First Comes First In the Philippines

After a weak air force (PAF) became even more helpless after one of its main cargo planes crashed, the issue of armed forces modernization was brought up again. The issue of acquiring new fighter planes for the air force that would replace retired F-5 Freedom Fighters, more helicopter gunships for anti-terrorist operations and more fast craft vessels for anti-smuggling and border patrol. But the Department of National Defense (DND) quickly said that it would be too “expensive” to completely modernize the armed forces and doubling the budget wouldnt even do the job.

The DND currently (2008) has a budget of Php52 billion. The government soldies fight with a white t-shirt with the sign, “AFP” emprinted on it. Well most of the times anyways. And most provincial army bases have one or two howitzers and several trucks on them. They are greatly surpassed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F.) whose soldiers are dressed in full camouflage regalia, complete with CB radios, grenades and back-up handguns. Not to mention, they have a full set of howitzers and mortars in each of their bases. And come to think the group only relies on private donors for financing. Which means either two things, one: the donations the group receives totals to or more than Php52 billion or the generals and defense officials are getting a huge chunk of the budget.

Our weak military is one of the things that tarnishes the image of our country. Imagine, being one of two South-East Asian countries not having a fixed-wing fighter jet. The other one being East Timor, one of the poorest nations in the world. The Philippines however, is not, we are a middle class country. So why can’t we have fighter planes? Even our neighbor countries that we are economically ahead of such as Vietnam and Indonesia have complete squads of fighters and bombers.

But the one thing that really ticks me off is the fact that the DND finds it too “expensive” to buy a brand new C-130 Hercules cargo plane worth P800 million (which I am sure we can even get at a lower price since we are a major US-ally) when just recently, the Office of the President (OP) have made a P1.4 billion procurement of two eight-seater bell choppers for the President’s travel. Each chopper costing Php700 Million. So we don’t have the funds to benefit our own soldiers but we have a lot of funds to benefit the President? Whose tax remmitances contribute the greatest percentage of the national budget anyways? The people or the president? The DND have said before that it could “ask” surplus C-130 stocks from their American counterparts. A bad idea. Surplus stocks are either: decades old or are under repair. Acquiring such would cause another crash.

This scenario is similar to countries like North Korea or Saddam Hussein Iraq where the military was virtually “owned” by the head-of-state. Where the defense forces would defend the “beloved leader”. Those are autoritarian states. We here in the Philippines, we cherish a democracy. And in a democracy, the people should always come first. The President is the people’s servant, he or she should come last. Not in our country’ case however. The “First Family” should always come first. This is the sad truth.

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