By Antonio C. Abaya
Written Oct. 04, 2005
For the Standard Today,
October 06 issue
The most prominent military dissenters since the Marcos era were, of course, the members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, or RAM, under high-profile leaders like then Col. Gringo Honasan, Red Kapunan, Tito Legaspi and Rex Robles.
Though there was no doubt that that they were motivated by idealism and the desire to reform, not just the armed forces, but Philippine society as a whole, their nobility of purpose was somewhat compromised by their logistical and financial needs which were met by well-heeled non-military personages whose personal political ambitions injected a mercenary element into their enterprises.
In the August 1987 attempted coup by the RAM against President Aquino, it was then defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile who was meant to be the main beneficiary and was most likely also the financier. If the coup had succeeded, Enrile would have been installed as head of a military civilian junta, according to plan, and, later, as duly elected president of the republic.
In the December 1989 attempted coup, again against President Aquino and also led by RAM, the principal backers were suspected to be business tycoon Danding Cojuangco and a gaggle of Makati businessmen and opposition politicians. Cojuangco, who was in exile abroad with the Marcoses, sneaked back into the country through the backdoor, from Sabah to his farm in Davao in a light plane, without going through immigration formalities…..just two or three weeks before the putsch. The Aquino Government, so terrified of the president’s cousin, could not even gather enough nerve to book him for illegal entry, which he clearly was guilty of. Onli in da Pilipins.
In the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny, apparently inspired by the mutineers’ Kuya, Gringo, after the RAM had splintered into quarreling factions, the tactical goal was to install the deposed president Joseph Estrada to the presidency for at least three days. Enough time for Erap to unilaterally clear himself of the plunder charges pending against him, after which a military civilian junta would take over, presumably with Kuya as head of state.
It does not take much brains to conclude that Erap was paying for his deliverance, especially after one of his mistresses and one of his cronies were found to have been involved in the logistics. His organizers, Ronald Lumbao and Boy Morales, were also ready with a rent-a-mob equipped with ready-made posters and streamers announcing a People Power happening but were dispersed by police before they could yell “Ibagsak!”
In the present political crisis, there are speculations about how the military will position itself. But like Philippine society at large, the Philippine military are also disunited. It can be assumed that the top brass, all appointees of President Arroyo, will remain loyal to her under almost any circumstances..
It can also be assumed that there are mercenary elements who are for sale to the highest bidders. I understand the bidding starts at P100 million for a strike force of 15,000 officers and men. As far as I can tell, no deal has been struck. Perhaps the trapos are still trying to bring the price down.
In this piece, however, I am more concerned with the idealistic elements of the armed forces who are genuinely alarmed about the future of this country. For the past three months or so, I understand from a retired captain, my articles have been circulated among the officer corps, especially among graduates of the Philippine Military Academy and/or West Point. As a consequence, I have received statements and comments from several majors, lieutenant colonels and full colonels, mostly in active service.
I can personally confirm that there is demoralization among the idealistic elements of the military. But I do not know how they compare in numbers and troop strength with the mercenaries being courted by the trapos or with the top brass co-opted by President Arroyo. I asked one of my correspondents how many other officers thought like him. His reply floored me: 50% of the officer corps, he said. But that could be an exaggeration.
It was the late Capt. (Ret.) Rene Jarque who was one of the most articulate ex-military persons to voice his discontent. Before his untimely death at age 40 from cardiac arrest in Jakarta, where he was working in the corporate world, Rene had sent me copies of his speeches and articles.
In my article “Military Dilemma” (July 19, 2005), I quoted excerpts from his speech before, of all organizations, the Philippine Constitution Association, in which he advocated that the military play a “constructive role” in a situation where the government is unstable and democratic institutions exist but are not strong. In such a theoretical situation, which looks more and more like the present, he sees the military intervening as a deterrent to bad government, but not taking over the state apparatus.
If I read Jarque’s mind correctly, he wanted the idealistic elements in the military to intervene if and when the civilian government is unable to provide good governance, but not to take over the state completely. Presumably Jarque wanted a civilian revolutionary or transition government to take over, but supported by the idealistic elements of the military. Which is also my view and that of many other concerned Filipinos.
In the Reaction portion of the above article, I included Jarque’s call to the Corps of Cadets of the PMA, from where he had graduated in 1986, to “help awaken the generals who have been oblivious to the calls for honor and honest conduct,” reminding his audience of the Academy’s Honor Code, and the Academy’s motto of “Courage, Integrity, Loyalty.”
But Capt. Jarque was not alone. I have the permission of Army Col. Ricardo C. Morales to mention his name and to quote excerpts from his paper “Transforming the AFP,” parts of which had been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer more than six months ago.
Col. Morales commands a brigade of Marines in Davao made up of five battalions or 3,000 men. He is a PMA graduate, class of 1977, and holds a master’s degree in national security from an Australian institution.. He is on leave right now preparatory to leaving the military permanently.
While his “Transformation” paper, 12 pages long and drafted in September 2003, deals mainly with internal military matters, his comments about what ails the Philippine military bear repeating:
“Even the most optimistic apologists will have to concede after the July 27 (2003) Oakwood mutiny that the AFP is suffering from a deep-seated and long term affliction. In the previous mutinies (in 1987 and 1989), the leaders of this incident were still schoolboys. Nothing substantial has been done during the interval about reforms despite public pronouncements by the AFP leadership and the government….
… Only the blind and the prejudiced will deny the dismal situation in the defense
establishment. The Oakwood incident is only one outward sign of a fundamental and long running flaw within the AFP. These flaws have been gnawing away at the foundations of the AFP and, if left uncorrected, will certainly result in a sudden and catastrophic collapse.
“…The AFP is quickly making itself one of the most resented sectors of Filipino society today. Not only has it been ineffective against the local insurgencies, it is also becoming a burden and a threat to society…”
What ails the AFP? “The dismal state of the AFP is due to the debilitating culture within the organization that has emerged because of the absence of a defeat experience. Deprived of this stimulus, the AFP has developed what Festinger identified as ‘cognitive dissonance.’…a discrepancy between perception and reality…
“…Defeat in the hands of Napoleon compelled the Prussian reformers – Clausewitz, von Stettin, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau – to re-examine and discard Frederick the Great’s outmoded methods and establish the tradition of military excellence that Germany has since been known for ..Germany’s defeat during two world wars does not diminish the fact of its military excellence that remains to this day….”
“Incompetence and corruption are the by-products of the AFP’s culture of cognitive dissonance. If the AFP wants to totally eliminate internal restiveness, it must get rid of this flawed culture. Eliminating corruption and incompetence alone is insufficient…..”
In a letter to Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, dated May 23, 2005, Col. Morales laments that “the men and women of the AFP have lived the nightmare of insurgency for all their active service. Still we see no end to this national agony and face the ironic but real prospect of paying ‘revolutionary tax’ after retirement….
“Everything being done in today’s counter-insurgency campaign has been done before – SOT, strike operations, all-out offensives, negotiations, political accommodation, economic assistance – still the insurgencies show no signs of abetting and are, in truth, quietly gathering strength.Under these conditions, foreign investors will continue to shun the Philippines. Our economic take-off will never materialize. Worsening poverty will unravel our society and cause its collapse. The long-suffering Filipino people do not deserve this future. We in the AFP do not deserve this future….”
In a letter to another official, dated September 08, 2005, Col. Morales gives his reasons for wanting to leave the AFP. “Like the society it is supposed to defend, the AFP is severely decayed; it has lost its ability for self-correction and rejuvenation. Matindi at malalim ang kabulokan ngAFP. I know this from direct experience in the (Gen. Carlos F.) Garcia case. Were it not for the Jarius Bondoc expose, the AFP would not have investigated Caloy Garcia. Ganyan din mangyyayari sa election fraud case.
“I am leaving the Service because there is nothing more that I can do about it. My children will take up nursing or health care giver something because this will provide the man exit from this cursed society.
“I am leaving because neither the NPA nor the Moro rebels are in danger of winning. These two groups are so stricken by internal rivalry and material weakness (mga Filipino din!) that victory for them is only a dim possibility. But they can keep our society poor and growing poorer.
“I am leaving because there is no use fighting a war government does not intend to win…This political system has lost the ability for self-preservation and self-correction. It will make itself extinct.
“The AFP leadership must present a simple proposal to its political masters: end the war or sue for peace, but don’t waste our soldiers’ lives any longer. Give the soldiers something worth dying for, not this miserable excuse for a nation….”
(To be continued)
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