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Decades of Mistakes Are Highlighted by the Pantag (Scarborough) Shoal Issue

China is getting tough with the Philippines for a reason…it can easily afford to. As far as the Chinese are concerned, Philippine Navy Flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) was once the US Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WHEC-715)Scarborough Shoal is the “low hanging fruit” that is the easiest to pluck. Among the nations that claim ownership to parts of the Spratly and the Paracel Islands, the Philippine military appears the least able to stand up to China’s military might. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has no air force or navy that can pose a credible counter-threat to the Chinese. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) no longer has fighter jets that fly while the Philippine Navy (PN) ships are mostly of World War II vintage—except for the two Coast Guard Cutters the United States recently turned over to the Philippines, which were built in the late 1960s. How did the once proud Philippine military deteriorate to the state it is in today? The Philippines was the first Southeast Asian country to fly supersonic fighter jets, and now it has none.

If one has to point fingers—and in order to have a clear understanding of the issue one must—many are to blame. Start with Ferdinand Marcos and his use of the military to suppress freedom and keep himself in power. Before Marcos, Filipinos had a generally healthy and positive perception of their military. That all changed during Martial Law when the army was feared and despised for its brutal, heavy-handed treatment of the people. The Colonels and Generals at the time had become exceedingly powerful (as well as wealthy) in exchange for keeping Marcos in power. And there was nothing the ordinary “Juan” could do but grin and bear it.

When the Marcos clique was eventually forced from office by the EDSA People Power uprising, the military gained back a bit of its prestige, but the decade of martial rule had irreparably damaged the relationship Filipinos had with their military. Soldiers were a group you had best be wary of. Retired Philippine Air Force Brig. Gen. Angel Okol Jr. (left), the first Filipino to fly the F-5 fighter jet in 1965, and Maj. Carlos Evangelista, the last to fly the jet, salute at the formal decommissioning of the aircraft at the Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga on October, 2005. - Photo By APThen Gringo Honasan and his trigger-happy RAM (Reform the Armed-Forces Movement) Boys proved everyone right when they staged coup after coup during the 1980s. Those actions pushed an already distrustful President Cory Aquino to be even more guarded towards the military.

What the AFP brass at the time failed to comprehend is that the military needs to have both the government and the people on their side if they are to survive and even flourish. Because what sitting president would push to increase military spending after being strafed and shot at by coup plotters? What public would demand that their soldiers be given more tanks and powerful modern weapons when they fear that those weapons could be used against them? Even today the high esteem that other countries bestow to their men and women in uniform is noticeably absent in the Philippines.

For the most part, the military got itself into the pickle it is now in. More to the point: the men in uniform then are largely to blame for the atrociously sorry state that the men in uniform now are in.

And to make matters worse you have the NPAs, the MILFs , the MNLFs, the Abu Sayyafs  and all the other armed bands of ideologues and brigands that continually do battle with Philippine soldiers—whittling away at both their numbers and their resources.

So now the powerful Chinese military is strutting around the West Philippine Sea rattling its sword and the Philippine military is caught with its pants down. Their flotilla of aging rust buckets and squadrons of propeller-driven aircraft are no match to the 21st century superpower that China is becoming. The Philippines can run to Uncle Sam for help but the US is saddled with its own problems. In addition, the wars it pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken such a heavy toll in lives and resources that the American public seems to have no appetite for involvement in yet another conflict, especially with a world-class military power like China, regardless of what the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty states.  All we can say is “hold on to your hats ‘cause it’s a rough and bumpy ride ahead.” Published 7/7/2012

RECENT EDITORIALS

China’s Military Base on Mabini Reef Violates the Philippine Constitution

While searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 11, 2014, a Philippine Air Force plane flying over the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea sighted Chinese reclamation activity in the Mabini Reef of the Kalayaan Island Group within the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. His aerial photographs were transmitted to the Philippine government for analysis. Published 07/10/2014


Napoles PDAF/NGO Scandal: What is Ten or Fifteen Billion Pesos Really Worth?

For those who have been following the Janet Lim-Napoles PDAF/NGO* scandal these past months, it is easy to get caught up in all the rhetoric—the words and phrases repeated day after day. Words like "ten billion" or "fifteen billion" have turned into something akin to "gray" background noise.  Words devoid of any real meaning or significance. So let us try to put back some meaning into those trite and often-repeated phrases in order to better understand some of the far-reaching ramifications of Napoles' actions. Published 06/30/2014
How could they not have known that the Napoles NGOs were fake?

With Senator Bong Revilla already in police custody in Camp Crame and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile set to join him any day now, people need to start asking tough questions going forward. The privilege speeches of the senators along with the histrionics that accompanied them are thankfully now over so we can all address this issue more objectively. Published 06/21/2014
The Self-Perpetuating Elite of the Philippines

In an essay published in the July 1968 issue of the American magazine Foreign Affairs, a novice Philippine senator described his country as “a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. . . . a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy… a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite…a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Published 06/14/2014
PHL Legislators Implicated in the Napoles PDAF Scam Face Definite Jail Time...Maybe

In the United States former four-star General and until recently Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced to resign as head of the VA by the ongoing healthcare scandal that has enveloped that agency. While one can safely assume that Shinseki was not involved in the actually transgressions being investigated, the fact that he headed the agency meant he had command responsibility over its entire staff. And their wrongful acts, whether he knew about them or not, cost him his job. That is the way things work in properly functioning democracies. In the Philippines however, things tend to get a little unusual. Published 06/03/2014
Why All the Fuss? We Knew They were Corrupt Anyway!

So finally the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. But we Pinoys should not be surprised at all. We all know how corrupt our country is. Even before former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of electoral sabotage and the misuse of public funds in 2011; even before Joseph “Erap” Estrada—an earlier president was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007; even before Ferdinand Marcos, a president-turned-dictator, was booted out of the country along with his family and cronies twenty-eight years ago; we Pinoys knew they were corrupt. Published 05/17/2014
The Case of Denise Cornejo and Cedric Lee, a Litmus Test for Pnoy and Philippine Justice

Now that the star attraction in the alleged Vhong Navarro rape incident is in police custody, the upcoming trial will be a litmus test for the Aquino administration as well as the Courts. The almost universal perception is that Philippine justice is broken and does not work. Laws are applied inequitably with the wealthy and powerful living almost above the law, while the common "tao" finds himself at the losing end of cases that usually drag on for years. Published 05/06/2014
Obama's Visit a Shot in the Arm for a Struggling Ally

After essentially showing the American Military the door in the early '90s, Filipinos have of late come to the realization that they need their "Uncle Sam" more than they thought they did. And back then the United States was also more than happy to oblige as their Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission had been closing down hundreds of military installations all across the USA. Published 04/29/2014


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