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Is this the best way to run an organization?

ON FRIDAY the Armed Forces of the Philippines will once again go through its annual change of command ceremonies with President Aquino installing his last AFP chief. In five years in office, he has appointed five heads of our armed forces, ignoring recommendations from the representatives of our people both in the House and in the Senate, for an AFP chief that would serve for a fixed term of at least three years. In vetoing legislation that would give the AFP chief a decent term in office, he did not offer any explanation as to why such an important and critical post in government should be treated in such a cavalier manner, setting aside common sense and sound managerial practice in the appointment.

Just to inform our people of what has taken place in the armed forces, this is P-Noy’s record on AFP leadership.

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This “revolving door” policy on AFP leadership, a policy actually refined by his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been extremely detrimental to the organization not only in terms of efficiency and effectiveness but more so in terms of promoting and enhancing the professionalism of the officer corps.

A few years ago, Washington Sycip, founder of Sycip Gorres Velayo and Company (SGV and Co.), and the Asian Institute of Management, was the guest speaker at the annual membership meeting of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association. He started his speech with a brief statement about his short military career, after which he cautioned, “You may regret having me with you today.” He then proceeded to provide his impressions on one of the issues affecting the AFP: “We who are in the private sector wonder about the rapid changes in the military leadership. In the private sector, we will not have CEOs with one or two-year terms if we want reforms or proper planning for the future.

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Is it possible to carry out reforms in an organization as large as the armed forces when there is such a rapid change in the leadership?”

GRF76-finalWhat is the record of this short-term leadership now existing in the Armed Forces?

In July 2007, eight years ago, 14 Marines were ambushed and killed at Al-Barka, Basilan, while returning from a search and rescue mission aimed at recovering an Italian Catholic missionary, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi. Some were beheaded while others showed signs of mutilation.

The usual so-called offensive operations were launched but after a few weeks, they yielded nothing.

In October 2011, 19 Special Forces troopers were massacred by Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Abu Sayyaf elements, also at Al-Barka, Basilan. They suffered the same fate as the Marines.

The criminal elements responsible for both massacres remain at large. Unlike the victims of the recent Mamasapano massacre, nothing much has been heard as far as benefits for our soldiers who perished in Basilan.

In October last year, two German hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf were released after payment of ransom.

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The Abu Sayyaf claimed that the ransom amounted to P250 million.

The AFP described the so-called payoff as “propaganda,” claiming that increased pressure on the kidnappers by military and police units led to their release. Earlier the AFP had dispatched five additional battalions and K-9 (dog) units to Sulu. These deployments do not mean anything to the Abu Sayyaf.

Why do we see all this massive deployment of troops only when foreigners are taken hostage? It is because we are under pressure from foreign governments. They urge us to do something and we oblige by sending more troops and dogs. We care less when our own citizens are the victims.

Only recently two Coast Guard enlisted men were taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf elements. What actions have been taken to secure their release, or is there scant interest in rescuing them since they are ordinary Filipinos?

Until the government shows that we mean business, it will be business as usual for the Abu Sayyaf. For one thing, the “revolving door” policy of the AFP will see the replacement of key officers who will have warmed their seats just long enough to prepare for retirement.

As I mentioned in my last column, there are three candidates for AFP chief of staff:

  • Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado—commanding general, Philippine Air Force
  • Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri—commanding general, Philippine Army
  • Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya—chief, Southern Luzon Command

Delgado and Iriberri are both retiring early next year, while Visaya stays in the service up to December 2016. Iriberri has indicated a preference to remain at his post as Army chief. That leaves Delgado and Visaya.

If P-Noy wants an old reliable going back to PSG (Presidential Security Group) days, Delgado has an edge and he could be extended a few months to cover the election period up to the next presidency. Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Arroyo both had extendee AFP chiefs. In the case of Ramos, it was Gen. Arturo Enrile while Arroyo had Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

General Visaya provides a bridge to the incoming administration but his continued stay would depend on the new commander in chief. Readers may recall that when P-Noy assumed the presidency in 2010, he quickly replaced the incumbent AFP chief, Gen. Delfin Bangit, who still had a few months of service left.

* * *

Last week when I wrote about the death of Aida Ver, wife of former AFP chief Fabian Ver, I mentioned they had three sons, Rexor, Irwin, Wirlo, and a daughter, Helma. They had another daughter, Faida. Her name is a combination of Fabian and Aida. My apologies to the family.

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