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There is life after government service

/ 12:20 AM November 09, 2015

FIRST OF all, let me thank Gen. Eduardo Año, commanding general of the Philippine Army for his prompt response to my last column on Generals Artemio Ricarte and Antonio Luna, his distinguished predecessors in the high office that he now occupies.

General Año writes: “[T]he Philippine Army appreciates your concern for the military organization by remembering the heroism and sacrifices of our forefathers … Generals Artemio Ricarte and Antonio Luna are two great army generals who played crucial roles in liberating our country and our people from foreign colonization. Their heroic contributions during the revolution and the Filipino-American War will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of Filipino soldiers and engraved in the nation’s proud history.

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“We share the same view that naming Army camps after these two great generals as pillars of the Philippine Army will truly serve as a testament to their heroism and sacrifices.”

General Año concludes by assuring that the issue shall be taken into account in the future plans of the organization.

* * *

Since we are on the subject of remembering our military heroes, may I take this opportunity to call the attention of the AFP chief of staff, Gen. Hernando Iriberri, to a matter that has been pending in his office for almost a year now.

On Nov. 19, 2014, the Philippine Army Heraldry Board endorsed the proposed renaming of Camp Eldridge in Laguna to Camp General Macario Sakay, and the same was submitted to the Office of the AFP Chief of Staff for approval. The proposal was in consonance with Senate Resolution No. 121, expressing the sense of the Senate to honor the sacrifices of Macario Sakay and all other Filipinos who gave up their lives in the Philippine-American War for our freedom.

A similar resolution was also passed by the Philippine Historical Association.

Briefly, General Sakay led a guerrilla campaign against US forces from 1902 to 1906. His main area of operations was in the Southern Tagalog provinces of Rizal, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite. So successful were his exploits that the Americans resorted to “hamleting” (concentrating villagers in one location for more effective control) in areas where Sakay had strong mass support. This same strategy would be later employed during the Vietnam War.

After his capture, Sakay was hanged as a bandit under the Brigandage Act of 1902.

Who is Eldridge, after whom the army camp in Laguna is presently named?

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Eldridge was an American serviceman who fought bravely during the American Indian wars in 1870. How ironic that to this day we still honor someone for his actions against tribal Indians.

It is time to correct the distortions in our history by honoring Sakay and other Filipino freedom fighters. They were patriots, not bandits or tulisanes, as the colonizers portrayed them to be.

General Iriberri will be doing our people a great service if action on this matter can be taken before he leaves office. In fact, he could even preside over the renaming ceremonies.

* * *

I wish to commend retired Marine captain Nicanor Faeldon who is one of the moving figures in the planned deployment of our young men and women to Pagasa Island. While we cannot match the firepower of neighborhood bullies, we can show the world that our youth understand and appreciate the stakes involved in the West Philippine Sea dispute. Sending students even for a short stay on the island will send a message to our adversaries that this is our land and no one is going to shove us aside by sheer power and force.

When I was Air Force chief, one of my first out-of-town visits was to Pagasa Island, to check on our detachment there. I recall that a member of my staff brought with him a stack of old Playboy magazines for the boys. If I were a bit healthier, I would join our students this time.

By the way, this is the same Captain Faeldon who participated in a protest action against the Arroyo administration in the wake of the NBN-ZTE corruption scandal.

* * *

It is difficult to understand why some people find it so hard and painful to leave a government position even in the face of much criticism and censure.

For a number of years now, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has been named one of the worst, if not the worst, airport in the world. Today, personnel at the airport are embroiled in a seedy and embarrassing scam targeting mostly overseas Filipino workers and other unsuspecting passengers. It has not only caused our people much concern and discomfort; it has also damaged our reputation before the international community. The slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” may now have taken on a bizarre meaning, and once again we have shot ourselves in the foot.

My Air Force colleague, retired general Jose “Bodet” Honrado, the present Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager, says he has not done anything wrong. That may be true, but oftentimes it is what we failed to do that gets us in trouble. He also adds that he does not intend to let go of his position unless President Aquino tells him to do so. Given the track record of P-Noy, it is likely that Bodet can hang on to his MIAA post at least for now.

But let me remind Bodet of the case of Alan Purisima. Purisima, like Bodet, was also a close buddy of P-Noy and he continued to stay as Philippine National Police chief in spite of the so many charges that were being leveled against him. P-Noy, ever loyal to his buddies, refused to put in a new chief. It was only when the Ombudsman suspended Purisima that a PNP officer in charge, Leonardo Espina, was designated to head the organization. And even then, P-Noy kept Purisima at his side and consulted with him on police matters, a situation that led to the Mamasapano tragedy.

For Bodet, it may be too late to leave on his own steam given that a complaint against him has been filed with the Ombudsman and a likely suspension, similar to that of Purisima, may be forthcoming.

But if it is of any consolation to Bodet, speaking from my own personal experience, let me say that there is life after government service. It may not have the perks, the privileges and the fabulous bonuses that go with a high-profile government position, but there is peace of mind and the satisfaction of having done your best, at times under difficult conditions—coupled with the thought that final judgment, as always, rests with the “High Court” above.

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