PH military is a mere part of the civil service | Inquirer Opinion

PH military is a mere part of the civil service

The Senate inquiry into the January 2015 Mamasapano encounter was reopened and closed. As usual, officials ignored the unique structure of our government—that the Philippines may be the only country in the world where the military is only a part of the civil service.

In all other countries, “government service” is divided into two branches: the civil service and the military service. In the Philippines, the civil service is the single branch of the government; the military service is only a division termed the closed career service.


A closed career service has its own rules on recruitment, promotion, salary system, retirement, etc. governed by a special law passed by Congress. In the executive branch, only the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of Foreign Affairs are in the closed career service. All other government agencies are in the open career service pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 807 (the Civil Service Decree of 1975).

Before 1975, our government service was similar to that of the rest of the world. Republic Act No. 2260 (the Civil Service Law of 1959) put the military under the exempt service, meaning the military was separate from the rest of the civil service.


This unique structure of our government, with the military a mere branch of the civil service, should have ensured the seamless handling of the Mamasapano encounter. It should have been a nonissue if we had recognized that the military is but a part of the civil service, and simply applied established doctrines in public administration.

A key doctrine in public administration is the dichotomy between policy and administration. Political leaders make policy, the bureaucracy (including the military) implements policy. Political leaders are held accountable for policy failures. But they are not responsible for failures in the implementation of public policy.

When the bureaucracy fails to implement public policy, it becomes accountable to political leaders. The leaders’ duty is to punish bureaucrats who goofed in implementing policy. If the leaders fail to sanction the erring bureaucrats, then that is the time the leaders become liable.

The problem is that President Aquino’s critics want to hold him accountable for the failure (read: implementation) of a policy. If political leaders are held accountable for operational failures, then we will have a very unstable government. We will end up replacing an incumbent president every time a special operation authorized by him or her fails.

During World War II, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized many special ops. There were successes, but there were also failures. If we follow the reasoning of the critics of Mamasapano, Churchill and Roosevelt (and their successors) should have been removed from office each time a special op failed. That would have changed the outcome of World War II.

Thus, political leaders are held accountable only for policy failures, but not operational failures. The policy decision in Mamasapano is the war on terror, which is an obligation of the Philippines as a member of the United Nations. It is premature at this point to declare it a failure.

There are many examples of policy failures made by political leaders. Hitler’s invasion of Russia is one. The Germans were not supposed to fight a two-front war. Lyndon B. Johnson’s intervention in Vietnam upset the doctrine that American troops should not fight in mainland Asia. Anthony Eden’s invasion of the Suez Canal in 1956 contravened the dismantling of the British Empire.


Johnson did not seek reelection in 1968 because of the Vietnam War. Eden was ousted as prime minister by the British Parliament.

Jimmy Carter, as the result of the failed rescue of American hostages in Iran in 1979, was voted out of office. As may be noted, the issues were settled by political means. Removing Johnson, Carter and Eden was not done, nor even contemplated, by legal means.

The problem with Mamasapano is that the President’s critics want to oust him through legal means. But that would be possible only if it can be definitively shown that the policy being implemented—the war on terror—was a failure.

Following the practice in the cited countries, the debacle in Mamasapano should be submitted to the people as an issue against the Liberal Party in the coming elections. The electorate can then decide if it wishes to punish LP members by voting them out of office.

The revived Senate inquiry was a waste of time. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s goal was to find out what the President was doing during the Mamasapano op.

A president is not supposed to interfere in an ongoing military operation. Barack Obama was watching as US troops moved in on Osama Bin Laden. Had the operation run into trouble, Obama would not have intervened; he was not in a position to make a call on it. The military commander on the scene had full authority to make all the calls. Jimmy Carter did not intervene when the Iran rescue operation ran into trouble.

In conclusion, the Mamapasano operation was hardly a failure. Its objective, to neutralize Marwan, was achieved, although at a high price. The history of special ops is replete with instances when entire commands were sacrificed, but so long as the objective was achieved, they were not considered failures.

The critics of Mamasapano want to engage in special ops with minimal casualties, which is not at all realistic.

Hermenegildo C. Cruz was a member of the Civil Service Panel of the 1969-72 Integrated Reorganization Plan, which was implemented as PD 1.  The Closed Career Service incorporated in PD 807, the current Civil Service Law, originated from this panel.

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TAGS: Mamasapano, SAF 44, Senate
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