An official of the elite Coast Guard Special Operations Force (CGSOF) has scored so-called opportunist politicians who assume they can order around the military and other uniformed personnel during the height of the massive flooding in Isabela and Cagayan last week.
In his Facebook post, Lieutenant Commander Erwin Tolentino, commanding officer of BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) and a long-time rescue diver under CGSOF said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and other uniformed agencies follow only one chain of command, headed President Rodrigo Duterte as the commander-in-chief.
“We take command from our Commandant, and him from our Secretary of Transportation. No politician can dictate our tasking. And we have only one commander-in-chief. Yung Presidente. Ganun lang kalinaw ang command line naming,” said Tolentino.
Tolentino, a multi-decorated Coast Guard officer, said “politicians can coordinate all they want but it is our ground commanders who have the last say.”
According to Tolentino, he felt insulted by claims of some politicians and their supporters who are supposedly credit-grabbing and allegedly portraying that the national government did nothing during onslaught Typhoon Ulysses, particularly in Region 2 and in the National Capital Region (NCR).
“Ka-kainsulto lang sa amin to. Just letting it out there,” said Tolentino who is a recipient of the Bronze Cross Medal in 2009 for his death-defying heroics during the rescue operations for Typhoon Pepeng in Pangasinan.
“So please don’t do disservice sa mga rescuers natin on the ground and say na mabagal ang responde ng tropa. Been there, done that. Cold, wet, hungry and miserable yet they are still there. Di natin alintana yung hirap, pagod at peligro na kinakaharap nila while we stay at home and monitor everything in Facebook,” he added.
In 2017, President Duterte awarded Tolentino and his men the Distinguished Coast Guard Cross Medal for their brave efforts during the Marawi Siege.
During his late-night televised address on Monday, Duterte slammed Vice President Leni Robredo for allegedly questioning his absence during the onslaught of Ulysses.
“Yung pakana niya na wala ako noong bagyo, I was here. I was attending an Asean summit,” according to him. The Chief Executive said Robredo cannot be a president because she wanted him to give orders during the storm,” said Duterte
“You do not give orders on the day of the battle. You go and tell your soldiers and to take their position so that when the enemies come they should be able to respond appropriately. That is the analogy. “Hindi ka magbigay ng order, where is… when the storm is raging, wala ka nang order maibigay. Sometimes the lines are cut. Ano pa bang ibigay mo na order diyan? It’s too late,” he added.
Supporters of Robredo claimed on various social media platforms over the weekend that it was the Vice President who ordered the military to conduct rescue operations in the flood-stricken Cagayan and Isabela, after posting several updates on her Facebook and Twitter handles.
“While you were making calls, alam mo yung mga military hindi naman maniwala sa iyo, because tama sila you are not in the line of authority,” Duterte stressed.
Tolentino, son of retired Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, said that the PCG and other branches of uniformed service “have long known” their respective mandate during calamities.
“We chase storms, bago pa dumating ang bagyo naka pre-position na kami sa mga areas na dadaanan ng bagyo,” said Tolentino. (CMC)