Monday, December 21, 2009


So a few days ago, I got some inquiries on from Venice Film Festival award-winning film-maker and I believe, a relative of both my wife and sister-in-law, Pepe Diokno (Yes, my brother and I married cousins). Pepe questioned Gilbert Teodoro's AFP record, Gibo's request for more funding for the AFP, and his involvement in AFP Human rights abuses. So I sent a message out to my network and asked for some answers to Pepe's very valid questions:

Hey guys, I got a message today on twitter from @pepediokno, He brings up some very interesting issues:

"@carlosceldran (...) I thnk 1 of d biggest probs is d politicization of AFP. Gibo wants more funding 4 AFP. So he shd address human rights."

"@carlosceldran Alleged or not, directly linkd or not, as DND Sec, GIbo has respnsiblty. I wnt 2 knw wht he did abt these HR violations (...)"

Also, some people want to have answers about Gibo and his term at DND and how did he address the Melissa Roxas abduction and killings by Jovito Palparan.

Would you have an answer to this? It's from Pepe Diokno. It's his make or break issue with Gibo, he says. Can you give him a good answer?


And I got a reply today. A VERY interesting reply from a really swell media guy who has for now asked me to keep him anonymous. So instead of paraphrasing his answer and using my voice, I will just print it here verbatim, directly from the underground. I personally think it's clear. I really couldn't have said it better.


Hi Carlos.

The theme that runs through the questions is whether Gibo is guilty by association or command responsibility. That's like blaming the US Defense Department for every act of torture or atrocity committed on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. Still, was Gibo aware and tacitly involved?

1. On Gibo's plan to increase military spending and the size of the AFP.

This issue sits well with the AFP and businessmen. Clearly, the Philippines has one of the smallest and least equipped armed forces in Southeast Asia. A troubling reality for a country that faces serious internal security threats from the NPA, MILF, rogue MNLF, Abu Sayyaf, bandit groups, kidnap syndicates, Magdalo rebels, etc. The AFP is miniscule in size and equipment in comparison to countries with no such threats like Singapore and Malaysia (never mind militarist states like Vietnam). The problem in the Philippines is even more pronounced because its an archipelago - and moving troops around is a major logistical problem.

Without the presence of a larger army to hold areas - and not merely to troubleshoot and then leave - security and economic development in the remotest places (and often the richest in resources) is impossible as rebel groups (and armed syndicates) simply return to the area.

Expanding the military has always been a politically controversial issue as the shadow of Marcos continues to haunt the current political discourse. The left has been successful in equating the expansion and upgrading of the military with the return of fascism and militarization. They have been successful getting media, NGOs and liberal politicians to buy this line. Without US aid and training the current budget allocation is terribly inadequate to finance all the war and peace keeping efforts of the AFP (wars are very expensive and we're only talking about internal conflicts not external defense which requires battle ships, fighter planes, etc).

The agenda of the left is to impoverish the army so that guerilla fronts can expand unimpeded. As for bleeding heart liberals in government and civil society, they simply cannot accommodate war as a policy against rebellion. The "why can't we all just get along" worldview of theirs simply blocks out the truth that rebels and terrorists simply want power and that violent overthrow is their way to achieve it.

They should listen to Obama's Nobel Prize speech and see how this most liberal American politician defends war as an instrument of peace. For liberals, poverty is the issue. They don't realize that poverty exists because investments (and basic governance) are impossible in areas where terrorists, bandits and rebels control the countryside.

For non-ideological pragmatists, the problem is the politicalization and corruption of the top brass. They believe that so long as generals are corrupt and allow themselves to be manipulated by their political patrons, expanding the size of the military is useless.

Gibo has mentioned a holistic, but non-ideological approach to the problem: expand and professionalize the AFP. By expanding the army you can hold areas longer and eliminate the role of potentially abusive private armies as proxies of the military and police in the process.

But high numbers alone are irrelevant if morale is low. The military must be armed and trained properly. This is where both the budget and the continuation of security relationships with the US play a role. The left, the pseudo nationalists and liberals cry imperialism but this is more a pragmatic geo-political policy (and in our case also a funding thing) rather than a sell-out of national dignity. (Singapore continues its security ties with the US as a counter to Malaysia and China even if they continue to finance the US treasury!).

Professionalizing the AFP and neutralizing corruption is also critical. Under Gibo, no financial scandal has been reported in the AFP and DND. His critics are trying to trace the cache of arms unearthed in Maguindanao to the DND under Gibo but Teodoro himself has confidently called for an investigation. Insiders know that the ammunition (which is just at 10 percent of the cache found) got there through rogue elements in the local military.

Another fact: under Gibo, the military has been least restive since Arroyo took over the presdiency in 2001. Not just becasue he is a civilian, but because he has earned the respect of the top brass, junior officers and enlisted soldiers. Under Gibo there has been no chatter about coups and mutinies - in fact, we haven't seen a military this quiet in a very long time.

So is human rights training the end all and be all of our problems with the military as suggested by some? Hardly. Human rights is currently in the curriculum of the PMA and training of enlisted troops but that hasn't stopped abuses here and there (though clearly military-led abuses are no longer in the scale of atrocities committed during Marcos and Aquino's time as president). The solution is a pragmatic one: expand the army to eliminate the role of non-professional and private armed groups and professionalize the army so that loyalties are to the State and not to local padrinos and mafia bosses.

2. On whether Gibo is linked to HR abuses himself like the Roxas case and if he allowed killings by ret. Gen Palparan.

Counter-insurgency is a very complex affair as by its very nature there is no transparency in any such campaign to fight forces in the underground. Why? The armed Left (or even terrorists) do not identify themselves as such. The revolution is waged via an intricate network of legal fronts and underground cells where there is no distinction between combatant and political organizer just like there is no disticntion between soldier in battle and unarmed military intelligence operative. Both are part of an armed group whether they carry guns or not.

This explains why no President of the Republic has his or her hands clean. In fact, no head of state of any country dealing with insurgency and separatists has his or her hands clean. Be it the UK government's campaign against the IRA, the US govt and the Taliban, Spain and the ETA - counter insurgency is a dirty war because there are no open rules in waging it. For all the petitions for Cory Aquino's sainthood and Time magazine's own canonization of Cory as the saint of Philippine democracy - she left a stream of bloody incidents involving suspected members of the left - cases where justice was never realized: the Mendiola massacre of farmers, the murder and torture of KMU leader Rolano Olalia, the ambush of former NPA leader Dante Buscayno, the killing of Bayan leader Lean Alejandro - and many more lesser known activists and organizers who were massacred, found salvaged or have disappeared.This was during Cory's time, the arch-liberal and human rights advocate, remember?

Still, torture today should not be tolerated and more so should killings. Wouldn't it be better if arrests could just be made and due process followed? Sure, even if rebellion is close to impossible to prove in court. Most of us are liberals and that's what we believe anyway.

So did Gibo willingly tolerate abuses as DND chief? He can easily answer that for himself.

As for encouraging Jovito Palparan's notorious witchunt - at least that can be answered easily with the facts. Palparan retired in 2006 while Teodoro was appointed DND chief in 2007. So that would have been impossible.


And there you have it Pepe. I hope this is good enough? Cheers man.