the system that Duterte, instead of eradicating, has encouraged. This is the consequence of the breakdown of the rule of law and the reign of impunity that he has promoted.
This is the kind of government and leaders that men and women of integrity and principles are facing. Former Navy FOIC Mercado is just the latest among their victims, after myself, the Chief Justice, the Vice President, the Ombudsman, and members of the opposition.
That it would happen now in the AFP is certainly disheartening. It seems that in line with its commander-in-chief’s policy of capitulation to China, the AFP is now defending the purchase of an inferior combat system for its warships.
Because of this, we must put forward the question of whether or not our defense establishment is still interested in defending this nation against its external enemies. Is it the case that the few good men defending our nation have finally been overwhelmed by those driven by nothing but ambition and the promise of promotion?
Vice Admiral Mercado is retiring soon. During his appearances at the Senate and the House, he has the bearing of a man who no longer has anything to lose, after his own officers have turned their backs on him.
With nothing to lose, he must harness his remaining strength. He must continue to bear the integrity and courage that has guided him to act with selflessness and sacrifice. He could have stayed silent and retired without his reputation being tarnished by the Secretary of Defense. But instead he chose to do the right thing, as any officer and a gentleman would, as any of the other good men and women of our armed forces would.
Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado should take heart in the fact that in all that he fought for against all odds, he has become the officer’s honor code in flesh and blood. This completes his lifetime of service to the nation.