‘Testicular fortitude’ | Inquirer Opinion

‘Testicular fortitude’

/ 11:30 PM April 22, 2012

The latest issue of Newsweek (April 23 and 30, 2012) has this short account by Tunku Varadarajan on the Philippine-China standoff at Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea:

Thriller in Manila


“In an impressive show of bayag—the word for testicular fortitude in the Tagalog language—the Philippines sent its biggest naval warship to confront Chinese fishing and surveillance vessels operating illegally in waters just off the country’s northwest coast. The area known as the Scarborough Shoal is in the South China Sea, a body of water over which Beijing—with characteristic immodesty—asserts exclusive sovereign control. In deploying its navy, Manila has set a maritime collision course with the Chinese, who bristle, also, at Manila’s name for the waters in question: the West Philippine Sea.”

Fifteen years after passage of the Bases Conversion and AFP Modernization Laws, we do not have much to show in terms of equipment and hardware for territorial defense. Even the newest vessel we have, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, was purchased with the use of funds from the Department of Energy and not from the sale of the bases.


After so much lip service to the principle of AFP modernization, we are now paying the price for the neglect of our Armed Forces.

* * *

At a news conference held in Dagupan City, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima reported on the status of the hunt for a number of high-profile fugitives. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan is accused of being responsible for the disappearance of two UP students in 2006. Former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes Jr., are suspected of masterminding the assassination of broadcaster-environmentalist Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa last year. Dinagat Rep. Ruben Ecleo was recently found guilty of murdering his wife Alona in 2002.

Secretary De Lima laid the blame on “weak” intelligence work by the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. She added, “There is much to be desired with our intelligence services.”

There is someone else missing from this lineup of high-profile fugitives. What about MILF Commander Dan Asnawi?

Let me once again refresh our memories.

Six months ago, 19 Army troopers were massacred at Al-Barka, Basilan. Their bodies were mutilated, showing signs of torture, and some were beheaded. It was not the first time that such barbarism took place against our soldiers. In July 2007, also at Al-Barka, 14 Marines on a search mission for kidnapped Italian priest Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, were killed in like manner by MILF elements. In both instances, the enemy was led by Asnawi.


A month after the massacre, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, at a press conference in Zamboanga City, vowed to capture Asnawi.

So far, there is little to indicate that the AFP is serious about bringing to justice a criminal who mutilates and beheads his victims. The AFP has ordered the court martial of four Army officers for negligence and operational lapses in the deployment of their men leading to the massacre. That is as it should be. That is the meaning of command responsibility. But this should not stop the AFP from pursuing and holding to account those who acted with savage cruelty in the slaughter of our soldiers.

“Oplan Bayanihan” sounds good and looks good but at certain times, if only for our self-respect, perhaps what the AFP could use is a little more “testicular fortitude.”

* * *

More than 50 years after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy and serving in the Armed Forces, golfing members of PMA Class 1956 and 1957 met on the greens of the Philippine Navy Golf Course at Fort Bonifacio to renew a storied class rivalry that has served to enhance the bond of camaraderie between the two groups.

The team members in alphabetical order:

Class 1956—Bello, Jose; Cañalita, Paul; Corachea, Fortunato; David, Romeo; Farolan, Ramon; Goyena, Meliton; Malto, Levy; and Paiso, Augustus.

Class 1957—Buenaventura, Vicente; Dayan, Rogelio; De Villa, Renato; Ermita, Eduardo; Jardiniano, Tagumpay; Musico, Ismael; Samonte, Antonio; Tapia, Cesar; and Templo, George.

By the way, all made it to star rank with Rene de Villa leading the pack with four stars on his shoulders aside from a stint as defense secretary after retirement and a run for the presidency.

It was a series of three encounters, all at the Navy Course with Class 1957 winning the first match in January. Class 1956 tied up the series in March and repeated its victory last Friday for a 2-1 conquest of their former plebes. As the saying goes, “Once a plebe, always a plebe.” (Ehem!)

Some highlights of the third game: Augustus Paiso finally “shot his age” scoring 78 on a par 70 course after a brilliant display of putting skills using a Texas wedge; Ed Ermita scored his third hole-in-one at Hole No. 17 using a hybrid 4 iron and a Pinnacle ball in the company of Jardy Jardiniano, Boy Paiso, and Mon Farolan.

* * *

Last Friday, family and friends of Lt. Gen. Salvador Mison, PMA Class 1955, gathered to mark the promotion of Brig. Gen. Salvador Melchor Mison Jr., Class 1984. The young Mison is the first in his class to reach star rank, making him today the youngest general in the AFP.

Lieutenant General Mison, a Bicolano from Naga, Camarines Sur, ended a brilliant Army career as AFP vice chief of staff. He went on to serve as customs commissioner and currently is president of Basic Holdings. His wife Ione and my wife Penny are members of UP Liberal Arts Class of 1958.

Ione and Buddy Mison have much to be proud of. Aside from an Air Force general, they have for children an associate immigration commissioner (Siegfred), a veterinary surgeon (Michael), a medical doctor (Irene), an accountant (Ione Marie), and a finance analyst (Melinda).

Brigadier General Mison not only looks like a future PAF commanding general, but also a possible AFP chief of staff. He needs two more stars to match those of his father and a fourth would put him at the top rank of AFP leadership. The Air Force remains in capable hands, ready for future developments involving national security concerns.

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TAGS: Bajo de Masinloc, China, conflict, Diplomacy, Foreign affairs, international relations, Maritime Dispute, Newsweek, Philippines, Scarborough Shoal, territorial dispute, Tunku Varadarajan
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