I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Militarization is it?

It’s funny how we so love the labels created by agitators. It’s a public relations tool, really: reduce a complex idea into as brief a statement as possible – a one-word slogan would be best – and feed it to the masses. After all, the masses don’t need to fully under the whys and hows; they just need something to chant or scream until their throats are raw – a kind of shortcut to meaning. It’s the power of symbol, and some say that it lay at the heart of Hitler’s success as a demagouge. This administration has seen more than its share of these ‘key words’ and now the latest agit-prop is “militarization.”

gloriageneralsWhat the rest of the world understands as the process of preparing for war or other violent conflict, we gleefully appropriate the word “militarization” to refer to the naming of former military officials to top government posts. Implicit in the use of the word is the promise of dark days of repression to come, the demise of liberty, and the extinction of all that is good and beautiful …. zxngrkCKZ!

The preponderance of military men in high government positions isn’t necessarily the portent of doom that some people wish it to be – yes: i think they actually want it to be that, so that they can later on have the bragging rights of having called it out first. If we’re being calm and logical about it, the appointment of military men to high government positions can actually be attributed to a number of factors:

First, very few people in the lucrative private sector want to enter the thankless public service. With GMA as appointing authority, even fewer. This means that, second, candidates for top level positions are actually drawn from a pretty shallow pool of people currently – or were – in the public service. Third, of the people currently – or previously – in the public service, there are very few who are as well trained as military men of officer rank in management and planning – skills needed by any good administrator. This is so because the military invests much in the training and schooling of its officers. In fact, it is the rare military officer who spends more than a week being unemployed after retirement from the service. They get snapped up by private corporations who see their upper management skills as potential assets. An uncle of mine was picking among offers three months before he finally retired from the service!

Outside this logic loop, military men are also much in demand on their own right – without necessarily being fiddle to private sector top picks. This is especially true for such services as reasonably require a background in military-style operations and discipline. It’s all well and good to emphasize the civilian nature of, say the PDEA, but the truth of the matter is, the learning curve is much steeper (steeper=better) when the person trying to learn the ropes has a background in activities like intelligence gathering, urban skirmish, and enemy engagement. And yes, dealing with crooks nowadays is practically like dealing with a para-military unit. You don’t send Mother Teresa in to arrest a bunch of BDSM brothel whores with whips and ballgags.

So talk of militarization is likely to be just more fear-mongering.

In fact, if anything, there was a massive de-militarization of society when the Reserve Officer Training Course – and it’s latter day cousin, Citizen’s Military Training – was effectively shelved.


Filed under: language, politics, , ,

23 Responses

  1. Karl Garcia says:

    Another excellent post from you, Rom.

  2. midfield says:

    “Fear mongering”? Recent history is replete with proof of ex-military men, nay, even active duty guys harnessed for activities far detached from fighting the insurgencies nor preserving democratic institutions.

  3. rom says:

    ding: granted that ex-military men have done as you said. but you ARE aware, are you not, that there are far more ex-military men in the private sector who have not done anything of the sort?

  4. mlq3 says:

    you dangerously assume that what once made military men attractive candidates for civilian jobs, particularly during the magsaysay and marcos administrations -the caliber of training and the skills that also made officers like jaime velasquez essential parts of the ayala corporation- still applies. that it makes sense, for example, to appoint esperon to head the pms (actually, i think it does make sense he actually studies things) but you also have the constabulary types who are actually more plentiful than the ex afp people being brought into government.

    of course it all depends what your opinion is concerning the record of the armed forces and police over the past few years and whether their influence has been baleful or not.

    with regards to your views on say PDEA, then have it be a division of the armed forces of the police and stop all this nonsense of its being a civilian agency. go whole hog and subject drug offenses to military tribunals. intelligence and so on arent the preserve of the military, and even if military men have a greater competence they should be firmly subordinate to civilians.

  5. UP n grad says:

    How does that translate into actual practice … “should be firmly subordinate to civilians.”

    But blogging is blogging is blogging and does reveal differences of opinion among bloggers, doesn’t it?

  6. UP n grad says:

    and I don’t know exactly what he meant by the words, but even Ding G had posted that : By and large Peemayers like the Mr.Ramon Farolan are gems.

  7. mlq3 says:

    the pma has a rep for competent professionals because of the longstanding traditions of the school, etc. farolan’s widely respected but of course he harks back to the older perhaps vanished culture of the pma. if i were to engage in being a devil’s advocate as smoke does, i could even say the pma alumni who heavily fature in the officer corps have done their part to rein in putschism, maintain democracy, etc: notable cases being the supposed efforts of some generals etc to limit the damage being done by palparan, another was to resist the more heav-handed instincts of the president in stifling opposition and dissent, being uninclined to support the imposition of martial law or a martial-law like interpretation of a state of rebellion, etc.

    the actual practice of subordinating the military to civilians goes back to the previous tradition of having civilians, for example, being secretaries of national defense; or for example, the reason why nbi agents should be lawyers: their law enforcement activities are supposed to be done with a scrupulous regard for rules of court and evidence, etc. otherwise you have what you have now, a collision between zealous pdea agents detailed from the military, and probably on the take prosecutors, with the pdea on the losing side because they lack the legal wherewithal to put together such iron clad cases its difficult to throw them, or to identity the flaws or abuses in the doj. that and the mindset of santiago who believes results can be achieved by means of planting evidence -all things being fair, militarily, ruses are part of the game but this sort of thing ought to be anathema in a law enforcement agency. you want military rules of engagement, conduct a war along military lines and not as law enforcement.

  8. rom says:

    mlq3: and you sweepingly assume the opposite, do you not? The funny thing is you criticize my opinion for being supposedly based on my appreciation of “the record of the armed forces and police over the past few years and whether their influence has been baleful or not” – implying of course that their bad record should now prevent them from being integrated into the non-military service; and yet, you speak wistfully of people like Jaime Velasquez – people who came from a military tradition no less subverted by the dictatorship.

    re: the constabulary types – i suppose you’re drawing a distinction between top ranked military officials with management skills and such and military officials who are more grunts than managers. such men have their own value as well, and they are often considered assets by those who hire them.

    Why, then, should the private sector be only to benefit from the skills and intelligence of these people? Why begrudge them the chance to serve the country in a different capacity when they are not incompetent? Does being a former military man strip you forever of civilian status such that you cannot head an agency like PDEA and still preserve the agency’s civilian nature?

    WHy not make the PDEA a part of the military? The answer to that is pretty obvious: because the subjects of the PDEA tender affections are not necessarily enemies of the state – simply enemies of public order and therefore fall squarely within the ambit of civilian authority. However, why not give it access to military-competence? Isn’t military competence what armed civilian agents aspire to anyway?

  9. mlq3 says:

    you have to consider how that military tradition was subverted. it was accomplished in stages and by purging the professionally-oriented officers and substituting officers who were more attuned to other traditions. consult mccoy’s study of this process in “closer than brothers,” how, for example, the officers educated at the pma who resisted the militarization programs of marcos were not promoted or edged out into early retirement and officers from the vanguard, etc. put in their place, along with increasing the percentage of ilocanos in the service. so if we assume the things you point out -what makes military men attractive as managers, etc., to civilian leaders, we must also factor in whether those officers have been acculturated in a manner that will make them respectful of civilian authority and who will make a smooth transition to positions of authority in civilian institutions that have their own dynamics.

    look at the appointments that have been made. these are not officers known for being unimpeachable models of rectitude. look further at the division between the appointments given to former officers from the afp, which still has a relatively higher reputation for professionalism, etc. and the appointments farmed out to officers from the pnp, officers themselves more acculturated to the old (and not very inspiring) culture of the constabulary. constabulary types are those from the old pc present pnp culture, itself looked down upon by the afp types.

    if one were to undertaker a purely neutral attitude towards these things, i suppose one could then set aside the way the armed forces and police have become heavily politicized and increasingly unprofessional, the difficulty over a generaton now, to rein in the military with its shoot first ask questions later and general lack of enthusiasm for the boring and frustrating rigamarole of the justice system. but it would be impossible and i’d suggest, dangerous, to operate from such a scrupulous neutrality because it verges on being willfully blind.

    it was a close call, the effect, for example, palparan had, on the conduct of the afp as a whole. he was kept from infecting the entire afp with a witchunt mentality only because it seems he enjoyed only the support of one superior while the other service commanders looked at his methods with skepticism if not deep unease. the tendency of the police to shoot first and ask questions later is even more pronounced, and unexcusable because precisely the pnp is supposed to be a civilian agency but generational attrition still hasn’t accomplished the passing from the scene of old constabulary veterans whose primary function from the start was supression of civilians unlike the afp which fights armed groups.

    therefore it is a matter of priorities and the kind of culture you want to build in institutions that have the potential power of life and death over the citizenry. the potential for ex servicemen to cut gordian knots -of procedure, rights, etc.- by shooting through them is simply to grave. the long-term interests of society would be better served by taking a long, hard, look at why soldiers are expected to retire at the age of 57 when they have at least a decade more of productivity left; as it is, they are expected to enter the private sector as security experts (less often are they hired as managers, though some become exceptional examples of this, like velasquez ( who did hold down civilian jobs with distinction, but his background was West Point).

    There are other reforms as well, such as changing the ranks subject to Congressional confirmation, having a fixed term for the chief of staff and the pma superintendent, etc. all of which are first steps in restoring balance to a military culture that’s been out of whack since the late 1960s. until then, as a matter of policy, considering the dangers involved, a kind of institutional bias has to be put in place. this is simply the price has to be paid to expunge the excesses of the past. but then again -if one is to avoid a self-perpetuating problem (one can’t be motivated solely by the traumas of the past), and institution-building is in order, including confidence building measures, then at the very least consider whether why the retired officers given portfolios and commissions in the civilian sector happen to be the larry mendozas, ebdanes, santiagos, esperons, and palaparans. and whether the afp and police themselves would consider these gentlemen the finest examples of the officer corps.

  10. mlq3 says:

    and of course there’s another question altogether: if people won’t leave the private sector to join a despised and discredited government, why then isn’t better use being made of the civilian bureaucracy? for every position filled by an ex officer cant a civilian civil servant be found equally qualified for the job?

  11. BrianB says:

    Rom, MLQ,

    Just for their low tolerance for bullshit… military men.

  12. Karl Garcia says:

    “served by taking a long, hard, look at why soldiers are expected to retire at the age of 57 when they have at least a decade more of productivity left; as it is”

    Ayers retire at 56 instead of 60 because the four years spent in the Academy is included in their service.
    If I am not mistaken reservists retire at 60.

    The employee of the private sector also retire at 60.

    I think if the compulsory retirement for the private sector and other government employees will be moved by ten years, then the retirement age of PMA graduates(or a militay school in the US) and the reservists will also be move up.

    About patsies in the government service like Sec. Mendoza(does he know what he is doing?) and even Sec Reyes. (grrrr ngayon lang umamin sa LPG), meron talaga nyan.
    Incompetence can also happen in the private sector, even among the best schooled and best trained among them.

    Then about the bureaucracy, I have to opine that there are some career officials who are very qualified and who remains an OIC of a certain agency for so long and later just to be bypassed by a know nothing presidential appointee who can be a civilian.

  13. Karl Garcia says:

    ““Fear mongering”? Recent history is replete with proof of ex-military men, nay, even active duty guys harnessed for activities far detached from fighting the insurgencies nor preserving democratic institutions.”

    Pinahaba mo pa di mo na lang sinabing utak pulbura.

    Like that paranaque rubout being blamed to the NISF,and whatnot?

    If the police are well equipped, then the AFP would no longer be involved and be blamed for crime busting and anti insurgency.

    Anti insurgency was supposed to be the PNPs job, but they could not do it so binalik sa AFP.

    The coast guard was removed from the Navy because people thought it was the best thing to do, but look at what happened.

    Maritime security was also be a job of the PNP ,but it is not their priority. Now blame the AFP for every kidnapping in the south.

    Now as for the PDEA, if there are those Elliot Ness types or lawyers who can be law enforcers at the same time, then why not put them there?
    question is,where are they?

  14. mlq3 says:

    karl, has the appointed power even decided to try looking hard at all? and it occured to me, do they even have a clue as to what’s required? for example, how much ephedrine is legitimately needed in this country, and how capable is customs, etc. to determine what’s coming in and for what purpose? why hasn’t the focus been on bureau of immigration, on customs, marina, etc?

  15. UP n grad says:

    to mlq3’s question : why then isn’t better use being made of the civilian bureaucracy?

    I am not being facetious here. Maybe the civilian bureaucracy do not know how to credential themselves so that they are considered among the acceptable candidates for the high-profile jobs, or where they do not even apply for the jobs in the belief that the job is due them (they have the Masters degrees or better) or that the job is below them (too much politics). And this, this re-states one of the things Rom had mentioned — that the job is not what they want (high-visibility jobs attract many crabs).

  16. UP n grad says:

    Isn’t there a fatalistic but quite often-muttered Filipino saying ? Darating din iyan kung sa iyo talaga.

  17. Karl Garcia says:

    Yes Manolo.
    I agree the search committees are not searching hard enough,thus I mentioned even career officials who have long been OICS get replaced by know nothins. Sometimes they don’t have to look far. I read your links from your comments on patronage politics blog by sparks, and you sure do know more about this than any blogger here.

    Now as for customs. I have worked for a port operator, and I get this impression that customs examiners only inspects when ordered to, or because someone complained.
    The job of the customs examiner almost got eliminated because of electronic inward forward manifests. The ports also have a dangerous cargo section, and this is one cash cow.
    Many former colleagues got fired because of changing cargo electronic info manually and they got caught.

    As for our maritime security.
    I have been assisting my father on his proposals for our maritime security coordination.

    One of my dad’s projects right now is to help assess our maritime security situation . I get to collect data from past eos ,past legislation ,past /future agreements with multilateral organization,etc.

    We have many bills filed and refiled. Bills as a result of a decree or an eo to change something and later proposals return them to way they are.(as mentioned in my comment above)

    Now on our dangerous drugs, admittedly I use alprozalam because of a one time or once recorded petit mal seizure, or in other words natulala ako ng matagal .(while working sa call center)

    Now the doctors are supplied by the dangerous drug board with prescription pads with control numbers.
    Pag nagkafoul up dito, our doctors, particularly our neurologists , the patient listed and the drug store would be the ones to be in trouble.Of course the only accredited drug store to release dangerous drugs is Mercury drug so at least the the dangerous drugs board have ways to control this.

    I believe eliot ness guys can do the job,but even if there is a search committee if they do not want the job, the search committee will be useless.

    BTW, the search committee is only for the leaders,what about on the ground ,should nbi agents be loaned to PDEA instead???
    Would there be an assurance that there would be no ex miltary people there?

  18. mlq3 says:

    thanks carl, upn. upn you may have a point in that bureaucrats may not want leadership positions in agencies like pdea but considering the obsessiveness over promotions in most civilian agencies of the government, i’m not so sure.

    anyway back to the idea that problems are best solved by throwing a general or two at it.

    take for instance the national printing office -why do you need a retired admiral there? and one affected by the hello garci business?

    carl, i have some questions concerning what you’ve pointed out. there seems to be the absence of a policy paper on what the government strategy is in fighting drugs, and what its priorities are. opbviously it cannot do evrything all at once. obviously the problem is is serious. offhand my response to your points is that prescriptions are the least of our problems right now. neither is marijuana although it is relevant in fighting insurgency. shabu seems to be the priority -indeed, on the scale of a national emergency- but there seems too much of a focus on running after individual pushers with its chances of extortion, and not on nipping the supply chains in the bud.

    so i go back to our absence of information to make rational choices about using government resources in the most effective manner. how much ephedrine is legitimately used by industry, and what are the mechanisms in place for keepig track of that stuff (and all the other stuff that could be used for drugs or bombs, etc.), who keeps accounts and can be held accountable. what about marinma where cargo manifests are filled out on the vessels midway instead of prior to departure, and where statistics, if kept in the provincial ports, are wrritten down on yellow legal pad and not inputed into a national database.

    to be sure there seems to be some effect on supply in urban areas, but it has only pushed the problem to the provinces. and what is the solution? ordering random testing for kids on a nationwide basis, a gigantic operation that will make some suppliers of testing materials etc. wealthy while not making a series dent (why not mandating a policy of testing, but asking schools and parents to take responsibiluty by coming up with their rules and selecting their labs, etc.?). i’m telling you it all smacks of palabas instead of a focused, strategic campaign.

  19. Karl Garcia says:

    Your points Manolo, are duly noted.

    first about inward foreign manifests.
    The manifests comes from the country of origin.
    There was a time when it was IMF itself who noticed the discrepancies from the export data of the country of origin and our import records.
    Again there are lots of proposal like sharing IFM data to various concerned agencies.
    How does smuggling occur,some cargo are unmanifested and some are not really what they are listed to be.And that is also smuggling but it is technical smuggling.

    As to our domestic shipping and domestic ports, I guess that’s another problem

    I am just in the importing part.

    Now we go to the BFAD , the minimum requirement for supplements is the “No Approved therapeutic claims” label, For every regulated drug that enters the country BFAD can not realistically handle all of them.

    Ephedrine can be used for many things treatment of hypotension, weightloss, appetite suppresant, decongestant and as a STIMULANT..
    So how do you control the supply, when a drug has more than one use.
    I mentioned about dangerous drugs what if it is BFAD approved?

    people overdose ,like red bull for instance,take more than one bottle and you are bangag, how do you control that, tell the grocery clerks to have one red bull per person?

    So you are correct the least concerns are the prescribed drugs.

    that’s I can contribute about the topic at hand.

    Thanks mlq3!

  20. Karl Garcia says:

    Nice points Mlq3!

  21. […] I’d like to raise some additional points, here, that I originally raised in the discussion going on Smoke’s blog entry, Militarization is it?. […]

  22. […] I’d like to raise some additional points, here, that I originally raised in the discussion going on Smoke’s blog entry, Militarization is it?. […]

  23. Bencard says:

    re use of the word “militarization”, i think it is a failure of the mind rather language limitation.

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