The Long View : Lost AFP moorings

The Long View : Lost AFP moorings

First posted 01:18am (Mla time) Nov 18, 2004
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Inquirer News Service

Editor’s Note: Published on page A13 of the November 18, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN RESPONSE to my recent columns on the middle class and the military, I received many letters, including two lengthy but provocative ones. From Cristobal Irlanda, a retired colonel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP):

“I refer to your article ‘Officer corps issue’ of 15 November 04 in the Daily Inquirer. You are perfectly right when you wrote, and I quote, ‘It is tragic to see how views like General Lim’s evolved into the … mentality that leads officers to believe that they are the praetorian guards tasked to ‘save the nation’ from itself.

“It was not that way once upon a time. I am a member of class 1944 of the pre-war Philippine Military Academy [PMA], an academy envisioned by your grandfather, Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, to produce an elite corps of highly principled regular officers and gentlemen of our Armed Forces, steeped in the tradition of honor, dedicated to the service of and sacrifice for country, imbued with courage, loyalty and integrity, completely apolitical and committed to the supremacy of civilian authority over the military. While we did not take a vow of poverty, we were trained to disdain the accumulation of material wealth, as it was beneath our dignity to be filthy rich. The military was supposed to take care of our economic well-being, so that we could direct all our efforts in our profession of arms. To make sure that we remain apolitical, your grandfather even denied us the right to vote and decreed that the secretary of defense should always be a civilian to emphasize the [principle of the supremacy of] civilian authority over the military.

“It is, therefore, a great disillusion to us veterans in the twilight of our years to see that the military ethics we value so much have been replaced by an ethos of graft and corruption and politicization brought about by the martial law imposed on the Filipino people by Mr. Ferdinand Marcos.

“Surely, there is a need to restructure our Armed Forces. More importantly, there is an urgent need to restore the moral and philosophical imperatives in our officer corps if only to disabuse it of its praetorian mentality.

“I met and knew General Vicente Lim well. His son Vicente Jr. was my PMA classmate and we bunked in the same room before he left for West Point.”

From a reader, apparently a foreigner, only known as “Gerhard,” this (on my column on the middle class):

“A very interesting article indeed. Alas, in my opinion, it still leaves some facts in the dark. After the Americans assumed power in the Philippines, they introduced a system … which in the USA itself was corruption-laden, and cronies dominated public and private issues. When suffrage was introduced in the Philippines, it remained [the preserve] of the [in English] educated, [who came from] already relatively wealthy families in the Philippines. These families didn’t show any interest in developing a society, where a strong middle class would assume power in a democratic regime. But the political aspirations of these families led to diversification … First, the families in power tried to enter the political apparatus [by] financing [the election of] their kin [to] the law-making assembly … Second, the families, understanding the winds of economic change, [engaged in] … more mixed ‘holdings’ … Third, they institutionalized their grip on power, with a highly personalized, cost-intensive electoral system, … rather feudal, … [to which] access … was not provided by merits in a party system, but by the wealth of the ones financing the candidates …

“These diversifications made it necessary to (go into) academic training to be in the position to manage, lead and steer enterprises (and) assume political power. They set up the institutions … [for] academic education, but — most important — [for the development of] personal ties in the form of marriages or … crony-networks … for the rich, which should not be confused under any circumstances with (the) middle class … Laws still are very often designed to benefit a wealthy few, lacking any long term vision … Shortly after the Second World War, this situation [would have] resulted in the bankruptcy of the Philippine state, had not the United States intervened.

“I would agree to the point that the possibility of developing a middle class would have been possible, but martial law under Marcos turned the wheels back. And the wheels are — at best — not moving at all. The dominant political and economic classes do not have any interest in an educated middle class challenging their positions of power. So the educated Filipinos, who were supposed to perform various tasks for the ruling class, chose either resignation or migration. It is highly ironical to see that the migrating millions even extend the life span of the unjust system in power, [by] remitting billions each and every year.

“This exclusion … from political participation means: there is no middle class, there is no party system, favoring ‘the common good,’ there is no coherent socio-economic approach to the development of a middle class and the society as a whole. Middle classes elsewhere were the engine of social, political and economical progress, introducing rationality, integrity, accountability. The political development in the Philippines leads more and more towards a ‘sultan’ regime, where the sultan decides, without any participation, integration and transparency, depriving the Filipino people of their future, their basic human rights.”

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Comments welcome at

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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