Yano lost no time in laying the foundation of his tenure as commanding general of the Philippine Army.
The 1976 Magilas class graduate of the Philippine Military Academy vowed to institute reform and discipline in the 80,000-strong Army establishment, from recruitment to fiscal management.
“Internal consolidation of the Army will include addressing the concerns not only of the AFP but of the entire government to cleanse the military institution of the persistent issues of corruption,” Yano said.
“We in the Army will vigorously support this campaign with effective resource and fund management at all levels of command. Transactions will be transparent, the Internal Audit System will be continuously strengthened and the accountability of fund and resource managers being practiced today will be strongly carried out.
“We must all realize that we are a developing nation and every peso spent must count,” he added.
How he intends to do it will be a test of will for the well-respected general who spent most of his military career in the battlefield.
Moreover, Yano exhorted his field commanders to join the troops in the battlefront.
“I believe that our commanders must be with the men in the field, sharing difficulties and closely supervising their actions. Good leaders do what they preach, and shall ‘walk the talk.’ Good leadership and commandership will also require a high level of moral and ethical standards that our men will emulate,” Yano said during the turnover ceremony held in Fort Bonifacio last August 24.
His speech hardly landed in the front pages of the major broadsheets in the country.
Not because it was not worth reporting about but because the turnover was held late in the afternoon when deadlines were already due.
But noteworthy was the remark, albeit in a query form, made by retired Army general Raymundo Jarque who was seated several rows up in the grandstand. “Hindi ba ito (Is he not) corrupt?” Jarque asked his fellow retired generals.
Jarque defected and became a consultant to the National Democratic Front (NDF) in 1995 after he became disillusioned with the pervasive corruption in the military.
If his past reputation and own admission that the military is plagued with corruption are to precede him, Yano might yet turn out to be a knight in shining armor that will rescue the Army’s troubled and maligned image.
Living up to his name
Described as “a soldier’s soldier,” Yano is well-respected by his peers and junior officers who served under the many field commands he headed before he became the commanding general of the Philippine Army.
His family name Yano means “simple” in the Visayan dialect.
Born in Sindandan, Zamboanga del Norte to parents who were both public school teachers, Yano joined the country’s premier military school in 1972 after passing the entrance examination while he was first year in college in Cebu City.
He is not known to tow with him a coterie of security escorts except when in actual combat operations, preferring to travel with an aide or two when making rounds of his units while still assigned as commanding general of the Army’s defunct 601st Brigade (now the 1001st Brigade) stationed in Malungon in Sarangani where he earned his first star in 2002.
He shies away from politicians and is comfortable with private citizens and business leaders.
The soft-spoken but strong–willed general says he did not lobby for his appointment.
“On the one hand, I do not want to have a debt of gratitude to politicians,” he told several close media friends.
Yano however counts AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon and current Department of National Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro as his strong backers.
Teodoro is an adopted mistah of PMA Magilas ’76.
Even when already assigned to other units, he continues to communicate and send text messages to friends he made in places where he served his tour of duty.
Oftentimes, these innocent hellos are done very early in the morning or before he calls it a night.
It was no coincidence that the bulk of special guests invited by Yano to attend the turnover ceremony at Fort Bonifacio were from Mindanao where he spent most of his military service.
During the height of the AFP corruption scandal two years ago, the general was taken aback when his only son Ervin Andrew, was asked by classmates if they are rich because his father is a general.
Yano was at the time commanding general of the AFP Civil Relations Service.
It struck a discordant note to the otherwise calm and composed general, known for his spartan lifestyle.
Yano is known to see to it that rations, combat allowances and budget for military operations reach the foot soldiers.
“Yano never dipped his hands on the budget intended for field commanders and foot soldiers,” a lawyer friend who requested anonymity told this writer.
When he left the 601st Brigade, he had to sell his rundown Nissan Terrano for a paltry sum.
Stars written over
Yano’s meteoric rise in the military hierarchy is nothing but phenomenal.
He became the first in his PMA batch to head a brigade and later to earn their star. He was also the first to get his second star, head an Army division, and the only one so far among his classmates in the academy to head an area command in the military. He has overtaken an entire upper class with his appointment as Philippine Army chief.
He is a strong candidate to succeed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon who will retire in February next year.
The Chief of Staff of the AFP traditionally comes from the Philippine Army.
Lt. Gen. Yano’s military career is nothing but sterling. He topped all military training he attended including the Infantry Officer Advance Course at the US Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia in the US where he landed in the Commandant’s List.
In the course of his military service, Yano earned 39 military awards including five Distinguished Star Awards, the Philippine Legion of Honor and a Gold Cross for gallantry in combat.
He earned accolades for his adept handling of the Cabatangan siege where he successfully negotiated for the safe release of over 100 hostages held by Moro National Liberation Forces (MNLF) during the failed rebellion of Prof. Nur Misuari in November 2001.
During his brief stint as chair of the government panel in the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) not a single major violation was reported.
And no bombings occurred in General Santos, once the most bombed city in Mindanao, while he was still the commanding general of the 601st Brigade.
Will Yano join the long list of military officers whose early idealism was eventually co-opted by the institution known for its strong but oftentimes misplaced brotherhood and penchant for protecting their own?
With the general at the helm of the Philippine Army, he will not have a shortage of classmates to rally behind him.
His batch in the PMA is slowly emerging as the new power block in the military with the inevitable retirement senior military officials belonging to classes 1973 and 1974 of the PMA.
But he will have inherited an armed forces unit still hounded by numerous battlefield woes including combat inefficiencies, political restiveness and insurgency and terrorist threats.
He faces the daunting task of defending the Army against widespread perception that it is involved in the murders and disappearances of political activists.
When asked about possible involvement of his men in the spate of political killings while still commanding general of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), he said he would have known if his men were involved.
But he categorically denied the existence of so-called death squads in the military.
In the days ahead, Yano will have to deal with this issue as there appears to be no end in the politically-motivated killings and fingers of accusations continue to point to the military.
The new Philippine Army chief will eventually also have to deal with the detained junior officers who joined the Oakwood mutiny as their influence in the field remains strong.
If there is any consolation, Yano commands the respect of rebellious junior officers who are now detained by the Arroyo administration.
Together with then Philippine Army chief General Generoso Senga, Yano was one of the only two generals allowed by the Magdalo group to hold bull session with them while in detention.
Still, Yano was steadfast. He served notice that the junior officers, who denounced corruption in the military, that they will have to suffer the consequences of their acts.
He would later preside over a special General Court Martial that heard the case of the Magdalo soldiers.
Among them was Lamitan war hero Army Scout Ranger Maj. Ruben Guinolbay who was earlier relieved by the general for storming a police precinct in General Santos after his men were arrested for mauling a son of the late Regional Trial Court Pedro Animas outside a bar.
Yano then was the head of the 601st Brigade when the contingent of the Scout Ranger headed by Guinolbay was briefly assigned in General Santos.
When the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal broke out in 2005, Yano was among the generals who followed the chain of command. At that time, he was commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal.
Although he stuck it out with his commander in chief, Yano never failed to get the pulse on the ground. He continued to solicit feedback during the height of the scandal that nearly erupted into full-blown rebellion.
The skies were overcast when Yano delivered his speech on August 24. But his voice was firm and it took more than a second before the crowd that included top military and police officials applauded, not realizing his rhetoric-laden delivery was over.
If the reception by both the crowd and the weather are portents of things to come, Yano will surely face rough sailing.
Time, however, is on his side.
Yano won’t retire from the military service until June 13, 2009, a good 20 months from now.
He might even become the first military officer to serve a proposed three-year fixed term if and when be becomes the next AFP Chief of Staff.
But first, he has to deliver his promise of ensuring quality over quantity in the Philippine Army and providing the necessary conscience and conviction in leadership.
Next, he will have to prove his mettle as commanding general of the Philippine Army when he leads his troops in Basilan and Sulu where a massive military buildup is ongoing for a decisive push to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf Group. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)
PMA 1976 Magilas Class
Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano, Commanding General Philippine Army
Lt. Gen. Leopoldo Maligalig, PMA superintendent
Maj. Gen. Leonardo Calderon, current chief of the AFP-J2 (intelligence)
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang of the Northern Luzon Command
Brig. Gen. Victor Ibrado, Central Command
Maj. Gen. Isagani Cachuela, commanding general Army’s Light Armor Regiment
Maj. Gen. Nestor Allaga, Western Mindanao Command
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, Philippine Marine Commandant
Maj. Gen. Joji Leo Fojas, AFP-J3 or operations chief
Maj. Gen. Melchor Dilodilo, Army’s Chief of Staff
Maj. Gen. Samuel Narcise, AFP Inspector General
Admiral Emilio Marayag, Chief of Western Mindanao Naval Forces
Commodore Ferdinand Golez, Naval Training and Education Command
Admiral Benjamin Defensor, Philiipine Navy
Director Jesus A. Verzosa, deputy chief of the PNP
Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil, Director Police Regional Office 1
Chief Supt. Silverio Alarcio Jr., Director PRO7
Chief Supt. Abner Cabalquinto, Director PRO8
Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, Director PRO9
Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, Director Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police office
Chief Cupt. Jefferson Soriano, PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management
Chief Supt. Eduardo Acuna, PNP Directorate for Personnel and Records Management
Chief Supt. Eliseo de la Paz, PNP Directorate for Human Resource and Doctrine Development
Chief Supt. Romeo Hilomen, PNP Police Security and Protection Office
Chief Supt. Luizo Ticman, Eastern Police District
Chief Supt. Sukarno Ikbala, Deputy Director Directorate for Police-Community Relations
Senior Supt. Magtanggol Gatdula, Quezon City Police District