The long-term goal, a world-class Army
Tomorrow marks the 119th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army. It was on March 22, 1897, at Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon in Cavite, that members of the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions of the Katipunan met in a convention to map out the setting up of a republican government, and the formation of a regular army. The armed organization would consist of three corps of 10,000 men each. Artemio Ricarte was elected captain general of the army of the Philippine republic.
Historians have different takes on the significance of the Tejeros Convention. Some view the meeting more as the breaking point between the Aguinaldo and Bonifacio factions of the Katipunan. But there is no question about the choice of Ricarte as the first leader of an organized Filipino army in the service of an independent republic. Ricarte, whose nom de guerre was “Vibora” (viper), had a reputation as a vicious and deadly fighter. He is best known for his refusal to take an oath of allegiance to the United States after the end of the Philippine-American conflict, preferring to remain in exile abroad. Perhaps, this is one reason why no major installation of the Army has been dedicated to his memory. Unfortunately, this is part of the colonial mentality that keeps us hostage to the past. I am confident however, that things will change as new leaders emerge.
The present chief of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año, is a bemedalled combat veteran whose solid accomplishments include the capture of Benito Tiamzon, chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, along with his wife Wilma, the party secretary general. General Año hails from the province of Rizal, and is the 57th in the long line of distinguished predecessors starting with General Ricarte.
In a commemorative book “Missions and Milestones” that was recently launched to mark the Army’s foundation anniversary, General Año reported to the nation some of the more important developments in the continuing effort to bring soldiers and citizens together, working for peace and progress in the community:
• The readiness of a province to take on more development programs is an important milestone. The term “Peaceful and Ready for Further Development” (PRFD) is used to confirm that the province has reached a status of having a relatively peaceful environment and is ready for further development. The conferment of this status is the result of an agreement between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the provincial government. This declaration of a province as PRFD is to encourage civil authorities to recognize their lead role in orchestrating peace and security in their localities.
Of the 76 provinces affected by the insurgency, 64 have been declared as PRFD since 2008. The target for 2016 is for the rest of the provinces to be also declared as PRFD.
• The Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, born of the experiences and insights from years of fighting the insurgency, has been able to break new grounds and produce significant gains. The joint effort of all parties in governance has made for a truly dynamic approach, bringing to its lowest level the internal threat of insurgency.
• The Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) is based on a commitment to reform and innovation. Its long-term goal: a world-class army that is a source of national pride. In adopting the ATR, the focus is on the institution rather than individual personalities; long-term strategies, rather than short-term tactics; and approaches all matters from a systems perspective in order to address priorities instead of single issues. Under the ATR, the presence of the Multi-Sector Advisory Board provides stakeholders with inputs and guidance, as well as a different perspective that serves to enhance the decision-making process.
• The Capabilities Upgrade Program has resulted in the acquisition of more than 56,000 assault rifles, 81-mm mortars, squad automatic weapons, night-fighting systems, and refurbished armored personnel carriers.
• The soldier is everywhere. He is the most accessible and recognized face of government, especially in remote and far-flung areas of the country. In times of calamities and emergencies, the Army is often tasked to provide quick response and fast action.
• In the last few years alone, so many of our men and women have laid down their lives fighting against the enemies of the state. They stood tall and fought for peace, for the Filipino. We remember their sacrifices; they will never be forgotten. (The list of casualties is more than five pages long. Most of those killed in action were on the battlefields of Mindanao.)
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In connection with the Army celebrations, I am reminded of the remarks made by Fr. Roberto Layson at a Senior Leaders’ Conference conducted by the Philippine Army many years ago. It remains as relevant today as it was in the past.
Father Layson said: “The Army has the most powerful weapon in its arsenal, the potential of which has not been fully maximized. I am referring to the [Civil-]Military Operations of the Army.”
Father Layson went on to say that the Army is often deployed in remote communities that are impoverished. These areas are neglected and become potential breeding grounds for an insurgency. The situation could be viewed as a danger signal or an opportunity to serve. The Army could simply unleash its military strength against a possible enemy or it could look at the area as a place for collaboration, a chance to serve the community in the fight against poverty, sickness and illiteracy.
Father Layson also said that in adapting the latter stance, the Army does not win battles but it uses its resources precisely to address some of the root causes of rebellion. For residents of the community who benefit from these actions, it is kindness that is not easily forgotten.
Father Layson concluded by saying that “Every bullet fired always leaves in the consciousness of a people a negative memory that may take generations to forget. But the goodness that a soldier leaves is something that will always remind them of an Army that takes care of people.”
The Philippine Army is fortunate in having Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. as its new assistant chief of staff for Civil-Military Operations.
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