Monday, April 22, 2013

Discussion Topic: Authoritarianism and the Stateless Society

Your mission if you agree to accept it . . .
The real JoeAm?

JoeAm will be on family vacation for two weeks, returning in early May. He drops off this blog as a voluntary mission for readers, ala "Mission Impossible". 

Here's the framing:
  • The Philippines is an authoritarian society. Interpersonal rivalries are intense, a struggle to top or topple the opposition. The government is democratic but tends toward authoritarianism: laying down the law but enforcing it selectively, officious attitude in government offices, army and local government vigilante behavior, issuing dictates left and right with no open justice system for the people. Senators doling out millions in Christmas gifts as if it were THEIR money.
  • Richard Javad Heydarian in his recent article "Why the Philippines Failed" makes a very clear point that the Philippines does not keep pace with other developing nations because it does not have a strong concept of "State" governance. This article is the beginning point for the discussion and is required reading for volunteers.
Here's the issue: How can the Philippines be both authoritarian and weak of State? 

Here's the mission:
  1. Rationalize the apparent contradicition of authoritarianism and statelessness.
  2. Explain in clear terms what has to happen -- tangibly and practically achievable -- to move the Philippines forward to become of equal stature to Japan and South Korea as a core nation in Asia.
Whether and how you proceed is up to you.

This blog will self-destruct in two weeks . . .

Loose Ends

Let us take a quick fly across the news and catch up on a few loose ends.

Anteater Jacket
22,000 Pounds Is a Lot of Anteaters

The Chinese poaching vessel that ran around on Tubbataha Reef near where the US minesweeper was recently extracted carried 11 tons of dead anteaters. Those Chinese, boy, they are weird in the cuisine and clothing departments. The maximum jail time for poaching is 12 years, and time for having endangered species is another six. So I'd give the captain the full 18 years and the next guy in charge eight and all the crew five years each at labor, assigned to assist Palawan in their re-foresting effort.

I'd guess these are not spiritual guys. They don't climb to the tops of mountains and reflect on the power and beauty of God's glorious green earth. 

Bias R Us

"Hey Joe, what's with letting the American minesweeper crew off without jail time, but demanding the Chinese get jailed? Your bias is showing!"

That is not bias, that is a crisp understanding of the TRUTH that commie leftists and ultra-nationalists deny, the United States is a part of the Philippine family and we ought not jail our own errant relatives. Especially if we want America to sweep the Chinese mines off the beaches of Palawan a year or two from now. The distinction is akin to that between a drunken uncle who staggers through the living room and breaks Mama's favorite vase, and a snarling neighbor caught red-handed on the terrace trying to steal Mama's prized Australian cockatoo.

Boston Massacre

When things like this happen, I recognize what a pitiful place our planet is in the people department. To hate so much that the murder of innocents is rationalized as righteous. I ache for the good people who were cast into tragedy by the bomber(s). They were out to celebrate and lost loved ones instead.

Separating Issue from Individual: The President

I've often urged Filipinos, particularly bloggers, to stop criticizing their President as if he were out to "get" the Philippines each time he makes a move they disagree with. Joe Klein of Time Magazine expressed this thought well as follow-up to the Boston Marathon bombing. He was speaking to American media:

  • 6. And I would urge those in the media who speak of the United States government as if it were a foreign entity to chill out. You may be further poisoning the demented. Criticism of the government is, of course, as American as oxycont . . . but it is our government and this is our President. You may disagree with one program or another–you may think (wrongly) that Obamacare is socialistic, you may think that the Patriot Act is part of a ruinous, possibly conspiratorial invasion of privacy–but this President has proved time and again that he is a strong American patriot. Any inferences otherwise may reap the whirlwind.

Chinese Fingers

I love a good headline. This one was from Reuters a few days ago.

  • "China points finger at U.S. over Asia-Pacific tension"

The article describes China's pout, or rant, about the US pivot to Asia. It quotes a Chinese minister as saying:

  •  "There are some countries which are strengthening their Asia Pacific military alliances, expanding their military presence in the region and frequently make the situation there tenser."

By howdy, isn't that the truth. I'm thinking that if China would stand down on its military build-up, maybe the US would go away and leave Asia to its broad enrichment, peacefully. And if they'd get their flippin' boats out of the Philippine EEZ, off Vietnamese islands, and away from Japanese islands, the tensions would fizzle faster than one of JoeAm's famous flat souffl├ęs.

The Chinese are horrible at looking inward and accepting accountability for problems. They remind me a lot of the Catholic  Church.

Could be their cuisine needs changing . . .

Blogging Platforms

JoeAm will be moving his blog to the Word Press platform in early May when he returns from a family vacation to Hong Kong. This will facilitate a cleaner look to the blog and layered discussion threads. The blogs are much richer and deeper when commenters engage each other.  The system will require that those who wish to comment indicate their e-mail address. Addresses will be held in private. Perhaps this will also help thin out the spam that has been infesting the Blogger blog. The web site address will be released when it is opened up for public comment.


JoeAm has refrained from engaging in election discussions, not wanting to influence Filipinos who are unable to think for themselves. The Department of Immigration made clear that we foreigners are a National Security risk and will be deported if we fool around with elections. Joe does smirk in ironic pleasure as he drives past his Barangay Captain's house, which is the vote-buying center for our area. The candidates for governor of the mighty Biliran Province are playing the election game as it is always played. Without dastardly intellectual discussion.  They won't get deported, I'm quite confident.

Giant Snails and the Slime Infestation

The state of Florida in the US is doing battle with an infestation of giant African snails. The creatures will eat anything green plus your house, if it is made of stucco, because the stucco contains calcium that the snail craves for its shell.  The creatures produce 1,200 young a year, which tops even Filipinos. The snails can be horrid as the following excerpt from a Reuters article illustrates:

  • In some Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, which are overrun with the creatures, the snails' shells blow out tires o the highway and turn into hurling projectiles from lawnmower blades, while their slime and excrement coat walls and pavements.

Sounds a little like Get Real Post to me.

The Florida government is looking for a good strong poisonto try to eradicate the slimey creatures.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sympathy for the Boston Bomber?

Jose Mario de Vega
I read a Get Real Post article that expresses sympathy with the Boston bomber. Well, not with the bomber's act, exactly, but with the motive that is likely behind the bomber: bring down US imperialism.

Here's a link to the article. It's by Jose Mario de Vega.

The article begins with a stark condemnation of the bombing and expresses condolences for the young boy who was killed. Then it turns the gut-wrenching emotion inside out with an attack on America and ends with the closing call: "DOWN WITH US IMPERIALISM!!!"

Yes, in caps, three exclamation points.

In other words, this blog writer is sympathetic to the motives of the bomber. Make no mistake about that. It is not a call for understanding, or compassion. It is a clarion call of hate raised loud and clear on that bastion of blogging integrity Get Real Post.

The article content is mainly a list, a replication of "a century of U.S. Military Intervention complied by Dr. Zoltan Grossman".

A few excerpts from the author's own words in the article:

  • I hope that those bastard imperialist and war mongers in Washington and Pentagon will not use the Boston event as a necessary pretext to bomb or attack North Korea and/or Iran!

  • I hope that the American public would not be again duped and brainwashed by their stupid, racist and imperialist government!

  • Those bastards who bomb Boston are terrorists, in the same vein, that the United States of America is the NUMBER ONE TERRORIST COUNTRY IN THE WHOLE WORLD by virtue of their long history of bloodbath, mayhem and mass murder committed against the people of the world!

  • My heart breaks for those who died and injured in Boston, in the same vein that it pierces and shatters my soul every time an American bomb drops in any part of the world killing innocent civilians, especially women and children!

And then this remarkable quote:

  • Consider the following conversation below: Guy 1: I’m really upset about the bombing. Guy 2: The one in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, or the one the media told you to be sad about?

So the author believes the gut-wrenching sympathy Americans feel about the Boston tragedy is sad because the media tells them to be sad. In other words, there is nothing about the incident on its own merits that calls for sadness. This reveals the author's own fake condolence in the article, condolence that is merely aimed at posturing himself as a sympathetic man.

He is not a sympathetic man. He is an angry manipulator.

The list of US interventions is a rather fascinating list. It is an example of when information presented out of context makes a new context, a new reality.

The implication is that the US is an aggressive war-mongering, imperialistic nation. The truth would have to be found in looking at each case and determining, was the US intervention good or bad from the perspective of the citizens of the subject nation, or was the intervention in some way aimed at defending American citizens?

I'm sure one could compile a reasonably profound balancing list of people who are thankful for the US engagement in their nation. So it is a rather interesting for what it is, a one-sided list sheared of context.

Note the sequencing of events around World War II:

  • CHINA 1948-49 Troops/Marines evacuate Americans before Communist victory.
  • PHILIPPINES 1948-54 Command operation CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.

Missing entirely is World War II, and the US interventions in Europe and Asia.

What's with this? 

What's with this is that the list is concocted for advocacy, for impact, not for accuracy, or for comprehensive truth.

It is an argument, not a study. It is the kind of argument the Boston bomber likely BELIEVED.

So who is Dr. Zoltan Grossman who originally compiled the list?

The good doctor has made his mark writing and teaching about US racism and military interventions.  He is an advocate AGAINST war. But he at least appears to teach ideas, not anger.

What about the author of the blog article on Get Real PostHis name is Jose Mario de Vega. Here is what he says about himself:

  • The writer has a Master’s degree in Philosophy, a law degree and a degree in AB Political Science. He was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in the Nilai University College at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. He is currently a lecturer at the College of Arts, Department of Philosophy at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. As of the moment, he is preparing to publish his first book entitled “Dissidente”. It is a collection of his articles, commentaries and op-ed published by various newspapers in Southeast Asia.

He tags himself on Get Real Post as "The Radical".

I'm asking myself as I near the end of this commentary, had he submitted the post to the Society of Honor for publication, would I run it? Ought Get Real Post be condemned for running it?

You know, I probably would run it.  With an editor's comment framing why it is run. The disgrace of Get Real Post is not in running the article. It is in not allowing open comment to balance a provocative viewpoint. It is found in GRP's banning of JoeAm and others who have opposed GRP advocacies in the past. So Get Real Post walks no high ground here.

The article represents an attitude that must be dealt with to find a peaceful way forward. It fairly represents what I consider to be a simplistic, angry, narrow-minded perspective held by radicals. In other words, it is a legitimate viewpoint no matter how disgusting I find the framing to be, leveraging the Boston bombing tragedy for political gain.

Here's what I think about the whole of the matter of war and peace:

Wars are not brought to us by earnest, honest, candid people interested in finding solutions to competing or conflicting self-interests. They are brought to us by conniving power-mongers holding narrow views, expecting others to fit into their narrow views, and leveraging emotions to achieve their goals. Sometimes these people occupy US government positions. Most of the time they are elsewhere.

You can recognize them easily.

They read a lot like Jose Mario de Vega.

Addendum: Mr. de Vega's response to this blog can be found here:

I cannot respond to his blog directly because I am banned from Get Real Post. But, hey, I appreciate the time he put into it. He does have his passion.

My answer to his questions posed there would be twofold: (1) hate breeds war, and (2) information presented out of historical context breeds hate.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cross-Cultural Conversational Convergence

I've long been interested in the process whereby people communicate. Indeed, that was a part of my college education in journalism. We studied matters like non-verbal communication and how to craft arguments to win a debate. Much of the particulars of the course work has evaporated from the synaptic cobwebs of my mind, but a few lessons remain securely in place.

I remember that the order of arguments in a speech is something like 24531, where "2" is the second most powerful, and "1" is the most powerful.  You begin with a zinger, bury the weaker arguments in the middle, and end with the convincing final thrust.

We learned that the power position in a lengthy conference room is one of the end chairs, or immediately to the right of the most important person in the room. The end chair captures the attention of the whole room easily. The position next to the important person captures his power as your own. Of course a high straight-backed chair is a better position than sunk into the sofa.

This comes to mind because I frequently see Filipinos using a debate style in blog arguments that I suppose is intended to strengthen their argument. But it weakens them, at least in a westerner's eyes. It is a black and white statement of cultural convergence that often leads to a clash rather than clarity.

Take this case of two different ways of responding to someone who appears not to grasp the point you have made:

  • Response A: "You don't understand what I am saying."

  • Response B: " Perhaps I've explained this poorly."

Which is the most powerful response? In the Philippines you almost ALWAYS get Response A. The objective, of course, is to take a whack at the other person to suggest he is not bright enough to grasp what you are saying. This moves him down a peg, which is like moving you up a peg.

Yet, it is the weaker of the two responses.

The person who uses Response B "owns" the confusion. He takes responsibility for the misunderstanding and thereby holds onto the driver's stick. Or wheel. Or the control button.  He projects authority, while the Case A respondent projects whine. At least to an educated westerner.

Most people probably don't even think about it.

Another variation of the "put down" is to pick on the nits, and from that extend that the bigger picture is too flawed for acceptance.

  • Observation A: "President Aquino made a poor decision on 'X' and therefore he is a bad president.."

  • Observation  B: "President Aquino made a poor decision on X. Here are the reasons."

Observation A is the traditional Filipino method. All acts reflect the person, not the person's decision. Find the flaw and point it out as a flaw in character. Control the argument and you control the person.

The claim to power, or the need to claim it, is very pronounced in the Philippines.

I've argued that almost every interpersonal engagement here is a battle for dominance. Even the most trivial, the gossip, the teasings, the constant shadings that correct what a person says.

But it doesn't really succeed, this need to claim and project power. It too often creates animus. That means bitter anger. So you can connect a lot of dots and understand why politics is such a murderous business in the Philippines.

Of course, personal insult is a part of this dynamic, the posturing for power. Destroy the argument by destroying the person making it. I don't need to provide a case for that. Just go to your nearest anti-blog thread, or Rappler discussion thread, and you'll likely come across that particular "technique".  The need to diminish others is so prominent that, after awhile, it becomes a joke.

How do we get past this? We are all emotional people, of course. But can't we do better?

There are many formal ways to dissect a debate as to good argument or bad, fallacious or logical. To me that academic formality it is a bit of overkill, as we are mostly casual observers reaching for understanding or trying to convince others to see things as we do. 

And of course, you find the same flaws in blog arguments ANYWHERE. Not just the Philippines. But the incidence of an outright push for personal power, versus dissection of issues, is very pronounced in the Philippines. 

To the latter point, I have characterized many (most?) Filipinos as 100 percenters. They enter the  argument to prove they are right rather than to learn or be flexible. I'd say that in 5 years of pounding the blogs, I've seen someone change their opinion maybe once or twice.

That to me is unnatural. Think about it. With all the knowledge out there, the greatest share held by others rather than us, it is peculiar to believe that the correct conclusion rests in our brain and nowhere else.

Yet we too often insist on placing winning above being candid and sincere and precise and honest.

There is a surreal quality to a culture that engages in dialogue for reasons other than discovery. It is crazy-making sometimes. It is impossible to carry on a simple, frank discussion. Everything is wrapped in emotional competitiveness, like banana leaves defining the bibinka.

I'd argue that discovery is a higher ground than winning, and the Philippines would be a better, more productive place if people did not invest so much energy tearing others down.

Here are a few of rules I try to follow, succeeding precisely 83.6 percent of the time to employ them:

  • Be a student first and then a teacher. Put learning on a higher plane than winning. It is amazing how that focuses on the issue rather than the person.  It also grants others the honor of being helpful. Or do you have something against making others feel happy or satisfied?

  • Recognize that ignorance is not a fault.  Wiki any subject. What percent of the information is new to you? If you did not know 100%, you are in some capacity ignorant. Perhaps the other person is coming at you from the part you don't know. Like, where he has lived or worked or studied, a place that you cannot possibly know. And to pretend you DO know is a very gross ignorance indeed. So let the other person work earnestly to remove your ignorance a little. Grant him that honor.

  • Have the strength to be flawed. That's very difficult in the Philippines because the culture is so absolutely unforgiving. But there is a certain disarming quality to someone who has the strength and candor to laugh at his own flaws. It takes away the critic's ammunition. That is why it is called "disarming".

Perhaps you have techniques that work for you, too. Don't hesitate to share them.

Our goals, of course:

  • More knowledge.
  • Walking the high road.
  • Greater satisfaction.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Defense III: "Who's the Enemy Around Here, Anyway?"

    Jack Ryan is famed author Tom Clancy's CIA strategist who, via a series of spy and military adventures, becomes President of the United States. We herein take our best shot at emulating the young Ryan's superior ability to digest chaos and mystery and come up with order.

    This installment of our Philippine Defense dialogue will take its lead from the prior two articles. In the first, we presented a critique of the Department of National Defense layout and goals, and in the second we looked at the component AFP forces of Army, Navy and Air Force. We still have on the agenda dealing with: (a) budget, (b) intelligence security groups, and (c ) relationship with the United States. We'll deal with the US as a part of this discussion.


    We've learned that the AFP is administratively top heavy and grossly underfunded to accomplish the modernization goal set forward by Congress in 1995. The Navy and Air Force have been substantially neglected. The Army maintains a force of about 200,000 soldiers, each with an M-16 apparently, but the rest of the equipment is old.

    We can piece together the following basic plan for the Armed Forces of the Philippines from our various readings (our analysis and words, not those of the AFP):

    1. Modernize the equipment of all branches, but particularly the dilapidated Navy and Air Force, with highest priority on the Navy due to increasingly threatening incursions into Philippine Territory by Chinese ships.
    2. Continue to fight rebel infestations in the jungles primarily in Mindanao (Muslim extremists and NPR extortionist gangsters).
    3. Support domestic needs for police assistance, COMELEC inspections and disaster response.

    Our prior discussion argued for a smaller Army, less administratively burdened, more focused on warfare than police work, and better equipped. The Navy in particular needs beefing up.

    The rationale for scaling down the size and scaling up the capability of the Army comes from a simple business management principle that "secondary effort, allowed to flourish, will undermine primary effort."

    That is what has happened to the Philippine military. Domestic needs have taken precedent over battle readiness. Peter was robbed to pay Paul, or the Navy and Air Force were ignored to pay for a nationwide domestic Army presence. Administrative "make work" (parades and medals and lolling about at checkpoints) took the place of preparation for conventional warfare. The military is economically broke, strewn all across the nation, poorly armed, and perhaps living complacently at the top.

    So Jack Ryan . . . er, JoeAm has proposed some radically different ideas to get focused back on fighting capability. Hey, it may be a pipedream, but the dream is better than reality as it stands now:

    1. Merge the three forces - Army, Navy, Air Force - into one fully coordinated combat unit rather than three units managed separately and patched together on a needs basis. This is not the United States with millions of soldiers. There are only about 20,000 Navy and 20,000 Air Force personnel. With separate administrative functions and a domestic policing agenda riding high, there's not much manpower available for fighting. So consolidate the back office and support functions. Integrate the fighting teams.
    2. Pursue a "missile and drone" strategy as the driver of weapons procurement. Stop trying to arm with WWII weapons. Put platforms in place to deliver these weapons: ships, planes and commando teams.
    3. Separate domestic needs (supporting COMELEC, local police assistance and disaster relief) into a Federal Police separate from the Army, with the Army assigned the job of fighting via a smaller, well-trained, well-armed component. 

    It is interesting that the Army has such a widespread presence on all major Philippine islands. And almost all Army divisions cite the mission of defeating domestic rebels. Yet rebel infestations are fairly limited in numbers - small bands - and are primarily on Mindanao. It is almost as if the Army's national distribution of troops were for a different purpose, a lingering vestige of days when coups were just around the corner and the troops were needed either to suppress them, or to help carry them out.

    One would certainly be inclined to ask if the domestic enemy is really so widespread within the Philippines? Or the likelihood of coups and civil unrest so strong that a widely dispersed Army is needed?

    Can you maintain a huge, widespread domestic presence and arm up to face China, or other hard threats? Not with a budget that must also serve schools and building an economic infrastructure.

    Other sharp questions were raised by readers during the discussions on the two prior blogs: Who, really, is the enemy, and what are we trying to accomplish? It was observed that the island structure of the archipelago mandates a much stronger Navy, and is in some respects easy to defend.

    We will in this blog reflect on who is the enemy. And we will add to that how the Philippines might relate to the U.S.


    We put existing or POTENTIAL enemies into five categories:

    • Semi-Organized Domestic Extortionists: (probability of combat 100%; scope 25% of available fighting forces)
    • Muslim extremists: (probability of combat 100%; scope 15% of available fighting forces)
    • China: (probability of combat 10%; scope 100% of available fighting forces)
    • Other Asian state:  (probability of combat 1%; scope 100% of available fighting forces )
    • Civil unrest within the Philippines: (probability of combat 5%; scope 100% of available fighting forces)

    Lets put some meat on these bones, recognizing that this exercise is wholly speculative and has no endorsement or inputs from government officials.

    Semi-Organized Domestic Extortionists

    These "rebel" forces eat up a lot of the Army's manpower and budget. Comprehensive peace is hard to reach because rebel demands are extreme and the organization is not unified. The persistent success of these gangs at committing murder, kidnap-for-ransom, and intimidation in support of fund-raising is testimony to the defensibility of the islands. They disappear into the jungles or merge with residents and come out to fight at any time, at any place.

    Winning the war will likely come in some form other than combat as combat can only kill or capture small pods of rebel troops:

    • Peace agreement making national concessions along the lines of the Mindanao agreement.
    • Broader economic revitalization reducing poverty and discontent.
    • Local residents turning against the gangs.

    This is likely to be a long, protracted struggle. If JoeAm were writing a fictional book about the matter he'd probably be inclined to structure things as follows:

    • Create Federal Police separate from the Army and make this a police action (also assign disaster response and COMELEC checkpoints to the Police).
    • "Win the hearts and minds of residents" through economic improvements targeting specific regions (Northeast Mindanao) and community friendly police work (health clinics, for example).
    • Continued efforts to strike a formalized written agreement that does not impose unreasonable demands on the State.
    • Make military assistance available on call when large-scale actions are identified ("bring in the drones").

    Muslim Extremists

    Muslim extremists are attack oriented, keying in on soldiers and also extortion targets (kidnappings; beheadings for intimidation). The extremists are larger, are well-armed groups with international ties. It is the international funding and arming that separates this group from domestic gangsters and calls for military, rather than police, intervention. The US is already engaged in support of the Philippine Army with (a rumored) several hundred advisors in place on islands to the southwest. It is believed that drones are deployed for eye-in-the-sky monitoring, but not for attack (one missile attack is rumored to have been undertaken).

    Winning the war will likely come in some way other than combat:

    • Peace agreement carried all the way through, past Constitutional objections  (process underway).
    • Broader economic revitalization reducing poverty and discontent (underway).
    • Local residents turn against the extremists in favor of peace and economic development (underway).


    This is the toughest one because the threat is pronounced yet may never materialize. The defense agreement with the United States is the backstop against a major event. It is in the best interest of the Philippines to demonstrate an increasing ability to take on her own defense in the event of limited conflict. The direction of the Philippines under this scenario would be to assume more and more of the fighting burden and to relegate the US as far into the background as possible.

    What may happen regarding China? In our fictional novel, ala Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, we might concoct some scenarios and probabilities as a starting point for refinement based on better data:

    1. The Philippines will win UN arbitration; China will depart from the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone ("EEZ") peacefully (likelihood 15%).
    2. The Philippines will win UN arbitration; China will  not depart from the EEZ (likelihood 85%).
    3. China will land troops on unoccupied islands within the EEZ and start building residential or commercial structures (85%)
    4. China will evict Philippine residents and troops from occupied islands within the EEZ and take control of new territory forcibly (5%).
    5. China will block Philippine ships from sailing in parts of the West Philippine Sea (50%).
    6. China will fire warning shots on Philippine ships to block them from sailing (20%).
    7. China will fire on a Philippine ship or ships causing Filipino casualties (5%).
    8. China will occupy the Philippine mainland subsequent to escalation of localized fighting (1%).
    9. China will wage cyber-war against the Philippines (95% for harassment, 5% for destructive acts such as bringing down power, communications and other infrastructure).

    This is so much pie in the sky speculation. But at least it starts and organizes a thinking process.

    Other Asian State

    If one looks around the cusp of Asia, in which the Philippines is centrally located, it is difficult to imagine armed conflict breaking out between the Philippines and any state other than Malaysia. Relations are generally good and there are few direct conflicts. Malaysia is on the chalk board due to frictions caused by Sultan Kiram's attempt to physically occupy land in Sabah that he claims. If such frictions were to grow more serious perhaps there is a scenario that would see the Philippines and Malaysia in direct military conflict. It would likely be a short-term violent flare-up, more pushing and shoving than territorial conquest. Contingency plans should include this possibility.

    Massive civil unrest within the Philippines

    It was only a short time ago that President Arroyo declared martial law in Mindanao. It was limited in scope and time. On one hand, it is difficult to imagine widespread unrest in today's civil Philippines. But also, given the public's penchant to vote for dynastic names rather than platform, it is easy to imagine another authoritarian president seeking permanent rule, and using the military as his arm of discipline to quell protest. Indeed, it might be advisable to ensure against such a scenario by pulling troops back from widespread distribution in the Philippines to minimize military use during civil unrest. The military should be staging for the kinds of conventional warfare incidents that are threatening today.


    Many Filipinos are understandably suspicious of any relationship with the United States. Feelings range from outright condemnation of any US military presence to pragmatic acceptance given China's incursions into Philippine territory.

    Sovereignty. Does an alliance with the US impose on Philippine sovereignty? I suppose it does in the sense that the Philippines must consider that the US traditionally demands autonomy over her military. The degree of latitude given to the Philippines to "direct" US troops would be limited. But presumably the US would respect Philippine guidance pertaining to activities in the Philippines.

    The US has struck a defense agreement with Korea that puts Korea in the driver's seat to control deployment of US military assets. It is a model the Philippine might aspire toward. 

    One can imagine this dialogue taking place:

    • American General: "We recommend flying stealth bombers over South Korea from the US to send a message to North Korea that they are within striking distance."
    • Korean General: "Wait one." ("That's Army for give me a little time to converse with someone.") "Roger that. We agree. When can we expect them to arrive?"

    The American General would not say "We're going to fly our bombers into Korea." Does one lose autonomy if one retains approval authority? I think not if that approval authority is specific and clear.

    Or this conversation:

    • Korean General: "We recommend flying stealth bombers over South Korea from the US to send a message to North Korea that they are within striking distance."
    • American General: "Wait one. . . . Negative on that, General. Our chief says that's too provocative for us."

    Does one lose autonomy if one respects the partner's stance? Hmmmm. Technically, yes, to the extent restraint of action occurs.

    Does that mean one ought not have alliances?

    No. It means one must be willing to embark on the give and take of decision making with a partner who may have different viewpoints or  interests, and to remain respectful of the alliance and its overall value. In other words, don't be a 100 percenter and demand that the alliance march to the Philippine beat alone.

    Perhaps it would benefit the Philippines to look within and recognize that its own acts can determine what the relationship with the United States is likely to be. If the Philippines demonstrates a good grasp of strategies, tactics and execution during training drills, and becomes and equal partner rather than student, then the US is more likely to grant the Philippines greater leeway to request and receive assistance in the form of weaponry or technology or command control.

    Autonomy demands that the Philippines display "world class" fighting attitude and skill, and the ability to work in forthright partnership with allies.

    Forthright partnership was not on display when the American minesweeper ran aground in Tubattaha Reef. The Philippine military did not step in to break the contentious relationship that flared up between Park Rangers and officers aboard the US ship. Nor did the Americans go directly to some standing military liaison contact in the Philippines to get relief. It was an acrimonious incident, not one of partnership. Not one of good, quick communication and resolution.

    You can't have that kind of separation, and failure to communicate and execute, in battle.

    Right now the two allies are dancing a very awkward dance.

    The Philippines can take control of the relationship if her military leaders demonstrate the aptitude necessary to command respect from American military brass. A widespread domestic policing force and woeful sea and air power are unlikely to command respect among those looking for fighting capability.  If blogger JoeAm can see what is going on with regard to the Philippine military, the US has a crystal-clear insight into the lack of combat readiness that characterizes the overall capability of Philippine forces.

    The Philippines and the US do collaborate on strategic matters, but these appear to be in the form of structured conferences. Formal exchanges and briefings that confirm mutual interest. But not down and dirty work together to hammer out scenarios, contingencies and responses. The exception is the fighting of terrorism in the Southwest. It is difficult to know how that is going and what kind of mutual engagement and respect exists there.

    US/Philippine training exercises are held regularly to teach troops how to converse with one another and act as a team on shore invasions or disaster recovery. But how ready is the PARTNERSHIP to address the China scenarios outlined above. Somewhere between formal top line discussions of mutual interest and in-the-field practice there is an arena where battles will be won or lost: strategies and tactical scenarios  . . . and responses. Including the deceptions and feints that are crucial to good outcomes. And good information, from drones or spies or reconnaissance missions.

    These fighting plans should drive equipment-purchase priorities. Right now, it would appear that equipment needs are being driven by domestic leaders tallying up hardware they'd like, without connection to battle plans.

    The Philippines can drive the establishment of a scenario-driven relationship and retain considerable authority over the how the fighting alliance will work. Authority over how the alliance works does not mean cock-fight posturing. It means taking the initiative to be aggressive about thinking things through, and inviting the US into the process.

    Scenarios and responses first. Understanding what the US can bring to the table second. Philippine equipment and training plans flow from that.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"I Flee and Moan, Therefore I am . . ."

Like Nixon, not Woodward
A short blog of no real consequence, a rebound as it were.

Blogger: (noun) one who flees to his personal writing space and moans to the best of his ability.

Moan: (verb) to point out the flaws in others.

Information is where you find it.
  • FOI is a legal initiative to drag information reluctantly from government, for government has a natural drive toward secrecy. It is best done through legislation that mandates accessibility to all but the most sensitive of government information.
  • Spying is the risky business of stealing information from another nation to help defend one's own nation. It is generally illegal and is carried out secretly for purposes deemed important and righteous. Spies are often executed.
  • Investigative journalism starts with an issue and probes sometimes hidden or undiscovered information to shed light on the issue. It is journalism with a purpose deeper than reporting on everyday events. Investigative journalism will sometimes rely on unrevealed sources that have access to secret information. The righteous justification is found in revealing who did what to whom, when, where, why and how. What is often criminal. 
  • Whistle-blowing is the non-journalistic cousin of investigative journalism.
  • Wikileaks is a political effort aimed at undermining the integrity of powerful states using methods that are illegal, such as theft of information. It is akin to spying except it is not in defense of any nation, but is for the destruction of nations. Wikileaks would argue that it furthers the betterment of mankind, but one wonders why undertakings are done with disregard toward laws. Laws are the rules by which we pursue the betterment of mankind. 
Wikileaks is Nixon, doing illegal acts for political purposes. Investigative journalism is Woodward, doing discovery on illegal acts.

We should be clear on this.

Scurrilous scumbag: (adjective fronting a noun) Julian Assange

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Defense Part II: Army, Navy, Air Force

105 Howitzer
The first article in this series presented an overview of the Philippine Department of National Defense, the civilian organization responsible for articulating a following through on laws aimed at building a strong military. The essential question is, how prepared is the nation to defend itself? The answer, subject to further enlightenments as we proceed, appears to be "not very". The reasons for the answer: (1) only 10% of the needed P331 billion budget for improvement has been allocated, and (2) the heavy administrative structure moves money to non-fighting purposes.

In this article, we will profile the main fighting units, army, navy and air force, looking at structure, mission and resources. JoeAm will make observations along the way. If you find the detail too mundane, please skip to the last section where JoeAm thinks outside the box.  


This matrix organization pulls all military forces together under a command structure covering seven geographic regions of the Philippines, plus a National Development Support Command. There are also 16 support units.  Here is a sample mission from the Central Command:

  • Central Command Mission: To conduct joint operations against threats in the Visayas in order to establish a Peaceful and Secured environment, and assist the Local Government Agencies in their Socio-Economic, Ecological and Developmental Activities.

AFP is led  by the following people:

  • Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, AFP, Chief of Staff, AFP
  • Lt. Gen. Alan R Luga, Vice Chief of Staff, AFP
  • Lt. Gen. Gregorio E. Macapagal, Deputy Chief of Staff, AFP
  • CMS Guillermo C. Francisco, Sergeant Major, AFP
  • VAdm Jose Luis M. Alano, Flag Officer-in-Command, Philippine Navy
  • Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes, Commanding General, Philippine Army
  • Lt. Gen Lauro Catalino G. Dla Cruz, Commanding General, Philippine Air Force

The unified command centers are:

  • National Capitol Region
  • Northern Luzon
  • Southern Luzon
  • Central
  • Western
  • Eastern Mindanao
  • Western Mindanao
  • National Development Support

JoeAm Observations:  The number of coordination, administrative and support units that are behind the fighting troops makes for one huge body of soldiers not bearing arms. Clothing. Meals. Beds. Equipment. Transportation. Wow.


  • Vision:  A world-class Army that is a source of national pride.

  • Mission: To organized, train equip, deploy, and sustain ground forces in support of the AFP mission. 

  •  ISO (Internal Security Operations) Mission: To organize, train, equip, deploy and sustain ground forces to defeat the CTM by 2010, destroy the ASG and contain the SPSG in order to establish a physically and psychologically secure environment conducive to national development.

  • Function: Organize, train and equip Army forces for the conduct of prompt and sustained combat operations on land;  Prepare such units as may be necessary for the effective prosecution of national defense plans and programs and Armed Forces mission, including the expansion of the peacetime ARMY component to meet any emergency; Develop, in accordance with the other Major Services, tactics, techniques and equipment of interest to the Army on field operations; Train, organize and equip all ARMY reserve units; and Perform such functions as the higher authorities may direct.

JoeAm Observations: "World class" is difficult to attain. The nation has too many demands on its budget to build a sophisticated army. It may be a more realistic vision to develop highly capable tactical or strike forces rather than masses of well-armed troops. And pride as an objective? How about ability to defend? The ISO mission recognizes that internal threats are the real threats of today, but clearly there is also awareness that external threats exist ( see Light Armor's stated transition to conventional warfare capability).

Major Units

  • 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Pa, Location: Kuta Major Cesar L Sang-an, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur. Mission:  Conducts Internal Security Operations (ISO) in the AOR to dismantle and destroy the remaining guerilla fronts of the LCM, the MILF, and the Abu Sayyaf Group in order to attain peace and stability conducive to sustainable development; assists  the  government  in  its  socio-economic development projects; and assists the PNP curb criminalities in the AOR.

  • 2nd Infantry Division : Location: Tanay, Rizal. Mission:  "Conduct sustained Internal Security Operations (ISO) in regions 4A and 4B to neutralize the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee (STRPC) and the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New Peoples Army (NPA) in order to create a physically and psychologically sound environment conducive for development and commerce." Known as the Jungle Fighter Division, 2nd Division is the Philippine Army's primary Infantry unit specializing in jungle warfare. [Wiki]

  • 3rd Infantry Division: Mission: Conducts support operations in Western Visayas (Negros Occidental and, Panay and Guimaras Islands ), Negros Oriental and Suiquijor Island to "Win the Peace" 01 January 2011 to 31 December 2016 in order to help create an environment conducive for sustainable development and a just and lasting peace in the area. (JoeAm Note: headquarters has 100 positions assigned per web page; these are mainly coordination and special staff.)

  • 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division: Mission: Conducts sustained IPSO to clear the AOR of CNN affectation and significantly degrade the armed capability of NEMRC, NCMRC, and part of SMRC effective 01 January 2011 to help the LGU's to maintained (sic) an environment conducive to sustainable development and a Just and Lasting peace by 2016. AOR: see map.

Who needs jets when you've got this?
  • 5th Infantry Division: Mission: Conduct internal security operations in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and Cordillera Administrative Regions to destroy the communist terrorists and other threat groups in order to establish a physically and psychologically secured environment conducive to economic development. AOR: see map. Camp: Photos feature recreation facilities including golf course, bar and swimming pool.

  • 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division: Location: Central Mindanao. Slogan: "Winning the Peace through Unity and Progress".

  • 7th Infantry Division: (2 subsidiary sites; no Div. site): 702nd Infantry (Defender) Brigade:  "For the past 23 years, the 702nd Infantry (DEFENDER) Brigade has devotedly and selflessly served the people within its Area of Responsibility within the areas of Central Luzon. Currently located at Brgy Calaanan, Bongabon, Nueva Ecija . . . " 703rd (Agila) Brigade: Mission:  Conducts ISO to clear the remaining CTM affected areas in AOR NLT Yearend 2011 and prevent resurgence at cleared areas through holding operations in order to establish a physically and psychologically secure environment conducive to development. AOR: Provinces of Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales, Tarlac, Pangasinan , La union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

  • 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division:  AOR: Eastern Visayas (Islands of Samar, Leyte and Biliran). Mission: Conducts Internal Security Operations (ISO) in the Area of Responsibility (AOR) to dismantle and destroy the remaining guerilla fronts of the Local Communist Movement (LCM) in order to attain peace and stability conducive to sustainable development in assisting the Philippine government in its socio-economic development projects; and assists the Philippine National Police curb criminality in the Visayas Region. [Wiki]

  • 9th Infantry (Spear) Division: (Web access denied.  "You don't have permission to access . . .") Location:  Bicol Region.  Mission:  conduct sustained Internal Security Operations (ISO) in the Bicol region, excluding Masbate (8ID), to neutralize the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee (STRPC) and the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New Peoples Army (NPA) in order to create a physically and psychologically sound environment conducive for development and commerce of the Bicol Region. [Wiki]

  • 10th Infantry (Agila) Division: AOR: 6 provinces, namely: Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley Province, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Sarangani and South Cotabato and the chartered cities of Davao and General Santos. 

  • Light Armor Division: Vision: A modern, dynamic and relevant light armor division. Mission: To organize, train, equip, provide and sustain armor forces in the conduct of support operations to "Win the Peace" in order to help the Filipino nation create an environment conducive to sustainable development and just and lasting peace.  Units: Today, the Division maintains five (5) Light Armor Battalions, three (3) Mechanized Infantry Battalions, two (2) separate Light Armor Companies deployed in various parts of the archipelago, one (1) Aviation Battalion stationed in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, an Armor Maintenance Battalion, a Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion, a Signal Company, an engineer Combat Company and the Armor School, 1ACT, all based in Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac. New Role:  In Line with the Army Modernization Plan, the Armor Division at the advent of the 21st Century, would be geared towards it new role – conventional warfare combat arms. Assets: Armor Personnel Carrier (APC), Commando V-150, Simba AFV, Scorpion CVR

  • 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion: (No web site) Location: Mindanao. Mission: Organize, train, equip, deploy and sustain armor forces to defeat the CTM by 2010, destroy the ASG and contain the SPSG in order to establish physically and psychologically secured environment conducive to national development.

  • Other Units: A number of significant service and support units: reserves, engineers, munitions, hospitals, materiel, etc..

Personnel: 200,000+ active duty; 170,000 reserves. [Wiki]

Armaments [Wiki]

  • Armored Vehicles: 560, some as old as 1967; some assigned to Marines, most to Army
  • Artillery: 270 cannons (155 and 105 mm); 70+ mortars; most delivered 1950's to 1980's
  • Aircraft: 8 light airplanes (e.g., Cessna)
  • Small Arms: mainly 200,000 M-16's; various other light weapons.

JoeAm Observations: The Army has become an effective jungle fighting force and has a broad presence in the remote areas where rebel and terrorist organizations operate. It is dangerous work, and the Army succeeds in keeping armed unrest to a minimum. These forces deserve utmost respect and appreciation. A cynic is inclined to ask, however, given the shortage of money whether golf courses, web sites dedicated to self-appreciation, and parades are the highest and best use of funds. The Army also provides disaster relief, supports local police to fight crime, and mans COMELEC check points during elections, all non-combat functions.


The Philippine Navy is the focus of attention now to upgrade defense capabilities in the West Philippine Sea. Two small fighting ships (cutters) have been obtained. A third is in the plan but has been deferred so that money can be better spent arming the first two.

  • Web Site: Thin with little information. Home page emphasizes recruitment. The web site contains no mission statement. This slogan is at the foot of the web site:  "Strong and Credible Navy for a Progressive Maritime Philippines". Reference is made to a "Navy Sail Plan 2020", but it is not published on the site.

  • Organization: There are two major operating units, (1) the sailing fleet, and (2) the marines. Resources are organized under seven regional commands corresponding to the AFP unified command geographic regions supported by five support commands and eight support units.

  • Bases: There are three naval bases (Cavite, San Vicente, Mactan), and 15 naval stations distributed across the Philippines. There are five marine corp bases.

  • Personnel:  21, 957 [Wiki]

  • Equipment:

  • On Hand: three frigates,  eleven corvettes, "numerous" patrol boats, eleven amphibious landing ships and five auxiliary ships. [Wiki]

  • Modernization Program:

  • Hamilton class cutter: two obtained; a third deferred pending arming of the first two.
  • Multi-purpose attack craft: six obtained so far; 42 planned. They haul 16 troops, two tons of supplies, and each has a 50 caliber and two smaller machine guns.
  • Landing craft utility: One
  • Offshore patrol vessel: None obtained; three in the plan.
  • Under consideration: support and multi-purpose vessels; submarine
  • Helicopters: Only one on hand. Target is 18 including 2 anti-submarine attack helicopters.
  • Deep water patrol vessel (frigate): One under consideration


The organization of the Air Force units is not clear. Wiki presents a 2006 organization chart which does not appear to be the same as recorded on the Air Force web site.  Some units appear to have been deactivated, although they are still shown on the web site (15h Strike Wing; dissolved due to lack of aircraft in 2010). The truth and travails are reflected in this snapshot in the Air Force history profile:

  •  Embracing the core values of IN-STEP – Integrity, Service above Self, Teamwork, Excellence and Professionalism – the leadership resolved to develop and arrest mediocrity at all levels. To sustain this, for the last three years, the modest acquisition was complemented by a structured system of strategic planning and redefined training programs alongside the widespread updating of manuals and other documents that focused on the dictates of service - advocating peace, progress and unity. Hammering down on pronounced core competencies and core values, the present airmen and airwomen created opportunities for the PAF to show its decisive will to succeed, driven and honorable despite and in spite of present realities and pronounced difficulties.
Philippine Air Bases

Little information is readily available about Air Force units, reflecting the cash-strapped condition of this branch of service.

  • 1st Air Division:  Mission " . . . vital role on the internal security operations of the AFP . . . Its area of responsibility is now confined to the whole of the Luzon only, not nationwide as before. . . . Command and control over five (5) Tactical Operations Groups: TOG 1 in Loakan, Baguio City; TOG 2 in Cauayan, Isabela; TOG 3 in San Miguel, Tarlac; TOG 4 in Lucena City; and TOG 5 in Legaspi City and the 600th Air Base Wing, which maintains and secures Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga, where the Division headquarters is currently based." Vision: Given the new mission in Luzon in support to two major AFP Unified Commands, the 1st Air Division envisions to be a multi-dimensional force with vigilant air power and reach that can provide decisive and precise effects on all types of threats to national security through the employment of credible air power either on land, air or sea.

  • 2nd Air Division: ("Forbidden to access this web site").

  • 3rd Air Division: (No web site).

  • 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing: (No web connectivity).

  • Personnel: 17,000 [Wiki]

  • Aircraft On Hand: [Wiki]
    • Light Attack/Trainer Jet: 5
    • Light Attack/Observation/Trainer Prop: 50
    • Transport: 7
    • Light Observation/Training: 32
    • Helicopters: 93

  • Upgrade Plan: [Wiki]
    • Jet Fighters: maintenance  expense for 12 US F-16s deemed too high; attention is now on light training jets, converted to fight;12 FA-50 units from South Korea are being purchased as first step
    • Helicopters: 25 being acquired; attack and service
    • Others: a variety of transports, trainers, utility aircraft, and helicopters are being purchased or considered to fill certain support needs


Let's consider these military units from the perspective of past, present and future:


The structure of the Philippine military is similar to that of America or other warmongering states of the 20th century, with three main components defined by their equipment and place of fighting:

  • Army, on the land with land machines and guns
  • Navy, on the sea with water machines and guns
  • Air Force, in the skies with air machines and guns

The Air Force and Navy give meaning to the term "dilapidated". Run down from benign neglect.


Schools or guns? We are not at war, at least externally; schools are more important. The Philippine government cannot fund robust build-up of military strength. Old equipment is getting very old. New equipment is being ordered unit by unit with approval going all the way to the top, the President, because equipment is expensive and it becomes a national budgeting decision. So F-16 jets are scrapped in favor of jet trainers and two Navy cutters are ordered rather than three.

The army gets huge resources, as it has a triple function:

  • Fighting rebels and terrorists
  • Domestic support: Helping the police deal with criminals  and manning COMELEC check points
  • Disaster response

It is easy to question whether Army resources are applied well. We see pictures of golf courses and see all the parades and award ceremonies prominantly featured on web sites and note that there are many cross-command administrative units that do not go into the field. So there would appear to be a LOT of administrative padding among the 200,000 active duty soldiers. How many fighters do you estimate there are? A few thousand?


The course that the Philippines is pursuing is to build defense capabilities slowly, within available resources. Specifically, the goal is to acquire equipment. There is plenty of manpower available.

This is a reasonable approach. But what if we paused to reflect on what is happening in the world of military fighting. For brevity, let's note two profound trends in fighting:

  • It is a world of missiles in place of cannons and bombs
  • It is a world of drones in place of feet on the ground
  • In 20 years, it will be a world of laser weapons in place of missiles

Missiles and drones work on land, at sea and in the air. Why should the military structure be of World War II design based on land, water and air equipment, with administrative multipliers to coordinate? Why is there not a single unified "Missile Command" with land vehicles, ships and airplanes being merely a part of the delivery platform - offense or defense - to support that master weapon strategy??

  • Like get rid of all the extra layers of  coordination staff and swimming pools and buy missiles.

And drones are powerful, powerful machines. Little ones with cameras, big ones with missiles. Why is the Philippines not leapfrogging past artillery, armored personnel carriers and jets to get to drones? Indeed, we can adjust the name of our force to be the "Missile and Drone Command" or simply "Military Command".

  • Like, buy drones instead of jet trainers and cannons. Stop camping troops in the jungle where they are vulnerable to assault.

With advanced missile and drone capabilities, the Philippines can reduce its fighting labor, the troops on the ground. Oh, yes, troops are needed to support the battle plan, or do the drone body counts. But these should be specialized commandos, jungle guys, cave crawlers. Not parade-ground warriors marching all aligned, petty boys making the generals happy (I exaggerate for literary effect). ALL command centers are fully integrated commands, using land, sea or air resources as necessary, all able to order from the same quartermaster, procure from the same procurement center, and talk on the same radio frequency. Like, on the same team. Not patched together by coordination administrators.

  • Like, trim the ground troops down to a few companies of hard-nosed commandos who operate under the umbrella of missiles and drones. Mobile, in and out. Well equipped. Lean and mean strike teams. Hard-trained for fighting, not wasted manning checkpoints.

If you need a national police force to fight criminals and help with elections, or a disaster force to rescue people, call them by a different name. Don't call them Army. Call them Federal Police or something.

Army should be the fighting men and women.

It's a pride thing. A focus thing. A motivation thing. A commitment thing. A skill and training thing.

And if your argument is "we have too much invested in the current infrastructure; it is not feasible to take it apart", I would ask.

  • Are you really interested in defending the Philippines? Or is it good enough to see this laggardly catch-up go on year after year?

A nation with limited resources cannot compete on a level playing field with the big guys. It has to be smarter, more precise, stronger and meaner. Hit hard, hit fast. In, out, hit again. Like Pacquiao fighting a big guy, you  follow?

I'll elaborate on this in a future blog. Just thinking out loud . . . one hand on the keyboard, the other on the coffee mug . . .