WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL. All about money. By Gail Ilagan

Cash incentives for troops are not new. At a certain level, area commanders have operations fund that some have used for this purpose. I have always suspected, for example, that Oakwood couldn’t have happened had the unit commanders in the field been more transparent with the disbursement of cash incentives for successful operations. I just hope that PA chief LtGen. Victor S. Ibrado’s going public with the institutionalization of this anti-insurgency scheme means that guidelines are in place for transparency.

LtGen. Ibrado used to head the Cencom where he had authorized follow on support contingent on CMO approach for sustaining the gains. This required the troops to work closely with the LGUs to prevent cleared areas from being recovered by enemy fronts. I still have to see on paper the guidelines for the organization-wide follow on program, but I expect that the same formula had been worked in. A significant portion of the reward money is likely to go to community development to benefit rebel returnees and civilian volunteers, among others.

Admittedly, this would make necessary the extension of the soldiers’ service to tasks that are arguably beyond his mandate – setting up coops, training rebel returnees for livelihood, planting mangroves, building latrines. But, hey – don’t look now, but haven’t the soldiers been doing those and more for a long time now?

Would the carrot boost troop morale? I asked a fighter long rotting in the jungles and he said for the prize/price of coffee, he’ll run after “all those identified who have fought the troops or have been involved in terror attacks, ambush of troops, extortion and exacting revolutionary tax, bombings, burning of buses and/or equipment, murder, rebellion, in wanted list identified as member of the reds and other armed groups.” All those, huh?

Yes, he said, so okay — coffee not necessary. He was ready to go then. Money, no issue, he added. But, and he turned wistful, it would be nice to have a travel fund for his troops to be able to go home some time when work is done. Tarzan want home.

And people wonder why I like talking to Tarzan.

Kidding aside, with the Philippine Army finally institutionalizing a scheme that had been unevenly applied in the ranks for years, it raises concern for many sectors. While it does not come as a surprise to soldiers, it’s too much to take in for many soldier watchers. There are some of us who are horrified with this development as it is perceived to evolve our men into mercenaries fighting for bounty. Examine that, and we’ll find a mindset where we expect our men to die for close to nothing. There are some who think that the cash incentives would reinvigorate militarized violence – yes, I admit to taking out the map to see which areas would need resources for evacuation of civilians and which areas would soon be hogging the headlines with the merry exchange of propaganda.

Until that coffee comment came in though, I missed doing the math. It’s P50,000 for clearing a barangay. Take out half for CMO, about a quarter for unit enhancement, divide the rest and what have you got? Sure, it goes up to P300,000, but same rule applies. And the incentive would require more men, too.

Ay, tinuod – mangape na lang ta, bay, ako bayad.

If anything, the program will get our men to be better at documenting their part in the war theater enough to pass the scrutiny of the evaluators. Researchers like seamless documentation. Historians of the future would, too.

Still, I’d like to see the program on paper. I’m operating here on the notion that LtGen. Ibrado’s plan is intended to professionalize the ranks, in which case, it’s more likely to be designed along those lines. My email’s open if there be takers.

(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 [email protected] "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)