Buemcamino does political affairs analysis for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in newspaper Today, 21 December 2004 edition, p. 7.

United we stand, divided we fall. – Old Mafia saying

Normally, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) celebrates its foundation day at Camp Aguinaldo. They have a big parade, self-congratulatory speeches, awards and medals, and a lot of food and
drinks for everybody. But this year, and for reasons not having anything to do with the embarrassing exposes of rampant unabated thievery within the organization, the AFP opted for a low profile.

Instead of spending money praising themselves for everything they have
done to the country, the AFP decided it was wiser to donate the anniversary celebration budget to typhoon victims in those places some of them may have logged. Besides, there wouldn’t have been any soldiers available to march at Camp Aguinaldo because soldiers from the North and South, the Special Forces, the Air Force and the Marines were all in Malacanang, just in case supporters of the late President Fernando Poe Jr. decided to storm Malacanang and install Susan Roces as President,  or to allow Noli de Castro to assume power in accordance with the Constitutional provision on presidential succession.

They could have had a mini-parade at the Palace grounds with the five battalions Gen.  Abu had on standby, but there wasn’t any room to march in. For some reason, the Palace grounds were littered with container vans. No one was quite sure whether they were there for security reasons or Malacanang’s smuggling campaign.

Anyway, at the AFP Day celebration in Malacanang, one could see Mrs. Arroyo was clearly concerned about the millions who were paying their
respects to the late president. The AFP brass was worried too. So the capo de tutti capo appealed to her capos,   “I bid you to stand by me in the quest for peace with honor, dignity and justice for all Filipinos. I expect you, the soldiers, to be by my side to man the flanks by keeping all threats to national security at bay.” Or, as Don Corleone used to say, “We will be sleeping with the fishes in the bay if we don’t stick together and keep threats at bay.”

It didn’t take long for some people to jump on the personal nature of Mrs. Arroyo’s appeal. “Why,” they asked, “was she asking the AFP to stand by her? Why not for the Constitution or the rule of law?” The answer is obvious-neither the Constitution nor the rule of law has anything to do with why Mrs. Arroyo is in Malacanang. So, how can she ask the AFP to defend those things? It would be making a mockery out of a farce, ‘ika nga.

In addition to sticking together, the group assembled in Malacanang will try to clean up its image by punishing all those who, through carelessness, embarrassed the organization. Those who stole millions will have the book thrown at them. They will be charged with lying.

Belated Happy Anniversary, AFP. We join you in praying Filipinos don’t start asking why Costa Rica is able to maintain order and security without a standing army and saving billions in the process.