‘More than just a motto’

THIRD EYE - Ramon J. Farolan - The Philippine Star

First of all, in my last column on R.A. 11709 setting out fixed terms for key AFP officials, we acknowledged the efforts and assistance of individuals who tirelessly worked for the passage of the new law. Some names were inadvertently left out from the list.

Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana was from the beginning in the forefront of efforts to bring about changes in the system but, like a good soldier, he marched in accordance with the beat of the drummer, serving as the middleman between the legislative and executive branches. Lorenzana mentioned that if there was one person at DND who stayed on top of the issue throughout the long process, it would be USec Arnel Duco, his deputy for legislative affairs, who consistently followed up the bill in the Senate and the House. Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Luzverfeda Pascual continued monitoring the measure up to the Bicam until submission to the President.

Secretary Renato de Villa did yeoman’s work in bringing about positive results for the military organization.

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In a small book titled “More Than Just a Motto: Stories of Courage, Integrity and Loyalty,” several graduates of the PMA shared actual experiences in their careers, showing that the three core values inculcated in them at the Academy continued to serve as guideposts throughout their lives, even after leaving Fort del Pilar.

General Manuel B. Mariano, class 1962, was at the AFP Logistics Command during the 1989 coup attempt. In his own words, he narrates how he kept his composure during those critical moments. Facing a showdown with his commander, he stood by his principles at great personal risk.

“I was the Vice Commander of the Logistics Command, hereinafter known as Logcom, when the 1989 coup d’etat attempt happened. On that fateful morning of 01 December, I was surprised when my then Commanding Officer ordered all personnel to assemble in front of headquarters. Upon reporting at the assembly area, I saw officers distributing firearms. I was given an M16 rifle. I thought that we were getting ready with the defense of our area from rebel forces. I was wrong. The Commanding Officer addressed the assembly and declared, ‘There is a failure in the chain of command and I am the highest one remaining in the Chain. I say, we join the rebels!’ At that instant, I noticed that some soldiers inverted the Philippine flag with officers and enlisted men passing around arm bands. At once, I felt a number of emotions from disbelief, anxiousness and dread. I was not one to be bold and had always believed in our democratic system of government.

“So, when I was offered an arm band, I declined. I immediately went to the office of my Commanding Officer to confront him as his Vice Commander. With my M16 rifle in tow, I saluted him and asked permission to talk to him freely. I did not really process or prepare the words I was supposed to say nor did I even think of the implications on what I was going to do. I just wanted to be honest with him. I told him that I cannot join the coup because I was for the government. For a moment, I saw that my Commanding Officer was jolted. Most probably, he assumed that I would be joining them. Then, I half-expectedly thought that I would be taken hostage or that I could suffer a far worse fate.

“However, like an officer, a gentleman and a fellow cavalier, he told me, ‘Thank you, Manny, for being frank with me. I am giving you 15 minutes to leave this headquarters. You pass there!’ The Commanding Officer was pointing at the gate in front of the headquarters. Then he said, ‘You bring your firearm and when we see each other, we shoot at each other!’ I answered, ‘Yes, sir!’

“From the office of my Commanding Officer, I hurriedly went to the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo and reported that the whole Logcom turned and sided with the rebels. Thereafter, an order was issued designating me as the Acting Commanding Officer of the Logcom. With the information I provided, military units were deployed to Logcom area in order to preserve the unit. Soon after, the Logcom was retaken.

“Most of Logcom personnel surrendered. The Chief of Staff, AFP issued an order that all personnel who surrendered were to be detained while being investigated. In the meantime, being the Logcom Acting Commanding Officer, I was tasked to provide ammunition and other logistical support to the government forces in the on-going coup attempt. Since all the Logcom personnel joined the rebel forces except me, I had no manpower and means to execute the command. Knowing that I had worked with the surrendered personnel and was confident that I could rally them to support the government’s cause, I pleaded with the Chief of Staff, AFP not to have them detained and personally vouched for these personnel in order to support the government forces. The Chief of Staff relented.”

For his courage, professionalism and conduct in the face of grave personal danger and uncertainty, General Mariano was awarded the second-highest military award, the Distinguished Conduct Star, by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Incidentally, the 1989 coup attempt eventually collapsed when F-4 Phantom jets from Clark flew low, buzzing rebel positions and sending the message that no T-28s would be allowed to take off in support of the coup.

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Email: [email protected]


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