In a momentous speech delivered on October 18, 2023, General Romeo Brawner Jr., the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, issued a challenge to the Philippine Navy's Naval Air Wing: to transcend their limitations in safeguarding our nation's territorial integrity. On the surface, his words appeared noble and patriotic, evoking an image of resilience and unwavering commitment. However, as we delve into the stark reality of our nation, we find ourselves compelled to scrutinize this challenge, casting doubt on its authenticity and effectiveness.
General Brawner's words tempt us to ask if he just popped out of an alternative universe, or if, for the past six years, he has been clueless on the nation's pressing security concerns. Are these genuine words from a Filipino soldier’s heart, or just political rhetoric, carefully scripted by someone else?
The Naval Air Wing plays a pivotal role in the defense of our nation, responsible for maritime and aerial reconnaissance over our territories. Yet, when we examine the relentless encroachment of China upon our sovereign waters, we can't help but wonder just how effective the Philippine Navy is, and how committed is the institution to its cause... its sacred duty to defend our country. What has the Philippine military been doing all these years? What is it busy with now?
The island-building vessels of the Chinese continue to erect structures and establish bases on Philippine shoals, while their commercial fishing fleets plunder our marine resources and decimate our coral reefs with impunity. Filipino fishermen endure harassment, ship collisions, and, tragically, loss of life within our territorial waters. Has anyone in our military truly answered the call "to exceed their limits in ensuring the country's territorial integrity"? The resounding silence suggests otherwise.
In the face of this aggression, the Navy's response has largely been confined to acquiring more planes and boats, which are paraded at ostentatious ceremonies, events graced by high-ranking officials who deliver eloquent speeches but, regrettably, offer little substance. At any given time these ceremonies happen, perhaps even at the exact moment of motivational speeches and applause, a Chinese boat somewhere in the West Philippine Sea is harassing Filipino fishermen and cordoning them off from prime fishing locations inside our territory. There's hardly any engagement, supposedly because it might trigger World War 3.
In stark contrast to our neighbors, such as Vietnam and Japan, who have steadfastly confronted China to protect their territorial integrity, the Philippines seems to lack the resolve for a substantial resistance. Instead, our military apparatus has degraded into a mere display of newly procured equipment, an inventory of armored vehicles, guns, boats, planes and other expensive "toys for the big boys" in a game of profit and pretense. Expensive, but impotent against the enemies of the Filipino people.
Philippine Soldiers vs. The Filipino People
When it comes to aggressive intrusion by a foreign power, maximum tolerance is exercised. But if a Filipino citizen even just dares to criticize the political dynasties in the Philippine government or speak about anomalies in the elections, the military immediately tags them as communist rebels... enemies of the state. That's were all the suppressed feelings of patriotism are unleashed––the poor Filipinos, the victims of robbers in high places, the countrymen boldly speaking the truth. There's little tolerance for government critics around here. And actions range from abduction, imprisonment, intimidation, torture and assassination. Super quick action, advanced even, because of all the high tech monitoring being done and intel-gathering operations against dissenters.
It is an inescapable reality that the primary adversary perceived by the Philippine military is not a foreign invader but the very people they are tasked to protect – the common Filipino citizens. Since World War II, the Philippine military has been responsible for more Filipino deaths than any other nationality has, and these deaths occurred within our own borders, often in the very homes of Filipino citizens.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is not really defending Philippine territory. At least not as much as it is defending a stupid ideology, or more precisely, a fabricated narrative. Its core belief is hinged on protecting the kleptocracy and political dynasties that keep the military generals fat, and any opposition to this system equates to a leftist rebellion and an affront to the state. And this should actually raise some very disconcerting question: Could the controversial intelligence funds and confidential funds system be proof of money paid by the corrupt elite to the military, as a form of bribe? Despite blatantly treasonous and non-stop affronts to the Constitution by kleptocrats, how come there hasn’t been any military coup in recent years? Is that why? Confidential Funds?
Our nation is continuously ravaged, not only by external actors like China and exploitive transnational corporations, but most egregiously by corrupt Filipino leaders who leverage their government positions to rob the common wealth and oppress common folk with impunity. These traitors have become the true puppeteers of the Philippine military, subverting the Constitution they have sworn to uphold. The shameless disloyalty of Philippine military leaders to their real "call of duty" is the underlying reason why the Philippines remains in the grip of a treacherous cabal... and why our country remains impoverished and undeveloped despite its abundant natural resources.
The real adversaries of the Filipino people – those who systematically oppress, exploit, destroy, and even kill – are not foreign invaders but individuals within our government who enable such transgressions for personal gain. Our nation is being undermined not by external threats but by internal betrayals. Our sovereignty is sabotaged every day by the very people who have sworn to assert it.
You put a good Filipino leader up there who will not compromise this country, and China will be out of our backyard in no time. Many believed a supposed strongman's "jet-ski to the West Philippine Sea" promise once. Unfortunately, he was only joking.
No Accountability, No Real Reform
How can a young Filipino soldier defend his country when he witnesses his superiors forsake the welfare of the people, in pursuit of selfish interests? How can we expect an effective and patriotic military when there is no accountability for corrupt individuals in the highest echelons of government? A government lacking discipline in its ranks cannot impose discipline on the people it governs.
How much would you wager versus the odds that the next military offensive of the Armed Forces, resulting in a tragic loss of life, will not be against a foreign invader but against a Filipino falsely branded as a communist rebel? This is a fair and rational question, the answer to which should send shivers down our spines and force us to reflect on the dire state of our nation.
The fact is, we have state forces––military and police––that have no trouble killing thousands of dissenters, drug addicts, tribal people, and environmental protectors who are citizens of this country, but will not fire a single shot at a foreign invader... not even a grazing warning shot. So here we are. Poor Philippines. Pitiful Philippines.
Are we going to applaud or salute?
Until we confront this real challenge, we will remain ensnared in a web of deceit and corruption, with our military's might serving only as a hollow symbol of power rather than a true guardian of our territorial integrity. Our soldiers and police will just serve, in their distorted concepts of patriotism, as bodyguards, mercenaries, hitmen for hire, for the corrupt elite, in their land-grabbing agendas, and their shameless displays of arrogance, and their obsession with perpetuating the rotten status quo.
"Let your military measures be strong enough to repel the invader and keep the peace, and not so strong as to unnecessarily harrass and persecute the people."