Upgrading AFP’s officer corps a must, but how?

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This is a reaction to Ramon Farolan’s column titled “The PMA ‘mystique’” (Inquirer, 1/28/13). Farolan says, “It would be in the national interest if we could revive military training programs so as to be able to attract more of our youth. National security is the responsibility of all, not just a few.”

Farolan also paraphrased Secretary Roxas’ reading of the national security threat as not only the New People’s Army and Muslim secessionists, but “looming large on the horizon is the dispute with our neighbor over the West Philippine Sea.”

To be sure, our principal adversary in the West Philippine Sea will be able to deploy a naval task force of “Olympic” quality in 10 years. Accordingly, Congress appropriated P75 billion for the purchase of wherewithal to develop a “credible defense,” but lacking in the package is the upgrading of the quality of the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who will eventually confront that threat.

The PMA is the main source of regular officers of the AFP. It is basically an infantry school, but it is biting more than it can chew by trying to produce officers for the Navy and Air Force, too, yet it cannot even satisfy the officer requirement of the Army. Therefore, the major services have to run their own commissioning schools to satisfy their requirement.

The idea of having two sources of commission (since junked by Australia and the United Kingdom) for one service has spooned animosity in the officer corps. The PMA graduates enjoy a certain “mystique” in the organization so that the non-PMA officers are looked upon as “second-class citizens” although they comprise the majority. Proof of this is the fact that not only the AFP but also the entire national security apparatus of the national government are headed by PMA graduates.

This situation is a national security concern in itself. Four senators of the Republic, in their bills pending at the Senate proposing to create a Philippine Air Force Academy, are concerned about the “officer homogeneity” or lack of check and balance at the top level of the officer corps, among other reasons.

To forestall this dilemma, the Navy and Air Force must have the capability to recruit and train the best high school graduates and produce officers that shall be at par with those coming from the PMA. So as not to rub off some of the mystique attributed to PMA graduates, the Air Force and Navy schools may not even be called “Academy,” but these schools must have access to the best raw material that the country can offer which shall comprise our own “Olympic Team” to form the “credible defense” that our leaders desire.

In all the fields of endeavor, humanity is swamped with information that specialization is now the byword. Gone are the days when the general practitioner attends and treats all the ailments in the community. In warfare, the need for specialization is even more pressing as the stakes involve the security of the state and all of us.

—ANTONIO E SOTELO,

lieutenant general, AFP (Ret.),

ntnsotelo@yahoo.com

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