Thursday, October 14, 2004

An Officer and a Gentleman

It is disappointing to know that most, if not all, highly-respected officials of the Armed Forces are into corrupt practices. The case of Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia was considered the biggest eye-opener of the century in terms of exposing the corruption in the military. Maj. Gen. Garcia was alleged to have amassed around P50 million from government coffers in his stint as comptroller of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He is currently serving his 6-month preventive suspension for misdeclaring his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), and currently undergoing court martial proceedings upon orders of the President. However, the case of Gen. Garcia is a relatively miniscule matter as compared to many other “underground transactions” our beloved freedom fighters.

The issue of corruption in the military has been considered as an “open secret” among military officers, thus, some people felt that the case of Gen. Garcia is just a sacrificial one to cover up the much bigger picture. As our literary artists say, this is only the tip of the iceberg. In my moments of solitude in my quaint little room, I just pondered on what could have triggered these supposedly noble men in uniform into entering onerous transactions and corrupt practices. I believe that it all started from training.

As a kid, I was always told to be a soldier. My dad always tells me that being a soldier is a very rewarding profession. I never thoroughly pondered on the phrase “rewarding profession” until later in high school. I just thought that the military profession is rewarding because of its good image as protectors of the sovereignty of the nation. But then I was informed that the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the premier training ground of Generals of the land, provides allowances to the families of its trainees. Then I thought, being a soldier is quite financially rewarding. Nevertheless, I refused to follow my father’s advice because in the first place, I was never really keen on waking up early just to shine my tarnished buckle and to marine press my uniform. I got a little problem with discipline. Never have I realized that these men in uniform had bigger disciplinary issues.

Almost every high-ranking official graduated from the PMA. The controversial Maj. Gen. Garcia was a 1971 PMAer. They had to pass through rigorous training for 4 years before they can graduate as junior officers. They shall then possess one of the greatest privileges a Filipino could ever have: to be a leader of the bastion of security and sovereignty. They had to make this sacrifice in order to become the most respectable officers of the land.

However, some of officers get too much of this in their heads. They probably think that appropriate compensation is necessary after years and years of training and sacrifice. They even have to be rewarded for being wounded in battle, and for killing and neutralizing insurgents. And for this, they would think that doing corrupt practices is one way of rewarding themselves of all the sacrifice.

One way to reform the Armed Forces is to instill in the minds of the future officers some essential values and proper conduct. This can be instilled in them through the 4-year training in the PMA. The PMA may add some courses in nationalism, respect for human rights, and effects of corruption. Soldiers must be informed of the negative ramifications of corruption not just to the military system, but to their families, and the Filipino lives as well.

We should start from the roots. Psychologists say that a child undergoes a certain formative phase, in which the child is most receptive and adaptive to what nature, or even parents instruct him. This formative phase in a military man’s life happens during the training period. During this period, it should teach him not just to be a noble and courageous officer, but more importantly to be a true nationalist and a gentleman. In this way, we can prevent more officers from undertaking graft and corruption. God bless our soldiers…

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