‘Code of honor’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2016 - 9:00am

Soldiers and police know beforehand they have to lay down their lives when they chose this field of profession. These uniformed men in the service were trained at the military and police academies, respectively, to help prepare them well as officers to lead their troops, especially in times of armed battles.

We have such institutions in our country like the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) based at Fort Gen. Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City. The Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), on the other hand, is at Camp Gen. Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite.

Before he steps down from office, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III will deliver the traditional commencement address at the graduation rites for the 2016 batches of cadets from the PMA and the PNPA. This will be his last and final task as their Commander-in-chief.

Every cadet who went through the rigors of training and discipline at the PMA and PNPA – upon graduation from these institutions – naturally dreams of one day becoming part of the top brass or if not top cop. To become one, they must also pursue higher studies and further training here and abroad.

During their cadetship, they were taught, trained and practically brainwashed to obey lawful and legal orders and to abide by and follow the chain of command. As future officers of the military and police organizations, they were honed on the concept of command and control.

Not all, however, can become five-star general or chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or become a five-star rank director-general of the Philippine National Police (PNP). And they must face the reality that their dream lies in the hands of the appointing authority – their Commander-in-chief.

Now in his last five months in office, the outgoing President has had six AFP chiefs of staff, including incumbent Gen.Hernando Irriberi during his watch.

In the case of the PNP, President Aquino installed five director-generals, including incumbent PNP chief Ricardo Marquez.

Last week, the Senate public hearing on the reopening of the legislative inquiry into the Mamasapano incident brought back bitter memories of how the chain of command and command control broke down and crossed between the military and the police establishments. The Filipino nation witnessed anew on live TV the unfortunate specter of our military and police pointing at each other at the Senate hearing over the botched Oplan Exodus.

In the aftermath of this Oplan to capture a most wanted Malaysian terrorist bomber, Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, 44 PNP Special Action Force (SAF) troopers were killed in action on January 25 last year.

In pursuit of Marwan, they were slain by Muslim rebels, bandits from other private armed groups in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano on that fateful day.

We had discussions about this latest public hearing of the Senate on the Mamasapano incident last Friday at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay where we invited PMAers-turned politicians. The panel of guests were, namely, Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, ACTT-CIS party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao; ex-AFP chief of staff retired Gen. Dionisio Santiago, and ex-SAF chief Getulio Napeñas.

The most senior PMAer of them is Santiago (PMA Class 1970). Honasan is PMA Class 1971 while Pagdilao is PMA Class 1979. The most junior is Napeñas who belongs to PMA Class 1982.

Pagdilao, Santiago and Napeñas are all running for the Senate. Pagdilao is adopted Senate candidate of the Poe ticket as well as the PDP-Laban ticket. Santiago is running as independent bet while Napeñas is under UNA Senate ticket.

Honasan is the vice presidential candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in the coming May 9 elections. He is the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay, UNA’s presidential standard-bearer. Incidentally, Honasan is the vice chairman of Sen. Grace Poe in the Senate committee on public order as the lead committee that looked into the Mamasapano incident.

Honasan took the opportunity during our weekly breakfast forum to reiterate his call for sobriety and statesmanship in the discussion and debate on the Mamasapano tragedy. He lamented anew how the top brass of the military and the police flippantly discussed national security matters in public, including that pertaining to enemies of the state.

All four erstwhile military and police officers were in agreement on the need to strengthen institutional systems such as the “chain of command” and “command and control” to prevent a repeat of this sorrowful episode that should not have happened if these principles were strictly followed.

In arguing for strict adherence to the chain of command, Honasan maintained, however, it should not weaken the hand of the President as Commander-in-chief.

The concepts of the chain of command, and the principle of command and control, Honasan rightly underscored, are not exclusive the use of the police and military. These are the same management tools being applied in civilian and private offices. The same concepts, he added, are also the principles being observed in our homes. As the basic unit of society, the family hierarchy is followed: father, mother, son/daughter.

The reopening of the probe on the Mamasapano incident merely led to the resurfacing of mistrust, or shall we say distrust between the AFP and the PNP. Ironically, some of those involved in this tragic drama were their own fellow PMAers, if not a “mistah,” or PMA lingo for classmate.  

Ex-PNP chief Alan Purisima and retired AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang were “mistahs” of PMA Class 1981. But when he carried out Oplan Exodus while under Ombudsman suspension, Purisima kept his “mistah” out of the loop until the SAF needed rescue and were nearly wiped out.

Calling themselves as “Closer than Brothers” (lifted from a book title about PMAers), all four of them insisted, however, there is nothing wrong with their “mistah” system.

While calling themselves “brothers in arms,” they all swore to their “code of honor” (God, country and family in this order of priority) as the one that prevails over their “mistah” system.

*      *      *

Social Security System senior vice president and chief actuary George Ongkeko and official spokesperson Susie Bugante are guests at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay this Wednesday (February 3) at Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle in Malate.


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