Book Review: 'The Enemy Within'

- Rommel C. Banlaoi -

By Rommel C. Banlaoi

FEW days after the re-arrest of retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, a former chief comptroller of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) charged of multiple corruption for his unexplained wealth, Newsbreak launched a book, The Enemy Within, last Oct. 5 to disclose more stories on military corruption in the Philippines.

Authored by award-winning investigative journalists - Glenda Gloria, Aries Rufo, and Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza - The Enemy Within is a fearless disclosure of major issues that have become the epicenters of corrupt practices in the Philippine military.

Chapter One, “In the Name of War”, written by Gloria talks about how men who are tasked to fight wars are able to make money (intended to win a war) and enrich themselves.

Chapter Two, “The Epic Failure” by Mendoza, laments how the civilian leaders fail to tame the military from corrupt practices.

Chapter Three, “How the Big Fish Got Away” by Rufo, discloses how the sense of impunity perpetuates these corrupt practices.

The Final Chapter, “Making Money, Making Peace” also by Rufo, tells how these corrupt practices have reached military peacekeeping missions abroad.

In theory, military corruption is easy to curb in the armed forces organization because of its rigid system and hierarchical structure. Fighting military corruption is easier done when the military commanders can lead with utmost integrity and sheer honesty.

The perennial problem of military corruption occurs when commanders themselves are corrupt. The situation becomes worse when corrupt commanders can act with impunity amidst their illicit activities because they are protected by equally corrupt civilian leaders.

Principles of good governance require the civilian authorities to exercise oversight of the military and make the armed forces accountable to democratic processes.

The Enemy Within aims to disclose the great dilemma on how to fight an enemy when they lie inside the military hierarchy and the civilian bureaucracy.

Indeed, the enemy within is the hardest to subdue. To paraphrase the old Chinese proverb, “the hardest victory is the victory against the enemy within.”

Thus, Gloria, Newsbreak Executive Director, expresses her immense agony when she strongly admits that “writing this book was painful”.

Indeed, nothing is more painful than to write about endemic corruption in the military, an important political institution that should serve as the symbol of our country’s national pride. Because of the corruption committed by a few bad men in uniform in cahoots with predatory civilian officials, the Philippine military has put our country into a grim reality of national shame.

The title of the book paints a negative image of AFP and the civilian institutions mandated to oversee it. But the book, which is a rare masterpiece in Filipino investigative journalism, has the noble intention to make the AFP more transparent and accountable to civilian authorities.

The authors, in fact, “hope to help an institution confront the enemy within and – with the help of a mature civilian leadership – defeat it.”

Having said this, the book has a great value not only to the wider public seeking good governance but also to academics and scholars analyzing the state of civil-military relations in the Philippines. 

The book valiantly reveals that military corruption persists in a weak political system with problematic civil-military relations. The corrupted civil-military relation is, in fact, “The Enemy Within”.

Hence, curbing corruption in the military requires not only a military reform but also a comprehensive transformation of civil-military relations in the Philippines.  

Without a strong civil-military relation where the military is answerable to the democratic control of the equally accountable and transparent civilian authorities, it will be very difficult to defeat the enemy within, and more so in defeating the enemies of the state. 

This inside story on military corruption in the Philippines is a story many times told already in newspapers, talk shows and official investigations.

But the book is written to tell the inconvenient truth that the “The Enemy Within” poses a greater threat than the enemies of the state.

If the enemy within is not subdued, the Philippines is doomed to suffer this cycle of military corruption from generation to generation.









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