Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3,  Number 28              August 17 - 23, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

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Reforming the Armed Forces 

BY Capt. Rene N. Jarque PA (ret.)*

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The Magdalo Group mutiny last 27 July has again revived the issue of unprofessionalism and corruption in the Armed Forces. The grievances show that the AFP has not really changed much 17 years after the 1986 EDSA Revolution, that past reform movements have not really renewed the AFP, that changes have been merely cosmetic. In propaganda work, “a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” and one of the biggest lie told by many a general is that the AFP has become professional. Sure, uniforms have changed and an AFP Theater and  Generals’Lounge have been built but meaningful changes that promote professionalism, uplift morale and welfare and use resources efficiently have not occurred. The Magdalo Group mutiny, removed of its political colors, I believe, is a manifestation of the continuing frustration of the soldiers with their officers and of the officers with the chain of command. 

In this presentation, I will share my answers to four simple and basic questions about military reform, answers that may be far more complicated than the questions:

1)      Is there a need for reform in the Armed Forces?
2)      What should be the areas for reform?
3)      Is reforming the military possible?
4)      Who are responsible for military reform?

Is there a need for reform in the Armed Forces?

Yes, definitely there is. The signposts of unprofessionalism and corruption are everywhere -- the sergeant who sells combat boots and grenades, the major who gets a kickback from purchases, the lieutenant who accepts bribes from illegal loggers, the general who converts unit funds for personal purposes, the sergeant who hides his incompetence through a padrino, the colonel who seeks promotion by palakasan or sipsipan and every officer or enlisted personnel who receives an allowance derived from an illegal practice called “conversion”. Poor hospital conditions, shoddy maintenance of equipment, inadequate housing for soldiers, unflyable planes and unsailable vessels, no first aid kits to field units, lack of ammunition -- all these point to something fundamentally wrong with the state of the AFP today and the need for reform. 

At present, the Armed Forces can be likened to a crumbling, old house that is tattered everywhere with its foundations weak and crumbling.  No amount of repainting and re-plastering of the walls or repairing the creaking floor will make it stronger as the pillars and foundations are weak.  It may look ornate and pretty on the outside but the paint merely hides the rot in the wooden panels.  It may still be standing but termites are crawling everywhere eating away the beams and pillars. What is required is a total overhaul. The parades and uniforms look good but discipline and professionalism is wanting.

With so many reform programs in the AFP after 1986 EDSA Revolution and several coup attempts, one would ask, isn’t the AFP reformed yet? Yes, some reforms have occurred and strides have been gained in civil-military relations, human rights, training and strategic thinking. However, in terms of the overall professionalism of the Officer Corps and in financial and logistics management, much needs to be done. Fundamental problems and the reasons behind them have not been addressed and no real, honest to goodness reform has happened. The AFP may have lost its omnipotence during martial law but many practices that made it an unprofessional and tainted organization during that period remain. In fact, many of the unethical practices have been institutionalized.    

I resigned from military service in 1998 but I have kept in touch with officers and enlisted personnel and kept abreast of the situation in the AFP. I have heard many remarks that the AFP has deteriorated instead of improving. My readings show that succeeding governments and AFP chain of command after Marcos have only made surface changes and genuine, profound reforms have not happened. In my talks with soldiers, I get this feeling of hopelessness and helplessness in the ranks. Talks about professionalism and integrity today,  if impressive to the civilian, are in fact, hollow in the hearts and minds of the soldiers. Short term appointments,  officers with questionable character and competence in top posts, bad leadership, corruption and unethical conduct -- all these the soldiers are aware of  but they cannot do anything about it for the generals will squash dissent and they are afraid to lose their jobs.  

Perhaps, I am being naive, too idealistic and even, stupid (and I am not trying to be high and mighty about this as I too have been drawn into unprofessional and unethical conduct while an Officer) but to me, more than any other public servant, a soldier should practice the utmost professionalism, discipline and integrity.  The officers have taken an oath to serve the country and people and the present state of the AFP fails to live up to that oath. It bothers me that the generals and senior officers are unable to act accordingly on their oath and build a credible and professional Armed Forces, despite knowing what is wrong. This is a serious case of the lack of integrity and professionalism. And what hypocrisy to declare themselves as professional  and honorable. If  people only know the truth. Indeed, I feel saddened by the notion that the present state of the AFP does not bring honor and dignity to the thousands of soldiers who have died in service of the nation, that my friends and comrades have died needlessly, not to preserve freedom but rather to make the politicians and generals rich and happy. As Captain Maestrecampo rightfully asks “Saan ang kabuluhan ng pagkapatay ng mga sundalo?”

In my resignation letter to the Secretary of National Defense in 1998, I wrote candidly and perhaps, foolishly: 

Sir…I want to leave because I feel that I am beginning to lose my self-esteem, my self-respect and my sense of integrity in an organization that I believe is unprofessional and corrupt. I have always believed that being an officer is a noble vocation ­ that officers follow the professional military ethic and treat each other professionally. But what I have seen are officers, especially many generals, who take advantage of the system for selfish and unethical purposes and undercut each other for promotions and assignments. I always thought that being an officer is a public trust ­ that an officer does not lie, cheat, steal nor tolerate those who do. But what I have seen are officers, including Peemayers, who would not hesitate to lie to advance themselves or do anomalous business transactions, who cheat the taxpayers of their money and who even reward unethical conduct.”

Becoming a general is no longer an exciting prospect for me considering the kind of officers being promoted to general rank. The only thing consistent about them is the inconsistency of the standards which I find unacceptable and grossly unfair. As many officers say, “di bale, snappy, shabby, the same salary at napro-promote din naman”.

Until the Magdalo incident, President Arroyo lost sight of the fact that military reform must still be a priority in the quest for good government or a Strong Republic. AFP reform  disappeared from the President’s radar screen as she patronized the generals for two reasons: first, she needed the help of the AFP to hold the numerous security problems in check and to maintain a semblance of order and authority as she dealt with a rather unstable political set-up; second, debt of gratitude for the AFP’s pivotal role in propelling her to the presidency. She may not have wanted to antagonize the military or she would be looked upon as “walang utang na loob” and risk losing the AFP’s support. Insistence on military reforms may not have been a pragmatic proposition as the country was still recovering and facing a variety of security challenges. The military, which played a crucial role in her ascent also play a crucial role in her survival. Today, President Arroyo still needs the support of the AFP but I hope that her debt of gratitude will not get in the way of an open and honest investigation of the corruption in the Armed Forces and of taking the appropriate actions against erring senior AFP officers.

What are the areas for reform?

I believe there are two general areas that a military reform campaign should address: unprofessionalism and corruption. Unprofessionalism refers to those practices that undermine the three elements of the military profession as explained by Samuel Huntington: expertise, responsibility, corporateness. In other words, those decisions and/or actions that result in weakening or destroying the manner with which the soldier can optimally perform his duty within a framework of integrity and camaraderie. Examples are poor leadership, tactical and technical incompetence, favoritism and nepotism, ticket-punching, inexperience or lack of combat experience, promotions and appointments not based on merit but on palaksasan and bata-bata, extracting personal services from soldiers and criminal activities such as the blackmarketing scandal in East Timor, human rights abuses or engaging in the drug trade or arms smuggling.

Another example of unprofessionalism is the misplaced priorities and follies of AFP leaders -- building an AFP Theater when the AFP Medical Center cannot provide decent health care, building a canopy over GHQ when the soldiers are living in dilapidated barracks and using the soldier’s hard-earned  money in the RSBS to fund outlandish projects that merely enrich them and their retired comrades.  Stretching it further, unprofessionalism also includes attitudes in the Officer Corps today like “Wait till you become”, “Go with the flow”, “If you cannot beat them, join them”. Indeed, it is very frustrating for a junior officer who is trying very hard to go through a “progressive military career” and he sees his superiors getting promoted without the requisite qualifications and experience, that while he “rots” in the field to be a good soldier, he sees his peers “enjoying” in cozy assignments in headquarters and get promoted just the same.

The other area is corruption. Like any government agency, the AFP has its own share of the “normal” graft and corrupt practices such as commissions, kickbacks, overpricing, padding, substitution, rigged biddings, under-delivery and ghost delivery. This is common knowledge among suppliers, dealers, auditors, supply officers, enlisted personnel and everyone involved in the supply and finance chain.  However, the AFP is involved in a far more sophisticated form of corruption that can be called the “mother” of all corruption in the AFP. This is the practice called “conversion”. It is the ultimate source of abuse and corruption in the AFP that has caused demoralization in the ranks. What is conversion and why is it a problem?

In an essay in the Army Journal in 1997, I defined conversion as “the process of converting procurements to its cash equivalent”. Col. Ricardo Morales, a fellow advocate for AFP reform, describes it in his essay in the same magazine in 2001: “if an amount is originally intended for office supplies but is instead spent for construction materials, this amount has to be ‘converted’ so that government accounting and auditing requirements are satisfied” (read: circumvented). In the process of conversion, either from one expense item to another or to outright cash, a certain percentage called the “cost of money” is skimmed off the top which goes to everyone in the signature chain, from the supply requisitioners to the auditors. Rates of 25% or higher are normal but the dealer actually only gets somewhere between 9-16% as the rest goes to approving and auditing authorities in various offices. Obviously, there are benefits and downsides to the conversion process. An advantage is that it can buy things done that government accounting and auditing procedures will not allow. For example, an office can buy a much needed computer by converting excess fund allocation for office supplies. In the field, a commander can use the converted cash for operations such spare parts for trucks, batteries for radios, medicines for civic projects, a goat for pulutan with village officials and food for visitors at headquarters. 

On the other hand, I see six major downsides to conversion:

1) First, it is illegal as it violates the AFP Procurement System. Chapter 1, paragraph 1-3 section D of the AFP Procurement Manual states, “Conversion of any kind must not be resorted to”. Conversion also violates COA Circular 81-09 regulating the conduct of inspections -- converted items are falsely declared.  Further, failure to follow the correct procurement process renders a government official criminally liable under Republic Act 3019: The Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act for “grave misconduct, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service”.

2) Second, it is subject to misuse and abuse in the hands of unscrupulous officers and soldiers. As on record, converted funds are “cleared”, commanding officers can use them practically for any purpose desired to include personal expenses, allowances, travel “pabaon”, buy a house and car, pay personal credit card bills, night-clubbing and philandering purposes.

3)  Third, since items bought through converted funds are evidences of an unethical act, they are not entered into the property book and can be taken away. I have heard of offices buying laptops every time a new boss comes in because they were taken by the previous occupants.

4) Fourth, conversion is essentially inefficient as the “cost of money” does not maximize the use of that resource. Projects than need conversion must always have the 25% on top of the projected expenditure. It also distorts the financial planning process as the budget does not reflect actual expenditures and these actual expenditures are not properly recorded.

5) The purchases and activities resulting from converted funds are foremost sources of corruption, income discrepancies, professional jealousies and demoralization in the Armed Forces. The lifestyle of officers and soldiers receiving allowances derived from conversion are  far more affluent than those who rely on their salaries alone. The Captain who rides a jeepney and sees a fellow Captain drive a nice car feels not only inadequacy but also resentment.

6) And the biggest downside of all is the adverse effect of conversion on the professional ethics of the officers and soldiers who have to resort to it to cover operational requirements and achieve the mission.  It is a serious violation of the Officer Code that “An Officer does not lie, cheat, steal nor tolerate those who do”. It slowly and very subtly erodes the moral fibers of soldiers involved in it. It is an anathema to the ethical and professional development of an officer.

In many cases, a unit commander cannot be blamed for converting his funds. Operations dictate particular sets of requirement but the budget allocated is in a different accounting class. Coupled with stringent government accounting and auditing rules and unscrupulous dealers and auditors, conversion becomes a necessary evil, essential to accomplishing the mission.  Hence, it is both a solution and a problem. However, considering its downsides, it is more of a problem that must be resolved.  There must be a way to first control the use of conversion and to audit the monies and properties derived from it. Ultimately, it should be eliminated and replaced with a system that promotes transparency and accountability.

Is Rebuilding the Armed Forces possible?

I have experienced attempting to reform the Armed Forces in both ways: the violent way with implications in the 1987 and 1989 coup attempts and the peaceful way through the “Rizal” way of writing about and advocating military reforms. The failures of the 1987 and 1989 coup attempts are well known. For the peaceful way, I figured that if it cannot be done through the use of the sword, I can push reform through the power of the pen. So I wrote, wrote and wrote -- in magazines, letters to the editor, research papers, even letters to our lawmakers. When I was editor of the Army Journal, I transformed it to be a “forum for professional issues” and not just the sounding board or photo album for the generals. We started publishing essays critical of Army systems and for a while, got away with it. But today, all I see are benign and non-critical articles.  It has not evolved into an “an agent of progressive ideas and constructive change…to create a progressive-minded Officer Corps and a professional Army”. I did a similar approach with the Cavalier magazine of the Philippine Military Academy and for a while got away with it as well until I had to resign as editor after writing a stinging editorial mocking the PMA motto entitled, “Courage, Integrity, Loyalty, Yeh Right!”.

Thus, if my experience is any indication, the chain of command does not listen very well to soundings of reform. No amount of coup attempts and mutinies, Davide Commissions, Congressional Hearings and millions of pages about military reform have made a real difference. In fact, many of the abhorrent practices in the AFP have become so entrenched that it will be difficult to untangle them. Yes, there is a grievance system in the Armed Forces but it does not work as it ought to. Legitimate complaints and constructive criticisms are clamped down by the chain of command as insubordination, dissent or worse, rebellion. Once in a while, you get crazy guys like Admiral Wong, Commander Angue, Captain Lim and LTSG Trillanes who will openly denounce corruption and unprofessionalism. The outcome? Some are relieved, some get co-opted back and promoted or given good positions, others are silenced with threats, others, like myself,  resign. One thing is constant however -- the complaints are on the whole ignored and eventually forgotten, no genuine actions are taken and later, everything goes back to normal again. For now, we can only hope that the investigations being conducted and the Feliciano Commission formed by the government  are serious, sincere efforts and not merely “palabas” and eventually a useless exercise.  For what has happened to the results of the Davide Commission? Where has the idealism of the officers involved in previous coup attempts gone? And what has happened to the Armed Forces of the Philippines?  From past experience, there is cause for pessimism that the government will not take serious action and the AFP will not undertake comprehensive reform.

Over the years, official proclamations on reform have been mere lip service and unethical conduct has been openly tolerated and even encouraged. How many times have we heard a Chief of Staff or Commanding General proclaim that the AFP has become professional? But no senior officer has been caught or punished for financial wrongdoings. It has become a never-ending cycle of abuse and corruption to which there is seemingly no end, from one Chief of Staff to another, one Commander in Chief to the next. Nobody seems to be really listening. Look at what is happening now. Whether intentionally or not, the issue of corruption raised by the Magdalo group has been overshadowed by other issues. They call this in Psychological Operations, diversion. The reputation of the mutiny leaders is also being questioned. When the counter-propagandist cannot directly refute the issues, they destroy the source’s credibility. This is called indirect refutation. Sooner or later, the corruption issues raised by the Magdalos are likely to be  forgotten.  Indeed, anyone advocating reform in the AFP is a voice in the wilderness and the frustration of the Magdalo group when it comes to the AFP chain of command not listening is understandable, but not their action at Oakwood.  

Military reform will not come easy and will come with great risks to the Arroyo administration or to any administration. It will be an uphill battle against former generals who will be offended when human rights abuses and corrupt financial transactions are exposed. There will be resistance from those whose careers and economic interests will be threatened -- unscrupulous defense officials, senior officers, politicians and influential suppliers. It will be difficult because the very generals and colonels now running the system benefited or are benefiting from it. How can one reform a corrupt system that is protected by the generals from all sides, those still in the service, those in government service and those who are already retired. Plus you have the connections with politicians and big businessmen. By admitting that the system is defective puts into question their own rise in the ranks and their positions. As for conversion, why kill the goose that lays the golden egg?
Indeed, it will be difficult but not hopeless. I am not entirely pessimistic and I believe that with political will, moral courage and the right management, rebuilding the professionalism and integrity of the Armed Forces is possible. As many say, it cannot be done overnight but we must start sometime, somehow. Indeed, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Many say that unprofessionalism and corruption is an ethical or moral problem. Yes, morality is an issue but that will take time to change. To effect quick changes, they should be looked at as management problems that can be controlled and managed. Where management voids are glaring, unprofessionalism and corruption follows. Military reform should be approached as if it was a change management project with clear objectives, systematic processes and well-structured, motivated teams with good leaders. Performance, transparency and accountability shall be the name of the game.  

Turning-around the AFP can be done. What is lacking in AFP reform is the political resolve and the moral courage to face the risks and take action. I have been involved in change programs and yes, it will not be easy and will come with a lot of sacrifice on the part of the leaders. Top management commitment, support and example are very important ingredients, things that have been absent in military reform actions in the past and until now.  Management turnover is quick--look at the number of CSAFP in less than year -- thus, there is no consistency. There is also no real motivation to be committed to change or reform as fixing conversion, for example, is a threat to personal economic interests. The lack of competence among officers to drive changes is another factor. But there are well-meaning, competent and quick-learning officers who can lead a reform campaign without a mutiny.

One other thing that needs to be corrected if reform is to be an acceptable idea to the AFP Command is the concept of “criticism”. The general mindset today is that anything which points out the wrongdoing of senior officers is considered as “insubordination”. Orders in combat are one thing but telling a commander that he is not supposed to use unit funds for personal use is another. It is a sign of professionalism not insubordination. In my case, I was branded a “rightist rebel” in my early days as a lieutenant when I got involved in the 1989 coup attempt. Then, when my father, General Jarque, defected to the NDF in 1993, I was branded a “left-leaning” rebel. The funny thing is that I was advocating the same issues of unprofessionalism and corruption in the AFP which know no boundaries of ideology, right, left or center. For me, it was just the right thing that a professional officer ought to do. It did not occur to the AFP chain of command that I was just trying to be a progressive officer and a professional soldier. 

Who are Responsible for AFP Reform?

There is a saying in the military, “The Commander is responsible for everything that the unit does or fails to do”. As the commanders in the AFP come from the Officer Corps, I say that the present state of unprofessionalism and corruption in the military is a failure in leadership of the Officer Corps. Clearly, the fault and the responsibility lies in the officers and their collective failure to build a truly professional military. It is in the Officer Corps where both the problem and the solution lies. Directives and laws will not solve unprofessionalism and corruption. A dedicated pool of leaders and managers is needed not only to implement the directives and  policies but also to set the example. Certainly, the future of the Armed Forces, whether it improves or regresses, is in the hands of the Officer Corps.

One reason I resigned from the military service was because I felt that the professional milieu in the AFP  was no longer acceptable to my sense of integrity.  Looking back, there was nothing faulty with the AFP as an organization. The fault-line lay deeper--in its leaders.  The ultimate reason for the AFP’s failure as an institution to uphold the virtues of the profession of arms lies in the Officer Corps. The unprofessionalism and corruption in the AFP today are merely reflective of the professional and moral bankruptcy of the Officer Corps. At the core of reform is the integrity of the officers -- from the Lieutenant to the General, from the platoon leader to the Chief of Staff.  The Martial Law years disoriented the values of the Officer Corps and many of that era’s attitude and practices remain today. Over the years, as a result of government neglect and public apathy, officers have been accustomed to unethical practices as a way of getting around a rigid system in order to provide for legitimate operational requirements.  In the hands of unscrupulous officers, these practices are abused for personal gain and power.

What is intriguing is that the AFP senior staff are mostly Peemayers and in large measure, Peemayers must share the blame and the responsibility for the dismal state of the Armed Forces (and also the Philippine National Police). The despicable state of the Officer Corps today is, for the most part, the result of action and/or inaction of Peemayers who have failed to live up to the Academy motto of Courage, Integrity, Loyalty, who have chosen the easier wrong to the harder right. The “mistah” system has seemingly become a code of omerta and a protection racket. PMA has been successful in churning out officers for a progressive and lucrative military career but it has utterly failed in imbuing cadets and officers with character, moral courage and integrity. And the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association has been conspicuously silent about the actions of its members. Another organization that has been quiet is the Association of General and Flag Officers whose members, were once the top AFP leaders.

Necessarily, due to the hierarchical structure of the AFP, a peaceful and relatively quicker reform campaign must start from the top. The approach must be top-down. Inputs from the bottom must, however, be generated and buy-in created to ensure an effective reform process. But today, given the overall character and quality of the Officer Corps and the top chain of command, I have serious doubts whether the Armed Forces of the Philippines can police its own self and reform from within. Reforming the AFP will be difficult but it is not hopeless for so long as there are officers who try to live up to the ideals and indeed, there are officers who try to be professional and honest. As the Marines say, “we need a few good men”. Unfortunately, it is these few good men who do not rise for they are too honest for their own good. The hope for reform lies in the junior officers of today who unfortunately are slowly being corrupted and eaten up by the present corrupt system. How to shield these junior officers from the rotten acts of their superiors and promote professional ethics in their ranks as they rise in their military career is going to be a serious challenge. But it is a must if we are to build a professional and honest Officer Corps which means a professional and honest Armed Forces.

Towards this end, I believe that the civil sector should play a role in reforming the military by way of pressure, by keeping the reform process alive, by opening up issues and concerns to the public. The role of Congress is essential as reforming the AFP will require the enactment of laws or the review of existing laws governing the military and defense. Perhaps, Congressional inquiries “in aid of legislation” can be more forthright and sincere in opening up and publicly discussing sensitive professional and ethical matters such as conversion and political intervention in promotions and assignments. They should continue the pressure for prosecution of generals involved in the RSBS scandal for which even the retirement funds of the soldiers were not exempted from their crookedness. Lifestyle checks should focus on senior officers as not all of them can have heiresses as wives.

However, more than the Legislative, it is the Executive branch that should lead the  reform process. The Department of Finance and/or Budget and Management can investigate the matter of conversion -- as it is very difficult to find witnesses and evidences without the cooperation of the AFP -- and devise ways to minimize, if not to eliminate, graft and corrupt practices in the AFP.  The President is the Commander in Chief and therefore holds ultimate command responsibility for the AFP. The President’s decisions and actions will dictate the intensity and tempo of reform. In the end, the failure to reform the AFP is the failure of the Commander in Chief. Hence, the biggest question of all is whether the Commander in Chief, the President, has the moral courage and the political will to initiate fundamental reforms.

A Brief Word on the Magdalo Group Mutiny

I recall my experiences in 1987 and 1989 and I cannot help but see myself in the soldiers at Oakwood. Whether they were used or manipulated is the subject of an investigation and I will not dwell into that. What I would like to say though it that in the young officers mind, I surmise a messianic complex compounded by a sense of adventurism and misguided idealism. A major factor in the creation of this mindset is the politicization of the soldiers in the field where they are exposed to the inadequacies of the government and the Armed Forces. In trying to accomplish their mission of “wining the hearts and minds” of remote barangays, soldiers become involved in the life of the communities in their areas of responsibility. In many cases, they take over government responsibilities where they are lacking in the form of medical and dental civacs, education programs and other organizing and development projects. 

Then after experiencing the hardships in their detachments, they visit Camp Aguinaldo or Fort Bonifacio and they see a glaring inequity in lifestyle. While they are “rotting” in the field, their senior officers are “enjoying” in the camps. While they find it difficult to source funds to fix their jeeps and trucks in the mountains, majors and colonels drive around in nice cars in Metro Manila. While they receive a meager salary, they find that their comrades and mistahs are getting unauthorized allowances double or triple their basic salaries. Frustration sets in and the barrel of the gun, and the inherent sense of power that comes with it, becomes a way to release that frustration. That frustration and idealism can be  manipulated by scrupulous people who will use it for their own ends. It is indeed sad to see such promising officers go to waste. As a former officer, I agree to the nobility of their cause but not the means.

Yes, the means the employed is disagreeable but the cause that they espoused in denouncing corruption in the Armed Forces is very much alive. I had the same questions when I was a junior officer: to whom can we go to if the chain of command is not listening? Perhaps, in the minds of the Magdalos, bringing their cause to the Filipino people was the best thing to do and perhaps, even the most honorable as indeed, they are soldiers of the Filipino people and not of the generals and politicians.


Having been an officer, I continue to feel responsible for the dismal state of the AFP today. Thus, I continue to advocate for military reform as I cannot accept the current state of the AFP despite the rosy rhetoric from the generals about a “reformed” AFP. The cries and gripes of the Magdalo group say otherwise. And there are thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen who are mute witnesses to the unprofessionalism and corruption in the AFP that continues to fuel discontent and frustration. The threat of a coup or a mutiny can only be neutralized if we reform the AFP for it to be a responsible and honest organization led by a professional Officer Corps. Why I continue to advocate military reform despite the seeming impossibilities? A parable which appeared in the Army Journal in June 1994 is, I believe, an appropriate answer. In the end, I can only change myself and not the world.
A long time ago, a philosopher went to a city to save its people from their sins  and  tell them the good news.   At first, people listened to him but gradually, they turned away.  However, the philosopher continued to preach and this time, even louder.  People did not understand and asked themselves
“Why does he go on?  Does  he not  see  that  his mission is hopeless? Then one day, a curious  child  asked   the  wise man why he went on and on. The  philosopher  calmly  replied, “In the  beginning,  I  thought  I  could change them. If I still shout today, it is only to prevent them from changing me”.

No amount of lessons in democracy nor instilling the concept of civilian authority over the military can prevent another military mutiny or coup attempt in the future. Only by reforming the Armed Forces and creating a professional  and honest Officer Corps can we be assured that the military will know its rightful place in a democratic society. For the sake of the country and our people, for our children and posterity, the Armed Forces of the Philippines must be reformed.

July 2003    

(Paper Distributed/Read at a Public Forum "Understanding the Oakwood Mutiny" Sponsored by BAYAN, 16 Aug. 2003 PCED Hostel UP Diliman, Quezon City)

About the author

Rene N. Jarque is a former Philippine Army officer who served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of National Defense and spearheaded the effort to produce the first Defense Policy Paper (In Defense of the Philippines, 1998). He was Chief of Strategic Research of the Office of Strategic and Special Studies, Armed Forces of the Philippines wherein he published several papers on security concerns and defense-military management and represented the AFP in international security conferences.  Scout Ranger, Airborne and PSYOPS qualified, he served in a variety of command and staff positions in the First Scout Ranger Regiment, 5th Infantry Division and the Psychological Operations Group. He authored the  manual on Psychological Operations and co-authored a Scout Ranger manual. He was a lecturer in AFP schools with the distinction of Best Instructor Award and was editor of  the Army Journal, Cavalier and the OSS Digest. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, class of 1986, and has an MBA from the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.


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