Rekindling the warrior spirit
For almost half a century since the Philippine Military Academy reopened its doors at the end of World War II, the traditional foundation day and homecoming activities by the alumni were held during the month of February. It was in February 1905 that a constabulary school was established in the old Sta. Lucia barracks in Intramuros. The school created by the American colonial government had for its main mission the training of native officers to replace American officers in the continuing fight against Filipino revolutionaries still resisting American occupation. It was the classic colonial practice of “divide and rule,” pitting Filipino against Filipino, and using Filipino-led forces against native freedom fighters. Of course, the Filipino freedom fighters were often portrayed as “ladrones,” or bandits, to justify the ongoing pacification campaign by the new colonial power.
In 1991, Dr. Cesar Pobre, PMA Class 1952, while working for a master’s degree in history at the University of the Philippines, came upon historical data that “as part of the major organizational efforts at modernizing the Filipino armed forces, the President of the Revolutionary Government and General-in-Chief, Emilio Aguinaldo, issued a decree on October 25, 1898, establishing an Academia Militar in the town of Malolos, Bulacan.” His findings led him to believe that the Academia Militar and not the Constabulary School, had a “better title to being PMA’s historical anchor.” Pobre pointed out that “redefining the PMA roots is not a political but a historical exercise.”
We must take note of the fact that the Philippine Army and Navy trace their history back to 1897-1898, basing their existence on decrees issued by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in the course
of the revolution.
Pobre’s findings on the Academia Militar were confirmed by the National Historical Institute and with the Institute’s action, the board of the PMA Alumni Association moved for its approval by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, Gen. Joselin Nazareno. This was followed by favorable action from the defense secretary and final approval by President Joseph Estrada. In 1998 the centennial of Philippine Independence, the Academy for the first time marked its Foundation Day on Oct. 25, the day President Emilio Aguinaldo signed the decree creating the Academia Militar in 1898.
Last week the PMA celebrated its 119th Foundation Anniversary. The ceremonies included early recognition of plebe Class 2021. Originally 301-strong, the Class of 2021 on recognition day was down to 246, including 36 females. Instead of waiting for a whole year as was the practice in the past, the fourth-class cadets were recognized by their upperclassmen after seven months of plebehood. Did the ghost of hazing have anything to do with
the shortened plebe status?
The guest of honor was Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Class 1971, who reminded the cadets that “only those who know how to obey are fit to command.” Also in attendance was the new AFP chief of staff, Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Class 1984.
Over the years, the Armed Forces has been called upon to help or be engaged in activities other than conflict resolution. They are usually in the forefront of rescue and relief operations during times of calamity such as typhoons, floods, landslides, and earthquakes. They have been employed in anti-illegal logging police work, in the construction of roads and bridges, and even in containment operations against the spread of avian flu.
Lately there have been calls for a review and reorientation of our Armed Forces to better carry out its main mission of defeating the enemies of the state.
Gen. Melchor Rosales, chair of the PMA Alumni Association, in a recent message on education and training in the Armed Forces, noted the protracted Marawi City siege that took more than five months to resolve, as well as the previous Zamboanga City attack. The AFP and police forces lost 165 men along with almost 1,700 wounded in the Marawi conflict aside from the massive collateral damage suffered by the city. He said “the national government and the AFP cannot afford to continually sustain losses of this kind and magnitude,” and called for a review of training policies for improved fighting skills.
“The change must start at the basic or entry-level of training, with the instilling of the warrior spirit. Any soldier must have the mindset of fighting and winning first and foremost.”
Perhaps, what Rosales did not say is that we are using too many of our soldiers not for fighting purposes, but for objectives and missions that should be left to the civilians.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur in an address to the corps at the US Military Academy, dwelt on this issue, saying “Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government. Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged too long by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as firm and complete as they should be.
“These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution.”
The mission of the AFP is to win wars. No other organization is trained to fight for this singular objective.
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