in the Military Establishment
Capt. Danilo P. Vizmanos, PN (ret.)
Former AFP Inspector-General
to Alternative Reader Index
public reaction, from sympathy to harsh condemnation, has emerged in the
aftermath of the “unusual incident” at the Oakwood Apartelle in Makati last
One’s perception of the military demonstration staged by young officers who
identified themselves as the “Magdalo Group” hinges on the question: What
was the real objective of the military rebels?
If it was the seizure of state power, then the rebel connection with a
“trapo” camp, particularly a discredited one, doomed the project right from
the start. In the absence of mass-based popular support, such a bold venture
within a narrow military framework had as much changes of success as the
Philippine Navy wiping out the PLA’s South China Sea Fleet in the battle of
If it was a limited objective aimed at exposing the rottenness and corruption in
the military hierarchy in order to arouse public opinion and gain popular
support, then the young officers could have chosen a different approach. Of
course this is premised on nobility of purpose based on a just cause and genuine
The Magdalo Group claimed a following of more than 2,000 military activists, an
equivalent of four battalions, coming from all services. This is a very
significant number for a military demonstration motivated by a just and
legitimate cause. Magdalo could have concentrated this large contingent, without
arms but in full uniform, for a prayer-rally either at Plaza Miranda facing
Quiapo Church or in front of the Manila Cathedral. With full media coverage, the
aggrieved soldiers could then come out with a litany of grievances, based on
plausible and verifiable information, exposing the gamut of corruption,
irregularities and anomalies committed, and still being committed, at all levels
of command all the way to the uppermost strata of the logistics and comptroller
divisions in GHQ and the Office of the Secretary of National Defence.
Premised on just and legitimate grievances, this unarmed and non-violent
military prayer-rally could have serve as the nucleus and rallying point of
rapidly expanded people’s power demonstration that could have shaken the
political foundations of the stigmatized Arroyo regime.
Attempts by State authorities to suppress and stifle such a non-violent and
constructive mass-based demonstration could only add fuel to the politically
sensitive and volatile situation. Repressive acts by the State would have
rallied the people to the just cause of the oppressed, harassed and persecuted
Magdalo Group with dire consequences to the Arroyo regime.
But this concept of a non-violent mass-based military demonstration seems to
have eluded the analysis and calculations of the group’s audacious leadership
and supposedly sophisticated psy-ops specialists in the rebel camp.
Compare this unarmed and non-violent option with what actually happened in
Oakwood. The Magdalo Group was armed to the teeth in the apartelle and premises
on July 27. Yet, this surfeit of arms amounted to nothing and was unable to
prevent the collapse of the military uprising in less than 24 hours. The will to
struggle, despite a large number of arms, easily gave way to subtle and astute
reasoning and rationalizations of State authorities. Talagang marami pang
kakaning bigas ang mga bata. Di kaya ay nilunok nila ang mali at mapanlilang na
payo na nanggaling kung saan man. What made matters even worse was that the
armed demonstration gave legal and moral justification to the Arroyo regime to
“throw the book” at the military rebels.
A Malignant Cancer
The ill-conceived demonstration may have failed, but this does not mean that the
political and military leadership in Malacañang and Camp Aguinaldo can now
The July 27 “incident” was merely a symptom of a malignant cancer eating
away at the vitals of a terribly sick and decaying establishment. One cannot
rule out the possibility that there may be greater numbers in the rank-and-file
who sympathize with the rebels. It remains to be seen whether the internal rot
and corruption in the establishment, as cited by the rebels, can be checked or
allowed to metastasize beyond control in the days to come. A malignant tumor in
the Arroyo government, as perceived by the rebels and their sympathizers, is
US-backed Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes. This malignancy could well decide the
fate of the Arroyo government sooner or later. Unlike Gen. Victor Corpus,
the term “delicadeza” is not part of the vocabulary of Secretary Reyes
who seems to super from moral paucity.
The Marcos Legacy
If there is one single factor that has contributed most to the deterioration of
discipline, morale and professionalism in the military and police organizations,
it is none other than the Marcos legacy of 14 years of martial rule from
1972 to 1986.
Systematic and methodical corruption of the military hierarchy was an essential
part of the Marcos strategy to maintain his control of the armed forces and
assure longevity of the dictatorship.
“Power-sharing’ was also part of the political strategy as an incentive to
the politically ambitious military brass who hungered for state power and a
share of the loot of the people’s money. The shrewd and wily Marcos certainly
knew how to bloat the ego and swell the heads of top brass opportunists.
On the issue of martial law authority and state terrorism, Marcos had no qualms
in giving license to sadistic officers and men to commit human rights violation
with impunity. All those engaged in counter-insurgency conflict were given a
free hand to “salvage” and torture “subversives” and “enemies of the
state” without fear of prosecution in any court of law.
Three classes of the Philippine Military Academy – 1970, 1971, 1972 – stand
out conspicuously as the principal instruments used by Marcos in dealing with
“enemies of the state” in the most brutal and ruthless manner. Among those
who came from these classes are Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Victor Batac,
Billy Bibit and Rodolfo Aguinaldo. These lieutenants of the 1970s have held key
and prestigious position in the political establishment.
Because of this pernicious Marcos legacy, the Arroyo regime and succeeding ones
are condemned to walking a tightrope as they are left with no instruction that
have become liabilities instead of assets to government and society.
Distributed/Read at a Public Forum "Understanding the Oakwood Mutiny"
Sponsored by BAYAN, 16 Aug. 2003 PCED Hostel UP Diliman, Quezon City)
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