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A military atrocity

We have enshrined the principle of civilian supremacy over the military, on the necessary premise that the power to kill should have some sort of check and balance over it. We have seen time and again what happens when either civilian supremacy becomes fiction, or when civilians end up in cahoots with soldiers, or civilians end up maintaining their own informal military-type private armies: It all leads to impunity.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, in a briefer on internal conflict, points out: “No State is ready to accept that its citizens would wage war against their own government. In other words, no government would renounce the right in advance to punish its own citizens for their participation in a rebellion.” Still, the ICRC stresses, many countries are moving closer to providing the protections of International Humanitarian Law to internal conflicts. Sometimes, governments have found this expedient, for example in past claims by our government that the New People’s Army (NPA) uses landmines, making it an organization violating international prohibitions on landmines. This is one instance where our military could claim to be operating from a position of moral authority.

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In a similar manner, opposition to the military engaging in “red-tagging” requires an appreciation of the ease with which the organs of the Communist Party have thundered and shrilled against former members and other Leftists considered either apostates or practitioners of heretical types of Socialism, calling for “revolutionary justice” to be meted out to them. One doesn’t expect anything other than purges and liquidations from followers of Lenin and Mao, but the soldiers of a democratic state under authentic rule of law can never be allowed to determine (without a trial, and you cannot put someone on trial for their ideological beliefs) whether a sitting official in his or her heart of hearts throbs to the beat of violent revolution. All officials, bar none, are entitled to the presumption of legality in the conduct of their duties.

The other day, our armed forces claimed to have had an encounter with its generations-old foe, the New People’s Army, the result of which was a lone casualty: a civilian who served as a medic. The woman also happened to be the daughter of a party list representative who in turn belongs to the bloc the armed forces claims — inappropriately and quite possibly unlawfully — is made up of front organizations of the Communist Party, of which the NPA is the military arm.

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We know about this not only because of news items, but because a photograph of the corpse of the young woman was gleefully circulated online by partisans of the President and the unthinking among the boosters of the military. It had all the hallmarks of a trophy photo, the kind one would associate with racist American soldiers during the Filipino-American War or, further but more recently afield, with the grisly gloating of terrorist groups like the Islamic State.

Yesterday, our armed forces released a statement “vehemently” denying that “the dead body of the NPA combatant was used as a trophy,” insisting all that had been done was to document the killing, and that the release of the photo was unauthorized, against “stringent” policy, and would be investigated and punished.

But the atrocity has taken place, whether the military deigns to admit the slain woman’s status as a medic for the rebels or not.

I submit it is an atrocity that took place, because civilian control has weakened, because the President fears only the military and knows it harbors a grudge from his failed attempt to court the radical Left by releasing its captured leadership from jail and including members of the radical bloc in his Cabinet. (Confusingly, he always framed it as a concession to the military rebels these radical politicians now studiously deny being associated with; but the denial was so weak as to have been not apparent at all, back when they joined the Cabinet).

To pacify the soldiers, the President has reversed a generations’ worth of democratic acculturation, allowing soldiers to revert to old Marcos-era instincts. I do believe the military has prevented our becoming an outright dictatorship since 2016, but its pound of flesh has been the license to be uninhibited in its liquidation of the Left.

In one of his lectures on the French Revolution, the historian Lord Acton insisted: “Do not open your minds to the filtering of the fallacious doctrine that it is less infamous to murder men for their politics than for their religion or their money, or that the courage to execute the deed is worse than the cowardice to excuse it.”

Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @mlq3

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TAGS: civilian supremacy over the military, CPP, Eufremia Cuyllamat, Jevily Cullamat, Manuel L. Quezon III, military atrocities, NPA, red-tagging, The Long View
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