MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has retreated from its plan to pursue legal action against activist-actress Mae Paner, popularly known as Juana Change, who earlier caught the ire of the Philippine Army for wearing military uniform during a July 24 protest against President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).
AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the military had backtracked from its position against Paner after finding out that she did not mock but in fact commended the sacrifices made by soldiers.
“Last night (Thursday), the Chief of Staff…General Eduardo Año, ordered a thorough review of the case of Ms. Paner following information that Ms. Paner did not actually ridicule soldiers but even praised the sacrifices of our men in uniform…”Based on these information and other findings, the AFP will no longer pursue the case,” said Padilla.
Nevertheless, Padilla said the AFP had called on Paner “and other unauthorized individuals to henceforth desist from the inappropriate use of our uniforms.”
He said Paner must understand that the uniform she wore during the SONA was “sacred” because it is the AFP’s “battledress attire.”
“It is the same uniform our soldiers wear whenever we go to battle and the same uniform many of our heroes die wearing in defense of the motherland and our people. This is the very reason we hold this particular uniform sacred,” Padilla said.
Earlier, the Philippine Army said that what Paner did was a violation of Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code, which reads: “Illegal use of uniforms or insignia. — The penalty of arresto mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall publicly and improperly make use of insignia, uniforms or dress pertaining to an office not held by such person or to a class of persons of which he is not a member.”
It added that this was also a violation of Republic Act 493, which reads, “(I)t shall be unlawful for any person not in the service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine Constabulary… to use or wear the duly prescribed insignia, badge or emblem or rank of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine Constabulary, or any colorable imitation thereof.”