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February 5, 1972
by Filemon V. Tutay
“THE most urgent problem of the nation today—possibly through the rest of his decade—is the problem of peace and order,” declared President Marcos in his State-of-the-Nation address last week.
Who is to blame for the deplorable state of peace and orders in the country today?
The urgency of the problem was stressed by the President when he said that the time “to meet the challenge of lawlessness, in the form of ordinary crimes, violent upheavals, private armies, and crime syndicates, is now; beyond this year may be too late.”
The President referred to so-called “private armies” a number of times in his State-of-the-Nation message. At one point, he declared that “the reported activities of so-called private armies…have contributed to the erosion of confidence in and respect for public authority.”
Immediately after the assassination of Rep. Floro Crisologo (N-Ilocos Sur) inside the cathedral in Vigan in October 1970, there was a nationwide clamor for the disbandment of all “private armies.” The outcry was triggered by a challenge hurled by Sen. Pres. Pro Tempore Jose J. Roy for President Marcos to disband all armed groups being maintained by “political warlords” in different parts of the country. The senator from Tarlac said that the breaking up of the “private armies” was a necessary step in liberating the people from what he called the “grip of fear” of these armed groups.
“This is a supreme test for the Administration,” said Roy at that time.
The clamor for the disbanding of the “private armies” picked up rapidly, reaching its peak on November 10, 1970, when the electorate went to the polls to elect 320 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Then the popular clamor died down just as suddenly as it started.
The “private armies” of the “political warlords” were not disbanded. They remained intact.
Barely one week before the Con-Con election that year, Chairman Jaime N. Ferrer of the Commission on Elections told media representatives that the PC high command “knew all about the political warlords” and their respective “private armies.”
But Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and the then PC chief, Brig. Gen. Eduardo M. Garcia, pretended not to know anything about the “political warlords” and “private armies” that Ferrer was talking about.
Enrile went farther by challenging Ferrer to name the “political warlords” with “private armies” so that he could order the Armed Forces of the Philippines to go after them. The defense secretary issued his challenge on the basis of reports supposedly quoting Ferrer as saying that there were some 80 “political warlords” with “private armies” in the Philippines at that time.
Ferrer was further quoted as saying that of the 80 “political warlords” then six were members of the Senate, 37 were members of the House of Representatives, and the rest were either provincial governors, city mayors or other prominent individuals who were mostly relatives of prominent politicians.
Enrile, in his rejoinder, said then that it was unfair for Ferrer to say that certain senators and congressmen were maintaining “private armies” without naming names. The Comelec chairman, said Enrile, should furnish the defense department with a list of politicians who were maintaining “private armies” so that it could be used as basis for action.
Unperturbed, Ferrer took up the challenge and did not only identify some of the alleged “political warlords” by name but also directed the PC as Comelec deputies to arrest and investigate the members of their so-called “private armies” why they had firearms in their possession.
Following Ferrer’s issuance of orders to the PC chief then to go after politicians with “private armies” whom he identified, several congressmen threatened to sue him for his allegedly “false accusations.”
Let them sue! said Ferrer, unfazed.
None of the congressmen dared to go to court.
And now, after almost two years, here we go again on “political warlords” and their “private armies.” No less than President Marcos himself has taken cognizance of “the reported activities of so-called private armies” which “have contributed to the erosion of confidence in and respect for public authority.” The President, in his State-of-the-Nation address, was obviously referring to the “political warlords” when he alluded to “certain politicians who have placed personal power and ambition above the public service…”
Why doesn’t Enrile challenge his boss to name them? Instead, it was Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerardo Roxas, LP president, who challenged the Chief Executive to name and prosecute the politicians who have been maintaining “private armies” and misusing local police forces.
“Having mentioned them,” said Roxas, “and being aware of the situation as President of the country, Mr. Marcos should name names and go after these politicians who have perverted our police forces and brought about a deterioration of the peace and order situation.”
The Opposition leader likewise denounced “the laxity in the enforcement of the parole law and the release of Muntinlupa convicts which often result in the commission of more crimes.”
At this writing, Brig. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, the new PC chief, was reported to have directed all PC provincial commanders to disband the “private armies” of all “political warlords” in their respective territorial jurisdictions. The provincial commanders were further ordered to go after all persons known to be in possession of loose firearms.
Ramos issued the order at the behest of Enrile during a peace and order briefing in the Third PC Zone headquarters in Cebu City. The defense secretary and the PC chief, who were on an inspection tour of the Visayan provinces, were told by zone intelligence officers of the high incidence of crime in the Visayas. They were likewise told that Danao City in Cebu is fast becoming famous as a manufacturing center for hand-crafted paltiks.
At about the same time, Brig. Gen. Tomas Diaz, First PC Zone commander, also ordered the immediate disbandment of a “private army” based in Macabebe, Pampanga. This particular “private army” is supposed to be equipped with government-issued firearms. Until recently, the “private army” was operating an armored vehicle which belonged to the PC.
The existence of the “private army” in Macabebe was brought to the attention of the First PC Zone commander in the course of his courtesy call on Pampanga Gov. Brigidio Valencia at the provincial capitol in San Fernando. Earlier, Diaz ordered the 19 PC provincial commanders within the zone to break up all “private armies” in their respective jurisdictions.
Having finally become aware of the existence of so-called “private armies,” Enrile may be asked if he is really sincere about or capable of disbanding them.
According to observers, the directive issued by Enrile to PC Chief Ramos to break up all “private armies” is “easier said than done.” This is so, they claimed, because PC provincial commanders are nearly always beholden to either the provincial governor or the congressman of the district or both. In most cases, the provincial commander owes his assignment to a particular province to the recommendation of the governor or the congressman. This system is being followed in order to avoid “conflicts.” It is necessary that the provincial commander be in the good graces of local officials so that there is “complete harmony and cooperation.”
It is standard practice for provincial governors and congressmen to make courtesy calls on every newly-installed PC chief not necessarily to pay their respects but to “establish rapport.” During such calls, a provincial governor or a congressman would ask for the relief of a provincial commander for being “uncooperative” or the promotion of certain enlisted men of the provincial PC command for certain “special services.”
It is recognized in PC circles that a provincial commander cannot afford to be “difficult” with local officials, especially the governor or the congressman, if he wants to keep his assignment. A provincial commander may be expected to do his duty according to the book only if he happens to be assigned in a province which is under the control of the political Opposition. Even then, this is not always true.
Under the circumstances, who is the provincial commander who has the guts to disband the “private army” of a “political warlord”?
More so if the “political warlord” happens to be with the ruling Nacionalista Party.
Disband the “private armies”?
Who will do it?
It is easy for Enrile to order the PC chief to break up the “private armies” and go after the “political warlords.”
In turn, it is quite simple for the PC chief to order all provincial commanders to disband all “private armies” in their respective jurisdictions.
But who is the provincial commander man enough to carry out the order?
What will probably happen in this case will be in accordance with the customary “chain of command.”
Since Enrile has issued the order to Ramos, and Ramos has ordered his provincial commanders, the provincial commanders will now order their executive officers or operation officers, as the case may be, to carry out the order. In turn, the executive or operation officers will order the company commanders to disband the “private armies.” The company commanders will then pass on the order to their junior officers who will then relay the order to their sergeants.
True to the chain of command concept, the sergeants will pass on the order down the line until it finally reaches the buck private if not the recruit.
Then, the buck private or the recruit will ask: “Who, me?”
Who will disband the “private armies” and go after the “political warlords”?
It looks like were are stuck with the “private armies” and the “political warlords” and deteriorating peace and order for only God knows how long!