Can the military solve the country’s woes?
Reports hogging the headlines in recent days have become very alarming.
Drugs, terrorism, criminality continue to put a damper on the efforts for peace and stability. The rush of reactions and heated debates may make it doubly hard for government to reverse the trend.
The cause of these problems originates from the action or inaction of law enforcement, revenue generation and politically oriented institutions. The tendency has always been to overreact, focusing on the effect of the real problems; hence, creating only a vicious cycle. Because of this knee-jerk reaction, the truth is that the causal problems remain neglected, unattended and unaddressed.
The President has exercised to the fullest his forceful resolve, combat leadership and sincerity. He has also intimated on some occasions the possibility of the imposition of martial law as well as the revival of the Philippine Constabulary for that game-changing impact.
The questions that need to be answered are two-fold: What are the root causes of these concerns and what are the options available for immediate implementation? To my mind, lack of self-discipline and inadequate exercise of leadership by our leaders, especially in the second and third echelons in the bureaucratic hierarchy, are the two culprits.
Breakdown of discipline
From this vantage point, the signs are clear: We have, in our midst, a breakdown of discipline. Some government agencies are the breeding grounds of inefficiency, graft and mediocrity.
According to the late Dr. Raul de Guzman, former dean of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, “Lack of self-discipline comes from lax enforcement of rules and regulations, wide latitude in the interpretation of these laws, cultural and historical background.”
Wide democratic space is also a factor. We envy the growing economics within our region, especially South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and China. These countries are founded on a strong national discipline and manifest leadership exercised by their heads of state.
The other essential factor of weak governance is the lack of leadership qualities in those in charge; and these qualities are essential to a strong and sound government machinery.
Very few of these people are achievers. Many are prone to compromise. Mercy-tocracy and mediocrity are encouraged by the lackluster standards.
Some other indicators of weak leadership are lack of initiative, selective and withholds imposition of punishment to erring officials, selective and delayed enforcement of the justice system, and lackadaisical obedience to the duly constituted authority.
These two—lack of self-discipline and weak leadership—are the root causes of our present misfortune and neglect.
Under these scenarios of gloom and desperation, can the military be resorted to as an option in order to enhance good performance and effect a change for good? Definitely yes, but at what cost?
If the military is an option, the factor of extra power is introduced into the situation. If this then is a possibility, it is important to understand the culture and mindset of the military.
The determinants of power are “expertise, personal attraction, effort, and legitimacy.” According to the book Gaining Power and Influence by Whetton et al, “The presidency by virtue of the constitution is vested with the legitimacy to exercise the power to govern.”
The President has projected a high level of personal power because of his charisma. In spite of these power bases, however, the results of the campaigns, especially on drugs, criminality, and terrorism, have not met expectations or seen much progress.
Political objectives are accomplished with dispatch and with corresponding results if the implementor possesses the wherewithal and coercive inducement to turn the table to his advantage.
It is axiomatic that the military is the only force that can neutralize the physical and psychological force against the enemies of the state that threaten security and stability.
To use the military, either through the imposition of martial law or on a limited scale, requires a deep understanding of its nature and character.
The military is in a class of its own. It is founded on unique and rich traditions, which enable a skills set that allows it to perform its role in society—consistent with the cycle of wars, conflicts, and peace that characterizes the historical development of a nation.
Many have negative impressions about the military mind, arising mostly from a distorted perception advanced by victims of martial law. The better, beneficial side has been overly downplayed.
Military mindset is founded on absolute obedience: Obedience to command, obedience to a duly constituted authority. By the nature of its character, it is intrinsically strict in focus and best employed where there is a clear direction.
This mindset is reflected in a hierarchical organization steeped in the principles of chain of command and command responsibility. An order is hardly or rarely affected by emotional and attitudinal response.
For the soldier, mission accomplishment and welfare of the men are first, all others are secondary.
This mental framework works best in wars, extreme emergencies and serious conflict situations. This mindset projects confidence, positive mental attitude and competitive spirit, leading to victory in war and conflict.
The various stakeholders of society have made a considerable transformation since the martial law days. While baby boomers monopolized the political and social environment before, today, it is the millennials who have great influence on the pulse of the nation.
Advanced digital and information technology has revolutionized systems and processes, thus impacting on social and cultural changes.
The vehement objections to the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos sent a strong signal that millennials are a force to reckon with.
The disparity of mindsets between the military and the civilian sectors offers a balanced and diverse view that is essential to an enlightened working environment. The military possesses a reservoir of managerial and leadership capabilities that can become value multipliers to create a responsible citizenry. Success is predicated on excellent leadership.
Excellent leadership produces exemplary performance. Leadership is a warrior’s art—the root of all forms of leadership adopted by different professions and discipline. It is the only form of leadership that can make a difference under extreme conflict and crisis situations.
Limited and defined military participation in a civil government is most appropriate, a cost-effective utilization of a national investment. It must be directly and explicitly involved in areas relating to extreme emergencies, conflict resolutions, disaster and relief operations, forest protection, internal and external defense and law enforcement.
The military’s involvement must be explicitly prescribed through a presidential directive.
Furthermore, it is in the best interest of the nation if the military is given responsibilities in industries relating to public utilities, such as electricity and water supply. Service is not permanent, but contingent on national security priorities. These small but critical tokens of involvement in selected government machineries can impact on values of self-discipline and leadership that can infect civilian counterparts.
The high regard of the President, in both his explicit and implicit statements about the importance of the military to the success of his administration, is very reassuring.
The basic military infrastructure that made our country a force to reckon with in the community and among our immediate neighbors in the past is being reintegrated and harnessed once more. Singapore, Israel and other independent nations maintain mandatory military service for their citizens. In the US and other NATO countries, many active military officials occupy positions of major responsibility within the echelons of government.
In addition, strengthening the reservist component that can serve the government and critical industries on a rotation basis is a system that is implemented in advanced democracies, including the US, Canada and many European Union nations.
Formed troops, which serve in peacekeeping and combat missions abroad, consist of both regular and reserve components. The reserve components come from the rank and file of private companies consisting of engineers, doctors, logisticians, medical specialists, scientists, etc.
There is much to be gained from tapping the military organization and the many talents of men and women in uniform.
The President has made his intentions clear, and it is now time to take action. These inputs are intended to help get the ball rolling.
Mr. President, we are with you. Strike while the iron is hot.
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author, who is a member of the MAP national issues committee, is formerly 42nd Commanding General of the Philippine Army and 1st Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in East Timor. At present, he is a part-time professorial lecturer at UP Diliman and director of Graduate Studies at the Manuel L. Quezon University.
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