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Profound social change needed for the military to win hearts and minds

/ 05:01 AM November 20, 2020

I came across National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon defending the P16 billion budget intended to solve the insurgency problem once and for all. I’ve heard this kind of statement many times before, but we all know that the insurgency problem remains healthy after 75 years of fighting and killing.

It appears that our security people are now weary in solving the security problem. Accordingly, Esperon came up with a new strategy.

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His new strategy, “Winning hearts and minds,” is not really something new. The fact is that it has been there since the time of Magsaysay and Crisol at the defense department. Truly, it must be the core strategy to win the insurgency war. And so I looked at the curriculum of the Philippine Military Academy, which trains officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who are in command of the AFP and who will implement this strategy.

This is what I found: The core of the PMA curriculum is founded on the study of land warfare, naval warfare, and air warfare. None was said about insurgency warfare, yet this is the kind of war the AFP has been fighting on a daily basis for the past 75 years.

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Our war is an insurgency war, an asymmetric war or more commonly called a guerrilla war. It is the kind of war that has existed for ages, buried among the poverty of the people, to erupt at the proper opportunity. I agree with Esperon’s strategy to win this war.

That is why I was interested to see the depth and direction of the training of our officers who will implement this strategy. It is woefully inadequate to fight an asymmetric war, but I am not an educator to even make a suggestion on how the curriculum must be written.

Since the AFP is led by PMA graduates, perhaps it is time to modify their curriculum to teach their cadets, who will one day lead the AFP, on the rudiments of winning hearts and minds.

The PMA was the brainchild of the US Military Academy. In all aspects it is an excellent school, but unlike USMA graduates, its graduates will not lead land armies to fight tank battles, or lead air forces to fight air battles, or lead warships to fight naval battles. We do not have the technological know-how or the funds to produce such war machines. True, we have a few of the inferior types, but they are employed to fight the insurgency war. After all, the enemy has no warplanes or battleships or air fleets. They are the New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf, Moro National Liberation Front, pirates, kidnappers, smugglers, drug lords, and criminals of all kinds.

But the insurgency war will remain until we can win the hearts and minds of our people. One PMA graduate said that we need a profound social change to win the insurgency war. And that profound social change could start and must start with the people who will fight this war. They will need the support of all government instrumentalities for this purpose. Indeed, it is a big challenge, but it must be the war we have to win.

Lt. Gen. Antonio E. Sotelo, AFP (Ret), Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa City

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TAGS: AFP, insurgency problem, Military, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, PMA curriculum
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