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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

Should President Aquino Get a Second Term as President?

Many Filipinos today are realizing that the single, six-year presidential term as prescribed in the 1987 Constitution is woefully inadequate for a good president like Benigno S. Aquino III. The delegates who wrote that provision in the Constitution must have still been reeling from the almost 20 years of “kleptocratic” rule of strongman Ferdinand Marcos when they decided that one term was enough for any future Philippine president. Four years—the presidential term at the time—would be too short; eight too long. Published 08/23/2014


China Owns the Entire South China Sea? What are They Smoking—Opium?

The arrogance of China is becoming readily apparent with each passing day. With their newly acquired economic and military power the Chinese appear unrestrained in their assertiveness towards their neighbors. China, instead of positioning itself as a 21st century superpower appears to be turning back the clock resembling more and more the 12th century empire of Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes who conquered most of Eurasia...just because they could. Published 08/12/2014
On Her 5th Death Anniversary, We Say 'Thanks for Nothing Cory Aquino'

The passage of time has a way of distilling reality and bringing out truths that are sometimes hidden or lost by present circumstances. Case in point is the overwhelming level of admiration many Filipinos have for former President Corazon Aquino. When she passed away in 2009, the entire nation seemed beside itself in grief. Her casket was mobbed by thousands of mourners as it slowly made its way through the streets of Metro Manila to its final resting place at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque. Published 08/02/2014
The Failure of Philippine Education Is Now Staring Us in the Face

Will the Philippines Ever Become a Developed Country? The short answer to that is no—at least not in our lifetime. While the country has of late improved it credit ratings as evidenced by upgrades from Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's all that perceived progress is illusory. In the Fifties and Sixties, when the Philippines was undeniably the country at the top of the heap in Southeast Asia, people said it would always be the most industrialized country in the region. Published 08/02/2014
So, Should Jejomar Binay Be the Next President of the Philippines?

Though his popularity rating has taken some hits lately, Vice President Jejomar Binay is still far and away the strongest contender for the Philippine presidency in 2016. But is he the right choice for the country? His legions of supporters will give you an enthusiastic "yes;" his detractors however, will tell you "no!" So who's right? To answer our question, lets look instead at Binay's deeds rather than the words of his supporters or detractors. Published 07/25/2014
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


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