Monday, November 13, 2006
Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues,
Section 5, paragraph 3 of Article XVI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution says:
“Professionalism in the armed forces and adequate remuneration and benefits of its members shall be a prime concern of the State. The armed forces shall be insulated from partisan politics.
No member of the military shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any partisan political activity, except to vote. “
So many times by so many persons, this provision of our nation’s charter have been invoked as the chastity belt of the military to protect the institution from being seduced by partisan political groups who would want nothing more than having the Armed Forces by their side and embrace their ideology.
The appeal of having the military sympathetic to a particular political ideology or organization stems from the fact that with the might of guns, such ideology or organization is guaranteed dominance in the landscape of Philippine politics.
In order to avoid that situation, the framers of the Constitution included the above-quoted provision in order to set into stone a policy that sought to protect not just the military from political opportunists but more so to protect the people from a politicized military which may veer away from its given mandate and align itself partisan interests.
Section 3 of Article II of the Constitution provides for the primary role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in very clear terms:
“Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.”
The Constitution does not provide any other role for the Armed Forces except to secure the sovereignty of the State and integrity of the national territory. It does not have a role in policy formulation or societal change. Such roles are dangerous if combined with the force of arms in an organization where its direction is heavily dependent on the leadership of one or a few members.
A practical example is the method by which President Arroyo came into power in 2001. With the decision of then AFP Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes together with his four service commanders, the entire AFP was committed behind the assumption into the Presidency of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Another instance is the events of February 2006 where it is rumored that the crucial decision of AFP Chief of Staff Generoso Senga to stay within the Chain of Command was the key to the failure of the movement to withdraw support.
Of course, the classic example, the one that paved the way for the military’s intervention in politics and governance, is the February 1986 withdrawal of support by then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and then AFP Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos.
The danger of a politicized military is evident not only in the aforementioned extraordinary changes in the country’s political leadership, but even in the course of elections. The controversies of the 2004 elections exemplify the hazards of a politicized military taking part in a process in a manner above and beyond what the Constitution allows them to.
While some would contend that there was no military intervention in the 2004 elections, the fact remains that the prospect of the AFP taking part in elections beyond voting is enough to cause concern that former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz time and again professed the desire to insulate the military from politics. Eventually, his rhetoric became policy with the agreement between the Comelec and the Defense Department signed on October 12, 2006.
Former AFP Chief of Staff Generoso Senga, who may be said to have bore the brunt of the intensity of the political controversies from the time the Garci Tapes issue surfaced, started and ended his term as Chief of Staff with a call to the military, the politicians and the public to keep the Armed Forces away from politics.
When General Senga assumed command, the President even reminded him, “General Senga, I expect you to keep the Armed Forces of the Philippines within the Constitution and not to allow any partisan quarters to undermine the Chain of Command.”
To this, he replied, “Our entire organization must be insulated from politics.”
A few months before his retirement, General Senga even issued his Five-Point Guidelines to the AFP entitled, “The Role of the AFP in These Trying Times”. The guidelines stated:
“1) Strict adherence to the supremacy of civilian authority over the military.
2) That the AFP’s constitutional mandate as protector of the people and the State is not a license to risk leadership of the government from public officials on the basis of perceived imperfections of governance.
3) As professional soldiers, we do not enjoy an unrestrained license to engage in partisan politics or publicly speak our minds against the government without having to face the serious accountability for our unauthorized actions.
4) The Supreme Court had set the distinct parameters when it ruled that certain liberties of persons in the military service - including the freedom of speech - maybe circumscribed by the rules of military discipline.
5). The military personnel are not regarded as a potent political force to be used by the politicians in the furtherance of their vested interest.”
In support of this, then Army Chief, now AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said, “As mandated, we must remain apolitical.”
It appears that there should be no debate that the military must be insulated from politics as prescribed in the Constitution. In other words, the AFP is expected to be apolitical.
What drove me to stand up for this discourse is a statement to the contrary which was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and attributed to Fr. Jose Romeo Intengan, SJ.
The article quoted Fr. Intengan as saying, “The problem of the AFP is lack of political knowledge. The military must be political, but it must not take political sides.”
In the spirit of the free market of ideas under which we live, this may be passed off as just another idea being offered to the public. Indeed we are free to express our own beliefs in any forum, even in media, as long as it is not in furtherance of crime or rebellion.
Many have expressed their ideas, some with value, some hare-brained, but most just fall into the category of personal opinion.
What is alarming with what Fr. Intengan stated is that it is being offered as a lecture / seminar to our soldiers in military camps. Under the guise of a national security seminar, the officers and men of the AFP are undergoing indoctrination into the ideology of the political party to which Fr. Intengan belongs to.
Lifting a quote from the Inquirer interview with Fr. Intengan, he said, “The military is prey to political patronage because of the whole climate of a dysfunctional liberal democracy. Our purpose is to see the military out of that system.”
He goes on to say that, “A decisive movement away from liberal democracy to social democracy” is needed.
These seminars, which have been conducted and are being conducted among members of the AFP even within the military camps are being presented as seminars on national security awareness and is endorsed by the National Security Adviser.
What is unclear is by what authority these seminars are being conducted among the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. A reading of the materials being distributed undeniably proves that these seminars are political in nature. In fact, the quote of Fr. Intengan is crystal clear---they aim to politicize the AFP, with the objective of convincing them that social democracy is the way to go.
The National Security Adviser is not a part of the Chain of Command, therefore it cannot simply come in and conduct seminars for the Armed Forces. Authority and permission from the Secretary of National Defense and the AFP Chief of Staff is required before anyone can present to the members of the military, much more if political ideologies and concepts are involved.
One need only to go back during the time when the political opposition wanted to conduct dialogues with the men in uniform, in furtherance of their Constitutional mandate as elected representatives of the people and policy makers. Even they had to seek permission of the Defense Department and comply with rules and procedures governing such activities.
Back then, Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor said, “We are for that dialogue, but the Terms of Reference must be drafted first. The dialogue should not be used to promote their propaganda.”
Presidential spokesperson Sec. Ignacio Bunye even cited Gen. Senga’s Five-Point Guideline when he said, “This clearly delineates the role of the military as professional soldiers committed to the chain of command and the Constitution. This is a fitting reminder also to politicians and civil society who wish to entice our soldiers to engage in partisan politics.”
Obviously, the seminars being conducted are aimed at enticing the military to engage in partisan politics and a certain political ideology.
If members of Congress, who wished to conduct dialogues with the military, were required to comply with Terms of Reference to be imposed prior to meeting with the soldiers, what more Fr. Intengan of the Center for Strategic Studies?
About this we ask, does he have the express approval of the concerned authorities to conduct seminars and distribute reference materials of a clearly partisan political nature to the members of the Armed Forces? If so, what are the terms of reference? Is this a special treatment given to his particular political affiliation or can all parties now conduct their own seminars, in the interest of balance?
Because of only one ideology is peddled to our soldiers, it is no longer an awareness or educational campaign. It is purely indoctrination.
One of the booklets being distributed is entitled, “Armed Forces of the Philippines: Defender of the Nation, Guardian of Democracy, and Servant of the People”. I don’t think anyone here will disagree with the title. Indeed, the AFP has that role. But what is written inside the booklet?
For one, it demonizes politicians through sweeping general statements. Without citing specifics or references, the booklet presents politicians as conniving with forces out to bring down the state.
Allow me to read:
“The appalling situation of the Philippine political system is worsened by collusion of intimidated or opportunistic politicians, with anti-democratic forces of the extreme right but especially with the Marxist-Leninist extreme left. This collusion involves politicians in power or vying for power, from the level of barangay to that of national-level elected office. This collusion with the Marxist-Leninist extreme left is particularly widespread in the Reaffirmist groups such as the CPP, the NPA and the NDF. In the course of this collusion these politicians provide the CPP-NPA-NDF forces with votes for the latter’s candidates for national office (including party list candidacies) and local office, legal cover for their personnel, organizations and activities, and financial and logistical support such as firearms and ammunition, motor vehicles, rice and other foodstuff, medicine, communication equipment, audiovisual and printed campaign material, computers, office rental and the like.”
With sweeping statements such as these presented to the political virgins in the military, the image of politicians as in collusion with enemies of the state will easily come to their minds. Never mind if specific examples of such collusions backed up with hard evidence is presented. The propaganda will most likely seep into the psyche of the men in uniform, their innate bias against enemies of the state borne out of training being exploited to turn them against politicians in general.
Even the Lakas-NUCD, the party in power, has not been spared. The party started by former President Ramos is blamed by Fr. Intengan for the resurgence of the CPP-NPA-NDF:
“At the inception of the Ramos administration there were already effective and growing social democratic mass organizations that were competing with increasing success with Marxist-Leninist organizations for control or influence among various sectors of the population, especially among the basic masses (peasants and fisherfolk, urban and rural workers). The Ramos administration tried to put up its own network of Christian and Muslim Democrat mass organizations, and marginalized the social democratic mass organizations, instead of assisting them together with the Christian and Muslim Democrats, and encouraging them to cooperate. When the administration effort to build the Christian and Muslim Democrat mass organizations reaped scant success because of lack of sustained attention, effort, and funding, the resultant was a relative weakening of the broad democratic mass movement, leaving a vacuum that the CPP-NPA-NDF could fill once they recovered from their setbacks.”
Institutions of our democracy are not spared from being tainted by the paper being distributed to the military. Congress and the Comelec has likewise been dragged into the supposed strengthening of the CPP-NPA-NDF:
“..perhaps because of flaws in the formulation of the law, but certainly because of faulty implementation by the Commission on Elections, RA 7941, known for short as the Party List Law, became the entry point for membership in the House of Representatives of persons who militantly support the CPP-NPA-NDF.
This has come about in part because the COMELEC did not bother to consult and take seriously the findings of government intelligence agencies concerning suspicious groups among those applying for Comelec recognition as groups entitled to present candidacies in the party list elections.
From this failure of Comelec has resulted the strange but deadly phenomenon of CPP-NPA-NDF partisans or allies getting elected to public office using the threat of the actual use of physical violence by the NPA, and once elected, using government funds in the tens and millions of pesos each year to support the politico-military effort of the CPP-NPA-NDF.”
These statements erode the confidence of AFP in our democratic and Constitutional institutions, especially since it is made to appear that the problem that the AFP has to deal with is brought about by these institutions, in this particular case the Comelec.
This gets a bit more ticklish in that the Comelec is the institution tasked to manage the process of leadership and political change in the country. With the military having the force of arms, and the Messianic complex already permeating the ranks of the soldiers, losing faith in the Comelec and the electoral process is a dangerous prospect.
The paper practically tarnishes the images of other political parties and ideologies, and even those of the democratic institutions. Then it presents its own ideology as the savior of the country.
A direct quote from the paper reads:
“It is the firm conviction of the author of this paper that a decisive movement away from liberal democracy and toward social democracy is essential for the social revolution that Philippine society needs.”
“It is evident to the author of this paper that for satisfying the people’s hunger and slaking their thirst for justice and the common good, for peaceful, productive and meaningful lives in conditions of frugal comfort, the Philippines has to move toward social democracy.”
It is undeniable that these materials being presented to our soldiers in seminars conducted in the military camps are partisan and political in nature. The furtherance of a single ideology while vilifying others is plain indoctrination. These are acts violative of the Constitution which provides for an apolitical armed forces.
While discussions of these ideologies may have a place in a democracy, having a focused discussion among members of the military is courting our soldiers to cross the line from being neutral and non-partisan to taking political sides. It is absurd to think that our soldiers can be taught to be political yet not take sides.
The manner in which the seminar materials are written betrays its real intention, which is to recruit our soldiers to a particular political ideology.
These seminars, allegedly endorsed by the National Security Adviser, runs counter to what many government officials, from all sides of the political fence, the military, the academe, civil society, political analysts, media and ordinary citizen have accepted and believe in—that the AFP must be apolitical.
It is for this reason that I, as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on National Defense, call on the House of Representatives, through the Committee on national Defense, to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the conduct of these “national security awareness seminars” being conducted among our soldiers, to determine if these activities have the appropriate authority to be conducted, and find out if the contents of these seminars are in conjunction with established policies and direction of the national government, the defense department and the AFP.
It is hope that the House leadership takes cognizance of this concern and give it a priority since it appears that as are all naively telling each other that the AFP must be apolitical, a group is silently creeping and stealing the minds of the Defenders of the Nation, Guardians of Democracy and Servants of the People.
Thank you very much.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The untimely resignation of Secretary Avelino Cruz from the Department of National Defense portfolio will put into uncertainty the reform program which he effectively implemented in the DND-AFP, setting back the drive towards enhancing professionalism in the Armed Forces. It is one resignation that the administration will definitely hurt from, with the loss of a reliable adviser to the President and an effective head of an agency that is often at the forefront of controversy and difficult challenges.
Although at this point, people can only speculate the reasons behind the resignation, the recent statements of senior administration officials indicate that Secretary Cruz’s position regarding Charter Change appear to have earned the castigation by fellow cabinet officials, putting pressure on him to resign.
It is sad that in spite of having performed exceptionally as a Defense Department chief, Secretary Cruz is sacrificed at the altar of politics by his own colleagues in the administration.
This now puts into question if Secretary Cruz’s plans and efforts to insulate the military from politics will come into fruition. Will his departure from the department due to politics pave the way for politics to permeate the military come the 2007 elections?
Will it also pave the way for politicians who are lusting for the post of Secretary of National Defense to start jockeying for the position? What about the reforms that Secretary Cruz initiated? Will it be carried on by his successor?
These questions are being asked not just by the usual political observers and analysts. Most especially, it is being asked by the soldiers, who have been through a lot of intrigues and tugs of war in the intense political bickering that this country faced in the past year.
It is imperative that when President Arroyo chooses a replacement for Secretary Cruz, she will pick someone who has not been tainted by politics, one who does not have a political agenda and political baggage, and someone who has unquestionable credibility in the soldiers’ eyes and untarnished integrity.