One of the more inspiring and ritual-filled events of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is the change of command ceremony that is part of a broader body of military customs and traditions. This particular ceremony marks the transition of leadership at the major levels of command of the AFP and is generally presided over by no less than the commander in chief or the defense secretary.
Last Thursday, the rites of renewal on the parade grounds of Camp Aguinaldo saw the stepping-down from office of Gen. Jessie Dellosa and the assumption to command of Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista as the 44th AFP chief of staff. Incidentally, for those who have a thing about numbers, President Barack Obama is the 44th commander in chief of the United States armed services.
If Bautista is the 44th AFP chief, who was the first?
At the Tejeros Convention held on March 22, 1897, it was agreed upon by the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions of the revolution to do away with the Katipunan and establish a republic along with an armed force. Artemio Ricarte, who used “Vibora” as his nom de guerre, was chosen captain general of the army, a rank that corresponds to the present chief of staff. Thus, he is considered as the first in a long line of AFP chiefs.
Of the 44 AFP chiefs of staff, five came from the Constabulary, five from the Air Force, one from the Marines (one could say the Navy, since the Marines are part of the Navy), and 33 from the Army.
The Constabulary chiefs were Generals Manuel Cabal (a brother-in-law of President Ramon Magsaysay), Manuel Yan (my predecessor as ambassador to Indonesia who later served as undersecretary of foreign affairs), Fabian Ver (he served concurrently as director general of the National Intelligence and Security Authority and head of the Presidential Security Command), Fidel Ramos (the longest-serving chief of the Philippine Constabulary and the first and only military officer to become president of the Republic of the Philippines), and Renato de Villa (the first postwar graduate of the Philippine Military Academy to become AFP chief and, later, candidate for president).
The airmen were Generals Pelagio Cruz (the only general officer to serve as head of the Air Force and, later, the Constabulary prior to becoming AFP chief), Victor Osias (the son of Sen. Camilo Osias, the principal dissenter to the National Defense Act, who favored developing education over a military organization), Arnulfo Acedera Jr. (son of a distinguished pioneer of the Philippine Air Force, Col. Arnulfo Acedera Sr.), Benjamin Defensor (younger brother of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago), and Eduardo Oban (his remarkable retirement speech included the following line: “Pumasok ako na Oban at lalabas pa rin na Oban, walang baon”).
The lone Marine is Gen. Rodolfo Biazon, a former senator and now a representative of Muntinlupa and father of Customs Commissioner Rodolfo Biazon.
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In making his final inspection of the troops assembled before the grandstand, the outgoing chief of staff, Gen. Jessie Dellosa, opted to waive the use of a command vehicle and, following the example of the Commander in Chief, President Aquino, during AFP Day, he proceeded on foot for a last look at the men and women who served under him. I doubt if any officer will henceforth review his troops from a command vehicle. If the President marches, everyone should do the same.
Dellosa will be remembered as a “caring general” who devoted much of his time as AFP chief to the improvement of the AFP Medical Center, known to the public as the V. Luna General Hospital. It was here that he spent time recuperating from wounds received in combat against insurgents in Basilan and Sulu.
Incidentally, in acknowledging the presence of so many guests, including Vice President Jejomar Binay and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Dellosa referred to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa as “Paquito Diaz.” This is one of the risks of trying to identify every important figure in the audience. Perhaps, we can cut short these amenities by recognizing and greeting two or three of the highest personalities around and cover the rest by the term “other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.” No one would feel left out.
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The new AFP chief of staff, Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista, PMA Class 1981, is the son of Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista, PMA Class 1952. What has caught the attention of many of our people is the poignant story of the elder Bautista’s death: he was killed along with 33 other military officers and men by Moro National Liberation Front rebels under commander Usman Sali. News reports indicate that Bautista was lured into a meeting in Patikul, Sulu, with promises of a possible ceasefire. To show his goodwill, Bautista proceeded to the meeting unarmed. Only one soldier survived the massacre.
The lesson from this terrible tragedy is that the price of freedom and peace is constant vigilance and strength. As President John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural speech, “Sincerity is always subject to proof.” Even as we wish and hope and work for peace, we must never let our guard down.
In his assumption speech, the young Bautista said, “I dedicate this final chapter in my military service to my father, the bedrock from where I stand here before you today—he was and will always be my inspiration and role model for peace.”
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One of the most hardworking and dedicated officers at Camp Aguinaldo is the head of the Public Affairs Office, Col. Arnulfo “Boyet” Burgos Jr. Originally appointed to this office by Gen. Delfin Bangit, Burgos has served five AFP chiefs and it appears that the new boss has asked him to continue on the job.
Burgos, a native of Lipa City, graduated from De La Salle High School and entered the PMA right after. This is unusual and indicates a high level of intelligence. Oftentimes, candidates with one, or two, or even three years of college work, are the ones who qualify for cadetship at the PMA. This guarantees an easier time with the academic load that must be balanced with military subjects and training.
Burgos belongs to PMA Class 1988. The most famous member of the class is Transportation Secretary Joseph “Jun” Abaya who entered the PMA as a plebe, and spent three months with the batch of Burgos before leaving for the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he graduated in 1988. Boyet is married to the former Monina Rana of Quezon City. They have three children—Earl, Tinette and Cedric.