WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Stars and stripped Gail Ilagan

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 June) — Understand that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is an institution tasked with the serious job of assuring utmost national security. To threaten to render it in shambles is one of the best ways to ensure national insecurity.

So the president presumptive does not like Delfin Bangit. Fine. I don’t like Bangit either, but that has nothing to do with it. I have a friend who calls him Gen. Pangit. My friend is eleven years old, so we have to forgive him for being puerile and petty.

I don’t like Bangit for his code name when he was intelligence chief. I don’t like him for throwing paper money for grabs during office celebrations. I don’t like him for reasons that have nothing to do with how he got his present job and how he is doing that job now.

While I do not like Bangit, I especially thank him for his part in carrying out one of his much-vaunted ACES mission as Army Chief: Army for Credible Election. Because he did such a good job at this Army for Credible Election thingy, the presidential hopeful is now an unquestioned president presumptive. It’s not Bangit’s fault that the president presumptive is turning into – don’t look now – president presuming.

So as far as I’m concerned Bangit should stay on the job until someone qualified relieves him in a manner that is proper, prescribed, above board. No, Bangit should not abandon his post just because some senators want to grandstand and the incoming president does not like him.

What’s this? Showbiz?

Or developmental delay to the emotional maturity of an eleven-year-old?

What has his not liking got to do with who is AFP Chief of Staff now? Someone should tell president presuming he has to wait for when it is time for him to determine how he wants things to be. Meanwhile, it is distinctly irresponsible how his pronouncements have inflicted upon us
conditions similar to late 1986 to 1989.

Public humiliation is a tactic that works in the political arena, where some people have nothing better to do than to sling mud or wallow in it in time for the six o’clock news. It must stay there.
Soldiers do not have the luxury of time to hold press conferences every day just to react to the newest attack on their integrity and to demand, as any self-respecting individual would – to be treated with dignity. They have a job to do – and I don’t mean being jerked around like an eleven-year-old yoyo.

The greatest mistake the Cory administration made was to alienate the military organization when it was among the earliest institutions that recognized the legitimacy of her leadership. Oh, wait, it was the military that had a big hand in putting her there. Talk about revisiting the sins of the mother. The incoming leadership might do well to recognize that his publicized dislike for Bangit the CSAFP is not a man-to-man thing. It just reminds me of the high-society snobbery men-at-arms got treated to a generation ago.

Leadership, above all, is a test of character. There’s more riding in a leader-in-the-wings’ ability to live with the conditions as they are at the moment. Call it the marshmallow test. His ability to do so has implications on the stability of the AFP structure and troop morale.

It has implications too on how this civilian understands the military culture. That is the crucial part. For all its faults, the AFP is an istitution that lives by certain traditions. While it recognizes
civilian authority, the civilian has to recognize the martial traditions – foremost being that a soldier does not under any circumstance abandon his post. Even when the situation is untenable,
the good soldier sucks it up and continues to serve above and beyond the call of duty. It is only when the civilian demonstrates that he does understand the traditions soldiers live by that soldiers would recognize him or her to be indeed worthy to be commander-in-chief.

In 2004, I revisited the military interventions of the late 1980s on the belief that these were exercises at refining a political warfare model uniquely our own. We all know how those exercises eroded the gains our nation made in reclaiming our shaky democracy.

I therefore find it distinctly disquieting to see similar patterns unfolding today. The names of the major players are like a blast from the past.

There’s an Aquino and there’s Enrile. There’s Biazon. There’s this attempt to undermine the leadership of the AFP and to carve out for public perception the divide between the “sheep” from the 302 “wolf” up there where –today – the Committee on Appointment has the mandate to divide.

(The number is misleading. There is an exponent to 302. Admittedly, eleven-year-olds might have difficulty working out the exact figure.)

Over the weekend, reading the comments the junior officers made on the pressure put to bear on Bangit with the statements made by Aquino and Enrile, I remembered to look up my paper on the 1980s rebellion. The long and short of my conclusions pointed to two conditions that made military rebellion a viable option to some quarters: 1) the soldiers’ perception that the military institution and its traditions are under attack and 2) the call of duty when the executive branch of the government fails to deliver on its mandate to hold paramount the interest of the Filipino people.

In a blink, it’s full circle to 25 years back. As with the repeated attempts in the late 1980s, we as a people seem to have an unreasoning drive to improve on previous attempts at radical solutions. We seem to be obsessed with recycling our costly mistakes.

Time should move in a linear fashion.

We were off to a good start. I would really hate to see our gains going to waste. Ah, well.

Meanwhile, I have just been offered a star off a general’s collar. He doesn’t need it because until he’s relieved or told to resign by legitimate authority he would rather not spend the working day being made to fight for the right to keep it on his uniform while his troops are being ambushed and blown up to kingdom come. I think maybe that star would look great on top of my Christmas tree come December.

(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail@mindanews.com. “Send at the risk of a reply,” she says).