Military honor in the Philippines is dying
By Joe America
My bias is that of an American soldier, trained under the hot, humid Missouri sunshine, taught to forgo personal comfort for success of the unit, taught to kill with a rifle, bayonet, grenade, cannon, or bare hands. Taught that victory and honor are more important than life. Taught to leave no man behind.
Americans worship their troops about as much as they worship Jesus, I’d guess, for the troops are the saviors of democratic principle, of freedom, the right to speak, and fair dealing. They live by honorable principles, they follow orders, they serve at great sacrifice. They die for us.
The schools in the US that train military officers are the best of the best, West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy. They pick smart, strong young men and women and teach them how to command. The regular troops also get the best training in the world. Their regimen is disciplined and rigorous and honed by 100 years of best practices, improved armaments, and tests in the battlefield. Wins, losses, do it better next time.
Philippine Military Academy
The Philippines also has an excellent military officers school, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). It’s curriculum is modeled after that of West Point. It leads with the right idea, for sure:
Core values: Selfless service to God and country. Honor. Excellence.
The fundamentals of PMA are great, the rigorous selection and training, strong discipline, the military lessons taught, the brains and the brawn. Its heritage is strong, anchored by the courage and valor of men who fought during World War II. President Magsaysay, a former mountain rebel, knew something about that. And American soldiers hold great respect for the bravery and sacrifices made by Philippine troops under fire. They fell, together, and they won, together.
But today, more than a half century later, there is a hole in the PMA output somewhere. I don’t completely understand it myself, but something is wrong.
The problem occurs when military school graduates are selected to fill key Philippine National Police (PNP) slots.
Let’s step back a bit and gather some context.
The Philippine National Police Academy
There actually is an Academy devoted entirely to training of police leaders, the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), but it has never earned the respect accorded military leaders [“PNPA grads vs PMA grads“, Inquirer].
Before dismissing the PNPA as irrelevant here, let me undertake a brief digression into its values. The stated Vision and Mission of the school are as follows:
Vision: The Philippine National Police Academy, for the glory of God, shall be the primary institution to develop knowledge, skills and the virtues of Justice, Integrity and Service.
Mission: To provide comprehensive education and training programs to transform cadets into God-center, community –responsive public safety officers trusted and respected by the people.
Two points: First, the PNPA web site is housed at .edu.ph subordinate to the Department of Education, I suppose, with its mission drawn from the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG). It is a civilian charter. Second, God plays a prominent role in motivating the school, but I don’t know who this God is. Is He the Father of Jesus? Does He believe in service or slaughter? Why are so many police engaged in killings outside the law? Is it an Old Testament Police Force (OTPF), aimed at punishing the miscreants who dally in drugs?
Are the police glorifying God when they are in the field, do you think?
Are they trusted and respected by the people?
Frankly, I think that neither God nor the PNPA have much influence in guiding the police once they are on the job, today, in 2017.
Power, conveyed from the officers above, and Greed, move in.
The police are under military leadership
The Chief of Police, under direction of the President, has the responsibility for appointing his deputies. The Chief can choose those officers with military training at the PMA, or those who attended the Philippine National Police Academy and rose through the police ranks based on service. It rankles the PNPA graduates, but the Chief generally favors PMA graduates, and the current Chief is no exception [“Bato chooses PMA upperclassmen as PNP deputies“, Inquirer].
If there is a culture at the top of the PNP today, it seems from my desk to be a combination of military (discipline and obedience) and self-service (power and greed). Somewhere along the way, the pure military ideals, glory to God, service to nation, gaining the people’s trust and respect . . . and honor . . . got yanked from the culture.
It’s perplexing in the extreme. I see officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as holding different values than the PNP leadership. They draw their officers from the same Philippine Military Academy, but hold to their service and honor charter. Perhaps their association with the US military tradition is stronger, or the forces of greed are not so prominent. They are not bribed or enticed to join the dark side by local political bosses or drug lords, as are the police chiefs.
I learned during the Mamasapano hearings that the generals are committed to carrying out successful military missions. Passionately, honorably, bravely.
I fault Senator Poe, who led the Senate investigation, for undermining that integrity. She insisted on laying bare on the public stage the military tactics and the personal emotions of men dealing with battlefield failure, and tried to assign it as political blame against President Aquino. She could benefit by a stint in the army, I think, or a couple of courses at the PMA.
It seems to me that the generals of the AFP are more diligent in granting glory to God and more honorable in serving the people and their nation than their counterparts at the PNP.
Perhaps the problem within the PNP is that it is a tribal force, too much under the influence of local politicians or tough regional commanders. Today, local police commanders seem to be engaged in drugs and killing across the nation. It is horrifying, the way they consider citizens to be the enemy, either for doing drugs or trying to stop the cops from dealing drugs (as witnesses). It is horrifying the way they execute people at will. With impunity granted by the President.
The breakdown of honor within the PNP stains the nation’s military integrity so badly. It appears from the outrageous number of killings occurring under the encouragement or watch of the PNP that, not only would the PNP leaders leave a comrade behind, they’d shoot him if he blinked wrong. Furthermore, they’ve left a whole lot of Filipino citizens behind. They do this when they mark innocents, by lack of due process, as the enemy. As targets.
That’s why I say military honor in the Philippines is dying. Those who know right from wrong, who serve to protect Philippine citizens and the law, are serving different masters. Power. Greed.
And I worry that it is not just within the PNP.
I recoil inside, my military upbringing slapping me in the gut, when I see Philippine military officers raising their fists in a power salute, joined with the President. I know that they have forgotten to defend ALL the people they are tasked to keep safe. They are playing politics, not patriotism. They are playing power and favor, not honor and service.
The President is wrong, as Commander in Chief, for putting them in that awkward position.
The raised fist has no national recognition or authorization. It is not a salute, of respect. It is a claim . . . of power . . . and a demand for obedience.
A military unit is only as strong as its weakest element, because that is where the enemy is sure to attack.
When honor is weak, if the honorable allow that weakness to persist, they fail, and fall, right along side the dishonorable.