WHILE Vietnam and our other neighbors are upgrading their navies with new submarines and fast attack missile ships, the current Aquino administration continues to downgrade the capability of our armed forces to defend our nation from external threats. Rather than upgrade the military’s ability to ward off foreign incursions, the administration is instead priming it still to become a more efficient counter insurgency machine.
The Vietnamese, for instance, are not known for their sea faring prowess as their country is not archipelagic like ours yet they are modernizing their naval and air forces to be prepared for any contingency brought about by the rise of China. We, on the other hand, are undisputedly a sea faring nation scattered in a territory comprised of more than 7,100 islands yet we have no credible navy and air force. We are not part of the Asian land mass but we have an efficient army notwithstanding that it is for counter insurgency.
By prioritizing the acquisition of pre-owned arms more suited to counter insurgency like helicopters, armored personnel carriers and assault rifles over advanced weaponry like guided surface to air missiles, capital ships of war, including submarines; and jet fighter/bomber aircraft with air to air missile capable of hitting designated targets, this administration is jeopardizing our national security. This “downgrading” is unfortunate, especially in view of the threats posed against us by China and to a lesser degree by Malaysia and its Moro Islamic Liberation Front proxy. What we need now is a navy and air force capable of defending our sovereignty against foreign military intrusions not a counter insurgency army.
The recent acquisitions of ten helicopters by the AFP with the clear intent to use these machines for internal security operations justifies the public notion that the military’s true role is to protect the few ruling families of our country. Clearly, this latest acquisition of military hardware is not meant to boost the capability of the AFP to defend our country from external forces. These helicopters are clearly no match for the guided missiles of China. Now, if not our fellow Filipinos to whom does the AFP and its surrogate, the Philippine National Police, plan to point or use these newly acquired weapons?
The AFP seems to be just being true to its roots. The Philippine military establishment was founded in 1935 during the colonial period just after the Sakdalista uprising. It was organized for counter insurgency purposes hence its current narrow obsession. Its fixation is a reflection on how its corps of officers is still being molded in the military academy, another institution founded to support our colonialists in the past.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the military leadership is still obsessed with counter insurgency. More than 40 years after the communist rebellion flared and the numerous claims of victories against the communist rebels, their people’s organizations and the terrorist bandits in Mindanao like the Abu Sayyaf and other similar criminal gangs, the military and police have yet to defeat the revolutionary movements and eradicate these criminal organizations. On the contrary, the communist insurgency has become protracted, the dissent among the poor, deprived and oppressed has risen while criminal activities of terrorist organizations in Mindanao are spreading and becoming more brazen.
The building up of the anti-people capability of the AFP cannot solve the problem of insurgency and lawlessness. There has to be a political will among our leaders to genuinely reform society. That is the only way to curb, if not totally eliminate, the root cause of insurgency and criminality. Among others, just laws must be passed, preserved and observed; industries should be built, jobs created, genuine land reform implemented, and the poor, deprived and the oppressed must be taken cared of to ensure the establishment of an equitable prosperous society.
With the new and more compelling external threats to our sovereignty, the urgent need to reorient the AFP can no longer be denied. The military must be made to be a force that protects, not suppress, the people’s interests. It must become the shield of the needed reforms in our society. Inexplicably the current Aquino administration, despite the clear and present danger, still chooses to retard our military capabilities.
That is just shameful and plain stupid.
*This article was first published at Rappler X where the author is a regular contributor.