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By Col. Dencio Acop (Ret), PhD

The Marcos years were ending when I was just beginning my military career. Like all fresh graduates out of the academy, I was full of idealism even if the world I was getting into was far from it. The icon of the Opposition, Benigno Aquino, was brazenly assassinated just months after I graduated from West Point in the Spring of 1983. It was only well that I was idealistic as it fits perfectly into the character of the elite unit that my branch of service was forming at the time — the Philippine Constabulary Special Action Force. It was idealism too that made us a part of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement then led by officers associated with Colonel Gregorio Honasan. Me and my men trained under Gringo’s men. With an innate culture of a high sense of honor, it is at all not surprising that many members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines gravitated toward reforms since almost all high-ranking officers identified with President Ferdinand Marcos had become tainted with corruption. After all, it is corruption that undermines the professionalism and effectiveness of the sole coercive power of the State. Thus, I argue that corruption is the number one threat to national security and the national interest more than the actual enemies of the State.

To me it is sad to note that while military reforms had been somewhat achieved following the 1986 People Power Revolution, such reforms again began to be abandoned following the Ramos administration. It is equally sad to recall that the military reforms fought for by RAM during the Marcos years were quickly abandoned by Honasan and his faction in the AFP when they rebelled time and time again against the newly-established democratic regime. Thus, it can be claimed that the reforms sought by the military in the years leading up to EDSA were actually political reforms more than they were just military. It was essentially so. Each time critics point out the need for a de-politicized military, I argue that the constitutional provision of ‘civilian supremacy over the military’ effectively renders it impossible. Even if the military’s higher culture of honor is endemic to it and may conflict with civilian honor, the military is mandated to obey legitimate orders from a legitimate civilian political leader and commander-in-chief. I only wish that the reformist military leaders of old now in politics still pursue the idealist reforms they once preached and practiced.

I lament the failed continuity of reform policies adopted as a result of the restoration of constitutional democracy in our land. I condemn the adoption of erroneous provisions in the 1987 Constitution that undemocratically elects a minority leader, pairs two top leaders belonging to opposing political parties, bastardizes the AFP leadership by not setting fixed terms for the chief of staff and major commanders, and having very low standards for elective and appointive leaders. The erroneous provisions have been contributing strategically to the failure of good governance in our country. Even just the old bi-party system and two four-year (maximum) presidential terms are still much more effective than the silly multi-party and one six-year presidential term provisions. These have only managed to encourage every Tomas, Dodong, and Juan to run, even if incompetent and doing so for all the wrong reasons. They have also not stopped recalcitrant presidents from running again for lower positions and doing so for self-serving motives.

Now we find ourselves in the midst of a catastrophic pandemic still and in the clutches of the Duterte administration which has managed to chart a legacy of thousands of extra-judicial killings or murders landing it in an unprecedented investigation by the International Criminal Court, corruption allegations in the amount of trillions, suspected treason in the face-off with China which has been lording it over the Philippines, and a failing economy not to mention the moral and psychological costs of the leadership of immoral and amoral language. To this I would say that if ever the Republic of the Philippines would sink, it is not just Duterte who is accountable but every Filipino who has allowed him. Although I also find merit in those who minimized the damage that could have been inflicted more by the evil empire. Let us not think only of ourselves. Let us not think only of the brief time we enjoy our perks in life. May we all be larger than just ourselves. May we see the longer and larger vision of things to come more than just our short and narrow self-interests. And May God bless the Philippines. For God and Country.