ARMED FORCES' FINEST HOUR

Manila, July 24, 2003 COLUMN By Alejandro R. Roces (Star) Last Tuesday, we wrote on how the image of the Philippine National Police has declined in the publicís mind. What we now call the Philippine National Police used to be the Philippine Constabulary. The Philippine Constabulary had since its first inception before the war a very good image. The Philippine Army was organized to fight foreign aggression. The Philippine Constabulary handled internal dissents. The police were in the hands of respective municipalities. There is no doubt that after martial law, the image of all three sunk into a new law. This was because innocent people were arrested and imprisoned often without formal charges.

Today we would like to write about the finest hours of both the army and the people. Everyone talks of the People Power Revolution. In our opinion, there has not been anything like it in the history of the world. In our opinion, both EDSA I and II would not have been possible if it were not for the fact that both the army and the constabulary chose to side with the people.

We were one of the 21 candidates of Laban in 1978. There was absolutely no doubt that all 21 candidates won. This was attested by the unprecedented noise barrage. We have always maintained that the noise barrage was People Power in embryo. In that mock election, all the candidates of Laban were only declared as losers, some were even jailed. But we have always maintained that the noise barrage was the armed forces finest hour since martial law was declared. The noise barrage was the first truly public manifestation that the great majority of the people were against Marcos. For the first time the public openly defied the martial law regime. President Marcos ordered the armed forces to stop the noise and arrest all those who were openly defying his regime. But not a single person was arrested by the army or the police. It was very obvious that at the critical time, the armed forces and the police were clearly on the side of the people.

The next great moment was People Power. What is the truth about People Power? The truth is that it started with the Armed Forces. How did People Power start? It started when the Secretary of National Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile and the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Fidel V. Ramos turned their backs on Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The people merely rallied in their support. As in the noise barrage, not a single rallyist was arrested or even questioned by the military.

The two above instances are in our opinion the finest moments of our armed forces. It is too bad that now the image of our armed forces is at its lowest ebb. The Al-Ghozi escape has taken away whatever remnants of credibility it still enjoyed.

But we have faith in our armed forces. We believe that in a real crunch, they will be for the people. There are crooks in the armed forces and they obviously occupy high positions. But the armed forces as a whole are composed of loyal and patriotic countrymen. It may take another noise barrage or another People Power to make this fact known.

We must not forget People Power actually started in the military camps. The armed forces and the people should always be one.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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