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Stop revolving door, PNoy

Dear Mr. President,

If our sources are to be believed, you are inclined to name yet another retiring general as the new chief of staff of the troubled military.

The outgoing military boss, Gen. Ricardo David, is retiring on March 8.

You’re caught in this decision point because you chose the easy way last year when you picked David, whom you know personally but who only had a few months remaining in his term.

At the time, many were already expecting you to put an end to the “revolving door” policy of Mrs. Arroyo.

Had you appointed the other contender then, Westmincom commander Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, you would not be in this situation of having to shake an organization that’s been shaken enough in the last couple of months. (Ferrer, after all, is retiring in January 2012 yet.)

Still, we can consider this as a fortuitous occasion for you to take another look at the military.

Your predecessor trifled with this organization for far too long.

She parceled out promotions like dog food to the most loyal. She had a chief of staff for 69 days whose only legacy is that blue canopy at the Camp Aguinaldo grounds. She had a chief of staff for about 4 months who is best remembered for the massive gymnasium he built in Fort Bonifacio.

Let’s peek into your list.

The Army chief, the be-medalled, non-controversial Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz, is a logical choice. But he retires in November. We are told he begged off when you offered the CS position to him.

AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban is said to be the choice of David as his successor. An Air Force general, Oban is respected by peers but at some point was closely associated with presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro. You reportedly favor him as well.

But Oban retires in eight months. What can one do in such a short time except to merely avoid blunders, play safe, and tour the countryside before retirement?

Four other senior generals on your long list all belong to that class, the PMA Class of 1978, which lorded it over under Mrs. Arroyo. They’re AFP vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena, Southern Luzon commander Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, and Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, chief of the AFP Western Command.

All of them are quite able officers. Mapagu is a known professional. Sabban has an edge over the rest because he is retiring in 2013 yet.

But we grant you that: no to the “mistahs” of your discredited predecessor.

We’re told you interviewed another batch of nominees, and this time it included Ferrer and two officers seemingly plucked from nowhere: Brig. Gen. Jessie Dellosa (Class 1979), commander of the Army’s 2nd infantry division in Tanay, Rizal, and Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista (Class 1981), the AFP deputy chief of staff for operations (J3).

The problem with appointing Dellosa is you will be seen again as resorting to your comfort zone. You know him personally; he served as one of the presidential guards of your mother, former President Aquino. He is also said to be one of your shooting buddies. The plus for him, of course, is that he is retiring in January 2013 yet.

What to do?

The military needs new energy and new thinking. Someone who will stay for the long haul and see crucial reforms through.

There is logic behind an existing AFP policy that bans officers with less than a year remaining in their term from being named commander of a major service command (Army, Navy, Air Force). If the attrition rule can’t entrust a command to an officer with less than a year in service, how can it entrust the entire institution to the same?

Cory’s choice

Your mother at one point did a deep selection and named then Army chief Lisandro Abadia (Class 1962) as her chief of staff, jumping over the many aspiring heads of Class 1961. The deep selection of Abadia started when Mrs. Aquino promoted him from J3 to command the Army—bypassing several senior officers.

Of course, Abadia was later subjected to a corruption probe for his stint at the RSBS, but that’s another story. Mrs. Aquino and then defense chief Fidel Ramos felt a “junior” Abadia was needed for a crucial transition; he was young enough to stay long after the 1992 presidential race that catapulted Ramos to the presidency.

As president, Ramos appointed only 3 chiefs of staff: (the late) Arturo Enrile, Arnulfo Acedera Jr., and Clemente Mariano.

You have the choice to cast a wider net to include other “junior” officers aside from Bautista and Dellosa.

You have to already exclude those with barely a year or slightly more than a year remaining in their terms—if you really want to nurse a battered organization back to life.

Decisions like this come with risks. You need to know, however, Mr. President, that you can afford such risks given your popularity within and outside the military.

To appoint the likes of Bautista, for example, is risky. While he has outranked some of his seniors, he might not be ripe for the position, as conventional wisdom goes. He would be bypassing 3 upper classes. He has yet to earn his crisis stripes, so to speak. And I can imagine your detractors’ reaction: What? Another amateur member of the Aquino student council?

Think—even for a minute—of what you and a young chief of staff can do together for an institution that needs to modernize, to clean up, to think ahead

Stop the bleeding

If you’re not too sold on him, then choose from other commanders more experienced but with still 3 or even 4 years to go.

Ask any field officer worth his salt, and you’ll get a simple answer: the leadership hemorrhage must stop. The frequent lobbying and jockeying for the top post must end. There have been too many costly trysts with chiefs in the face of mind-boggling problems.

Do not believe advisers who tell you that seniority is sacred in the Armed Forces. It is sacred only if it is for the greater good.

Think—even for a minute—of what you and a young chief of staff can do together for an institution that needs to modernize, to clean up, to think ahead, and to remove excess fat.

If the AFP could survive a Reyes, a Garcia, a Ligot, and a Rabusa, surely it could live with—and probably even thrive in—deep selection?

Do not believe advisers who tell you that seniority is sacred in the Armed Forces. It is sacred only if it is for the greater good.

Mr. President, the most significant decisions are shaped by context. Certainly, you have every right—and reason—to appoint an experienced but short-lived chief of staff like Oban or Ferrer, to give more time for the young ones to earn their seniority and command. But by that time, the context would have changed.

The recent scandal involving the organization gives you a perfect window. Rock the boat now and hope for the best. (Newsbreak)

Erratum:  An earlier version of this blog stated that Sabban is Marine Commandant. He is now commander of the AFP Western Command. We apologize for the error.

CATEGORY: Defense & Security, Glenda M. Gloria, Sectors
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  1. Rvl Gimenez says:

    Another good one, Glenda! It’s getting to be a habit with you!

    Anyway, PNoy should heed your suggestion: shut the revolving door and seal it for some time to come. When he does,many would begin to reconsider their view that he’s a reigning president, not a governing one.

    He has this window of opportunity and he should not pull down the shutters.

    Deepak Chopra said, “There is one moment…when the door opens and lets the future in.” Chopra surely was not speaking of the AFP’s revolving door.

  2. John Carlo Cahinhinan says:

    nice one ma’am glenda!

  3. The decision NOT to have himself adopted by any class is a good start, especially as it would appear that there IS a favored class and its not ’78. But DISCARDING the revolving door policy, not only for the AFP appointments but also in other departments would be a good follow up. Very timely reminder, hope the President (or at least his communications group) is reading this.

  4. glenda gloria says:

    thanks for the insights. we do hope it’s not too late for him to consider it ..:))

  5. Gracia GM says:

    Galing bok…When I was reading the book of Gen Aguirre why he resigned…as things are going on it would be the same scenario again as what we had during the time of Pres Cory…well from you experiences in covering the military I think you have all the smartest idea on giving such…More Power

  6. Glenda’s point is very valid, i support it completely. I would like to add also to stop the process of having the position of colonel to be subjected sa CA. Kasi at that early stage diyan nag uumpisa yung pagsolicit nila ng political support in order for them to be confirm. Dun nalang sana sa mga humahawak or hahahawak ng service commands ang siyang ma subject sa CA process.

  7. I work for a GOCC, and our Company President as appointed last November / December – also a RETIRED COLONEL.

  8. Marielle Gaceta-Catbagan says:

    I agree. The revolving door policy was a mistake — not that there were a few who were deserving.
    Deep selection may be the key — after all, there’s been a precedent. If I’m not mistaken, the command-in-chief (P-Noy in this instance) can actually choose from the Board of generals down to officers with the rank of full Colonel.
    The bottomline though is, who will be THE CHOICE.
    The military establishments needs a lot of healing, as an institution, in its leadership and officer corps, and its soldiery.

  9. Hi Glenda, you did your homework. I thank the Lord we have in depth journalists like you. Congratulations on a nice post.

  10. glenda gloria says:

    well said, marielle! you should consider writing your own blog :)

  11. glenda gloria says:

    thank you arvin.

  12. Huh?
    Oh that Revolving door!
    Is it still there that it needs to be stopped?

  13. Johnny Lin says:

    Quite a litanny of fine(?) officers and gentlemen sourced by an impeccable author. By week’s end, PNoy is expected to announce choice of AFPCS. Everybody’s clamor, long tenure. Youth is relative, as long as deserving, qualified, incorruptible, and honorably(not seniority) respected. Time to redeem the miltary glory of yesteryears! Disappointment, not an option. PNoy, do the right thing, heed, the prayer!

  14. Johnny Lin says:

    Typo Erratum. Litany.

  15. 9 months? That’s hardly enough time for the best candidate to apply the much-needed institutional reforms to the crumbling AFP.

    Apparently, P-Noy is no different from all the presidents after we booted The Apo out of Malacanang – beholden to the military top brass, and had to play footsie.

    It’s quite obvious: bayad-utang and appeasing those who propped or propping up whoever sits in Malacanang. What a sad state of affairs.

    P-Noy, if he wishes to, can easily bank on the idealist and young officers to clean up the AFP. That is, if he honestly believes he is “the” Commander in-Chief…?

    I hope I am proven wrong that the only reason P-Noy is better, is because Erap was such bad a president, and GMArroyo was simply “badder.”

  16. Johnny Lin says:

    Mon
    Bulls-eye! PNoy slip is showing, same color different quality, ain’t it?

  17. I did not believe P-Noy can hack it. I did not vote for him. But after getting elected, he is my president. And I had to hope, for that is all there is left to do.

    For a guy who plays with guns and fast cars, one whould think P-Noy has the balls to appoint an AFP-CS who also has the balls and the needed tenure to clean up the horrid mess the AFP is.

    Why would anyone under a CS toe the line in whatever reform he wants instituted, when the rascals under him are well aware that all they have to do is lie low, and to wait out the relatively short 9 months of the “temporary” top honcho?

    Time for a law that an appointed CS must stay for at least 5 years. The CS can thus focus on improving the AFP, and the vying-for-the -post generals can work hard in boosting their merit, instead trying to out-lick the arses of people in Malacanang.

    Of course, all humanly possible measures for transparency must weigh heavily on this CS. He must be constantly under the glaring spotlight of the public to maximize his drive for reforms, and minimize the tendency to improve on the stealthy manner of enriching himself and his fellow generals.

    Even having a board of junior officers, Capt.-Lt.Col, can be used to rate the performance of their CS. If the CS can order these young officers to die, or order them to kill a fellow Filipino, then this CS must also have a sense of accountability towards his men.

    We are running out of time to inculcate loyalty to the principles and never to the man or the rank who habitually descreate such principles.

    Going back to P-Noy.

    I guess there is some truth to the psychobabble that such toys for the big boys are just expensive props for the scared little boy inside.

  18. *instead of* tryint to out-lick

  19. *desecrate* – sorry for not rereading before I click on the Send button. My fingers and my thoughts are not exactly in synch :)

  20. Johnny Lin says:

    PNoy is a good person believing that heartfully. His problem up to now, he could not grasp the enormous responsibilty of a president, too cautious, too careful, gullible to his friends, unrelenting to his enemies but very dependent personality, that is based on published decisions.
    Naivete, his waterloo!

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