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General Dellosa on his first AFP Day

/ 10:42 PM December 25, 2011

Last Wednesday the Armed Forces of the Philippines marked its 76th anniversary. This celebration is based on the passage of the National Defense Act by the National Assembly during the Commonwealth period. The bill, with Camilo Osias of La Union as the principal opponent, was passed at almost midnight of Dec. 20, 1935. President Manuel L. Quezon signed the measure into law the following morning, Dec. 21, 1935.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, there is room for debate and discussions on the proper date for the observance of AFP Day. Consider the following events:

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The Philippine Army marks the establishment of the organization on March 22, 1897, when at the Tejeros Convention, members of the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions met to dissolve the Katipunan and prepare for a republic. Artemio Ricarte was elected captain general of the Filipino Revolutionary Army, a position comparable to the present office of AFP chief of staff. Ricarte, also known by his nom de guerre Vibora, is hailed as the “Father of the Philippine Army.” He is best known for his refusal to take an oath of allegiance to the United States after the end of the Philippine-American War.

The nation celebrates Independence Day on June 12, 1898 in keeping with the 1898 declaration of President Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, on that date.

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The Philippine Navy was organized in 1898 after the First Republic was inaugurated with Pascual Ledesma, a ship captain in the merchant marine and a product of the Escuela Nautica de Manila, designated as director for the Navy, the first such appointment in the revolutionary government.

With the Army and Navy being established in 1897 and 1898, how could AFP Day be reckoned from legislation passed in 1935 under a Commonwealth administration? Celebrating Armed Forces Day on Dec. 21 is completely out of sync with the realities of our history. We continue to be held hostage to our colonial past. Perhaps the Department of National Defense might wish to take a closer look at this situation.

There will be strong objections from sectors of society that frown on changing historical dates. We acknowledge the arguments for maintaining the present date and we respect those opinions.

* * *

The recent celebration of AFP Day was decidedly low key, without much of the pageantry that accompanies the traditional parade and review for the commander in chief. The anniversary ball was canceled and donations from the AFP were turned over to Mindanao relief organizations. This was in keeping with the somber mood of the times. More than 1,000 lives were lost and millions of pesos worth of property damaged after “Sendong” came in the middle of the night, catching many of the residents unprepared for the emergency. (It reminded me of my own experience with “Ondoy” when floodwaters rushed into my home, creating a swimming pool out of our living room with appliances floating everywhere. Many of my books and reference material were damaged by the floodwaters.)

The AFP remains a source of strength and succor for our people and will continue to play a key role in future rescue and relief missions during natural calamities.

As usual the cadets of the Philippine Military Academy, with their colorful uniforms and precision marching, received much applause from an appreciative audience. But the real head turner of the day was actually in the grandstand—the lovely Patricia Dellosa—accompanied by her mother Rose. Patricia is the only daughter of the chief of staff. She has two older brothers, Benjamin and Thaddeus.

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Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa is the second eldest of 11 children of an enlisted man who served in Korea with the 14th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) under the command of Col. Nicanor Jimenez, father of Inquirer editor in chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc. (For the younger generation, it may come as a surprise that during the Korean War in the 1950s, the Philippines sent a battalion-strength unit as its contribution to a United Nations effort against North Korea.)

Individuals who rise to the top from humble origins are always a source of great pride and inspiration for our men in uniform. I have come across a few in the military service who have had a similar background, but Dellosa is the first one I know who has reached the very top of our profession. In this sense, he serves as a refreshing and uplifting model for all young people, not only in the military but also in civilian life. “To inspire and to lead” is the title of a book on Gen. Vicente Lim, the first Filipino West Pointer. The brief, five-word declaration could serve as a guiding principle for General Dellosa as he assumes command of the AFP.

The first time I met Dellosa was when I went up to the Philippine Military Academy a few years ago as a member of the PMA Board of Visitors. The board was chaired by Francis Estrada, former president of the Asian Institute of Management, and we were there for an update on the PMA Road Map, a development plan for the institution. It was also a period of transition with a new superintendent coming in. At that time, Dellosa was the commandant of cadets with the rank of brigadier general.

Dellosa is the third chief of staff appointed by President Aquino. Gen. Ricardo David, the current Bureau of Immigration commissioner, was the lead man in the changeover from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Benigno Aquino III. He took over from Gen. Delfin Bangit, the last Arroyo appointee to the position. During his stint, David initiated measures to correct deficiencies in the AFP. He was succeeded by Gen. Eduardo Oban. Incidentally, a few months back, I suggested to David a few ideas for the improvement of our immigration procedures in order to make them more tourist-friendly.

The new chief of staff will be retiring some time in 2013, which gives him more than a year in office, certainly a longer period than his predecessors. The AFP faces internal and external threats and must operate within the framework laid down by the commander in chief. This means striking a delicate balance between sustaining the pressure on an enemy whose ultimate objective remains the establishment of an independent homeland, an enemy that views ceasefires and peace talks as opportunities for consolidating and increasing its strength and firepower, and the desire of our people for a genuine and enduring peace. The challenge for Dellosa is how to carry out this mandate.

* * *

We wish to greet our AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa; Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, commanding general, Philippine Army; Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena, commanding general, Philippine Air Force; and, Vice Adm. Alexander Pama, flag officer in command, Philippine Navy, all the best for the coming year! May the Almighty protect and guide them as they discharge with honor and integrity the duties and responsibilities entrusted to their care by our people.

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TAGS: Anniversaries, Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Dellosa, Military
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