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‘Revolving door’of the Armed Forces

/ 05:07 AM April 16, 2018

The founding fathers of the Philippine Revolutionary Army, predecessor of what is now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, were both Ilocanos sharing roots from the same province, Ilocos Norte.

Gen. Artemio Ricarte was elected captain general of the Revolutionary Army in March 1897 at the Tejeros Convention that was aimed at unifying the major factions in the struggle against Spain. Considered as the “father of the Philippine Army,” Ricarte is best known for his refusal to pledge allegiance to the United States after the end of the Philippine-American War.

Gen. Antonio Luna succeeded Ricarte and is credited with the establishment of the Academia Militar, now the Philippine Military Academy. He has been described by some American officers who participated in the Philippine-American War as “the only general in the Filipino Army.”

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In October 2016, the Philippine Army led by its commanding general, Gen. Eduardo Año, marked the 150th birth anniversary of the two founding fathers with commemorative rites at Libingan ng mga Bayani. I pay tribute to General Año for his sense of history in reminding the nation of two of our greatest military leaders.

This Wednesday, April 18, the AFP shall bid farewell to its third chief and welcome its fourth under the current dispensation, all in the span of less than two years.

Here are recent chiefs of staff and their length of stay:

• Ricardo Visaya: 150 days
• Eduardo Año: 323 days
• Leonardo Guerrero: 174 days
• Carlito Galvez, Jr. (retires 12 December 2018): 238 days

Somehow I am reminded of an observation by an American officer during one of the periodic meetings of the RP-US Mutual Defense Board in Honolulu. He mentioned to his Filipino counterpart that in his tour of duty with the Board, he has dealt with three different AFP chiefs. He inquired if there was any special reason for such a fluid arrangement of leadership.

It is the same question that foreign dignitaries who are invited to the change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo will be asking on Wednesday. There must be some logical explanation that we can offer other than the exercise of prerogative by the commander in chief.

As I have mentioned in the past, many of the officers appointed to the position of AFP chief were competent, hardworking and dedicated public servants. This is true for those under the Duterte administration. In fact, the President appointed General Visaya to head the National Irrigation Administration, while General Año is now officer in charge of the Department of the Interior and Local Government. It is likely that Guerrero is also headed for a civilian post. If their competence is recognized and appreciated, why not allow them more time in office inorder to provide the AFP with the benefit of their experience?

The AFP pension fund is burdened by an unusual number of officers who will receive retirement pay of a full general even if they served for a short time in the post of AFP chief. Retired general Joel Hinlo expressed the view that “aside from being disruptive, the present setup is very expensive. Imagine retiring seven four-star generals in a span of four years!” The AFP pension system is now facing serious scrutiny and change in view of the heavy burden it imposes on the military budget.
In September 2016, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel revived a bill providing for a fixed three-year term for the AFP chief. The same bill was passed by the 15th Congress but was vetoed by President Benigno Aquino III. In explaining his action,

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Pimentel said, “If we are to reinforce the military as the protector and defender of our national territory, we should give its chief operating officer a stable stint to carry out programs and projects with some degree of constancy.”

The “revolving door” policy contributed to one of the worst corruption cases in the history of our Armed Forces. In just one year (2002) during the Arroyo administration, the AFP had three change of command ceremonies at Camp Aguinaldo, installing three new chiefs. Since the commander would not be around long enough, he would not be able to pay close attention to issues that needed monitoring and review. It was a perfect environment for mischief.

In 2003, US customs authorities confiscated undeclared foreign exchange being brought into the United States by family members of AFP comptroller, Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia. That discovery would have far-reaching consequences for the Armed Forces.

The issue of an AFP “revolving door” has been the subject of several commentaries by various concerned individuals. We continue this advocacy for change as we believe it would be a change for the better.

We respectfully appeal to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Commander in Chief, President Duterte, to please review this situation. The policy being followed today is detrimental to the organization not only in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, but also in terms of promoting and enhancing the professionalism of the officer corps. Unfortunately, it has also become a source of embarrassment and, to some degree, humiliation for our Armed Forces and for the nation as indicated earlier.

Feel-good item.

Last week, my sister-in-law, Pinky Farolan, related an experience she had with local government officials and Manila Water Co. Inc.

One morning she noticed construction crew digging up her frontage, resulting in a busted water pipe. She immediately proceeded to the San Juan municipio and was directed to the city engineer’s office, a Miss Vanji Casal in particular. Listening to her predicament, Casal immediately gave her the name and number of the project coordinator, Fidel Escalante. She also provided the contact number of Manila Water since part of the work was being done by a contractor, GPM, of Manila Water. Both contractors, Halrey of the Department of Public Works and Highways, and GPM, quickly attended to her problem and in less than two days, the leaks were repaired.

She wishes to thank all concerned for the quick and speedy resolution of her problem.

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TAGS: Academia Militar, AFP, Antonio luna, artemio ricarte, Eduardo Año, Philippine Military Academny, Philippine Revolutionary Army, Ramon Farolan, Reveille, tejeros convention
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