The military as final arbiter? | Inquirer Opinion
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The military as final arbiter?

/ 04:00 AM September 13, 2022

Gideon J. Tucker was right: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” As Congress cobbles a budget where, as the Ibon Foundation put it, “import-dependent infrastructure, debt interest payments, and security forces are given far more importance than education, health, social welfare, farmers, and labor,” the expectation gap between the people and their lawmakers is widening.

Before we ripen into a Sri Lanka, let us remind the President and Congress of signals that the government and country are off-track using the 12 national security strategy goals handed over by the Duterte administration to the Marcos Jr. administration:

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Guarantee public safety and achieve good governance: The public is alarmed that there is a “crime wave” amid reports of kidnappings, missing persons, murders, “body dumps,” and rapes. The PNP is quick to say it’s all hype. Good governance is belied by the worrisome signal of occult machinations surrounding the executive decision-making on the sugar importation issue. This comes seamlessly in the wake of the Pharmally and Department of Education laptop scams.

Mitigate the impact of health-related threats: The Department of Health is arguably the most critical government agency dealing with the pandemic, but the President has yet to appoint a secretary. This ambiguity fuels confusion and inaction while the national response to the pandemic inspires distrust with the waste of P5 billion worth of expired vaccines.

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Develop a dynamic, inclusive, and sustainable economy: The giant conglomerates have survived and thrived, but micro and small enterprises, including private educational institutions, have been forced to close because of the pandemic. Families are reeling from the loss of livelihood and inflation and Filipinos have become inordinately ayuda-hungry and dependent.

Achieve food and water security: Food insecurity has not been as palpable as today, yet worse is expected to come. Fuel, rice, sugar, fish, salt, and other imported goods have been in short supply.

Safeguard and preserve national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Philippine defense of the West Philippine Sea has not gained any traction due to a lack of executive leadership and coherent policy. It has been a slippery slope slowly going the way of China.

Heighten consciousness and pride in Filipino heritage, culture, and values: Nine out of 10 children cannot read and understand age-appropriate educational material. The youth are ignorant of recent political history. There is a general sense of civic apathy.

Promote human and ecological security: Agriculture has become unfeasible as land conversion goes unabated, imported fertilizer becomes exorbitant, and the rural youth find farming distasteful. Ridge-to-reef environmental degradation continues. Desperately, the current administration will turn to the mining industry to increase government revenues.

Achieve energy security. Malampaya is going, going, and will soon be gone. No replacement for this loss, even as external headwinds from the Russian war on Ukraine threaten our energy supply.

Ensure maritime and airspace security: AFP modernization gets an increasing share of the budget but does not translate yet into a tangible sense of maritime and airspace security in the face of Chinese overwhelming superiority. The lack of innovative strategies yields senseless proposals like the return of mandatory ROTC.

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Strengthen international relations: From a country adhering to international law and organization, we repudiate our internationalism and world public opinion to coddle a specific person. Our specious commitment to human rights and democracy presents negative examples that other nations vow to avoid.

Provide strong cyber infrastructure and cyber security: There is so much promise that cyber-technology offers a fragmented archipelago and people, but so much politics and incompetence strangle the potential of DICT and related institutions.

Improve vital transportation and port security: The state of Metro Manila traffic reflects the inadequacy of government strategy, plans, and programs. The needed structural solutions will blossom beyond any politician’s term, and so are avoided.

If these signals point to a worsening situation down the road, we can expect public restiveness and street protests, rendering the Red-tagging and anti-terror actions of the military self-fulfilling. We may come to a point of national chaos where the military may be called upon to be the arbiter of the multilayered national crises. If that happens, Vice President Sara Duterte as a prescient presidential spare tire, may not come unprepared.

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TAGS: China, Congress, food, Military, West Philippine Sea
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