Military elites – emerging power bloc?

Military elites – emerging power bloc?

The increasing number of former military officers receiving presidential appointments to key and sensitive positions in the civil service may indeed be a cause of alarm. Not few senators pushed panic button questioning a case of “creeping militarization” in mainstream bureaucracy. For them, this is read as a prelude to martial law of possibly the Marcosian type since most quarters see in the charter change move a hidden mechanism for PGMA to perpetuate herself in power beyond 2010 – true or not.

Fact is, Sen. Mar Roxas was first to air concern – all so because he says that millions of Filipinos can no longer trust the president and more so because those chosen for juicy positions are known to have been involved in one form of unlawful act or other. In particular, Mar Roxas shares suspicion that the appointment of a certain Vice Admiral Tirso Danga to the National Printing Office in charge of accountable forms might be a plot to manipulate the printing of ballots to benefit the administration for the 2010 elections.

Perhaps, indeed this comeuppance challenges reflection. So we have a Palparan to head either PDEA or the Dangerous Drugs Board, this despite his reputation for the summary executions and disappearances of left-leaning activists and who should in fact be the subject of criminal prosecution as Sen. Pimentel said. We have Esperon, former Chief of Staff of AFP, to take over Presidential Management Staff which directly manages formulations of projects and policies of the president. Worse, that Tirso Danga is sure to get the post as head of the National Printing Office despite his role in the “Hello Garci” controversy.

And who else are in the existing list of presidential appointees? It may be interesting to run them down very quickly, to wit: Ermita as Executive Secretary, Carillo as military adviser, Isleta as presidential assistant, Rabonsa as director of Office of Civil Defense and NDCC administrator, Atutubo as MIAA assistant general manager, Cunanan as chair of Social Security System, Maligalig of the Reform Armed Forces Movement as head of Bataan Shipyard, Lomibao as LTFRB chief, Aglipay as chair of Philippine Retirement Agency, Ebdane as public works secretary, Mendoza as transportation and communication secretary, Lastimoso as director of Metro Rail Transit Corp., Reyes as energy secretary, Abaya as chair of Bases Conversion Development Authority, Santiago as the controversial PDEA chief, Cimatu as special envoy to Middle East, Abu as ambassador to Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia, Senga as ambassador to Iran, Macaspac as presidential adviser on police affairs, Fianza as head of the Philippine Racing Commission, Querol as ambassador to Indonesia, and De Leon as ambassador to Australia. Perhaps, there are a fairly significant number as middle level executives in government.

Why the bias for appointing retired military and police officers, some of whom, have figured in some reported controversies? Does this give PGMA the much-needed security blanket since she has not since recovered from a consistently negative trust ratings as shown by surveys of polling circuits? Or, is there a continuing plot – as most people suspect – that she plans not to step down from office after 2010 but to stay in power? What really is the beef in all these developments that apparently are already sending ‘shark-attacks-effect’ on our political beach?

In our study of military elites under Dr. Carolina Hernandez, it has never been disputed that the Philippine Military Academy has always been the prime source of regular officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the extent that one can say that PMA graduates, are in fact, our military elites in this country. While this view may not have to be disputed, it is not to say however that there are inherent dangers that only a small number of officers run the affairs of a much larger segment in the entire officer corps of the AFP who in this case are – the non-Peemayers.

For fact is, not only in the Philippines does it happen that military officers are appointed in the civil service. Some governments in Asia also are into this – recruiting them in key cabinet posts and sensitive agencies on account of their rather well-rounded qualification as tested good managers wherever they may be assigned. And this should be understandable since the military is one of two management models, the other one being the church. It is in these two institutions that seniority is sacred and the hierarchy is revered.

Still, our problem rests on the fact that appointing former generals in the AFP or PNP for ambassadorial posts may run contrary to already existing protocols for foreign service officers at the Department of Foreign Affairs. It would have been enough to have military attaches in the active service in countries where the Philippines has close military ties. Ambassadorial posts must necessarily come from the crop of foreign service officers.

Perhaps, the Civil Service Commission must be taken to task. It must be reposed the oversight function to maybe, see to it, that integration of former military generals and officers in civilian agencies of government has also met the requirements set under our Philippine Civil Service System. At the very least, we do not need to infuse the military mind in most agencies of the civilian government since military service has a different ontological existence with civilian service as they are worlds apart. We know that somehow, life in the military is like a camp where eunuchs just allow things to happen in blind obedience to command. What if PGMA’s former PSG commander becomes the next AFP chief of staff? Pray tell, what wish will not be fulfilled from her majesty, the Queen?