Defending Sovereignty By Rey Gamboa Bizlink Philippine Star 31 October 2011
Last year, my eldest brother, Lt. Col. Roberto Gamboa Jr., PA Res., sent me a list of suggestions for P-Noy, then newly elected, as he embarked on his new role. It was included in a series of columns that gave suggestions, albeit unsolicited, of what our new President should include in his agenda of governance.
In light of the recent escalation of hostilities in Mindanao, particularly in Basilan where Muslim separatists had recently slaughtered our soldiers, my brother sent another urgent e-mail related on the subject, and following up on one of the items in his earlier list.
In my published column last July 19, 2010, my brother Robert had called for the re-introduction of the military and civic training program for all college students, i.e., Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC).
He cited other Asian countries like Singapore that recognized the value of properly implemented military and civic training programs for all its students. In fact, we could also highlight South Korea’s military training program that makes no exception even with its young globally popular male pop stars.
Singapore, Korea and a host of other developed and developing Asian countries know only too well of the strategic and urgent need to keep its military reservist ranks well stocked in the event of aggression from other countries, or even internal strife.
Keeping our independence
This thinking also holds true for the Philippines. Over the centuries, we have had invasions that had led to long periods of occupation. Now that we have found our independence from a benevolent aggressor, Filipinos should be careful about keeping this freedom.
The recent incident involving the death of 19 Special Force soldiers in Al-Barka, Basilan in a supposedly ceasefire zone at the hands of members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is undeniably a threat to our sovereign liberty.
With political sensitivities taken in consideration, as well as the reality that the country can ill-afford to go into a full-scale battle against these well-funded insurgents, we face another grim reality: that we have a dwindling number of soldiers in our military.
Going back to my brother’s e-mail, he argues that with ROTC or cadet training made voluntary among our youths, there will come a time when our present reservists will all be senior citizens. What we will be left with will be officers from the Philippine Military Academy and advance ROTC graduates, but there will be no soldiers to command.
My brother writes: “As of now, the Philippines is the only nation in this part of the world whose reservists force is at best dwindling compared to our neighboring countries who are very active in their reservists development programs.”
He cited Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan as among the countries that continue to pursue an active management of its military reserve population by mandating its young men to undergo military training.
Robert continues: “No wonder we are bullied by China over our claims in some parts of the Philippine sea. Just look at Israel and Switzerland, two small nations; no one can dare bully them because they know they will be bitten and chewed off.”
With the serious continuing threat by Muslim ideologues to secede parts of the Philippines directly to their control and independent governance, a weak response from our government will open a floodgate of “autonomous” initiatives that are in reality threats to the nation’s sovereignty.
Short of deluding ourselves by trying to “understand” our “brothers in Mindanao” who have “gone astray,” we have ignored these warning signs as a serious internal security problem, one that could have potentially adverse effects in Mindanao that is home to a vast majority of Filipino Christians and even Filipino Muslims that do not pine for “independence.”
Surplus reconditioned war materials
The next issue that our government faces, aside from political resolve and dwindling number of troops, is the need to have the proper artillery and fire-power to win these internal conflicts and restore peace and order.
My brother has a few points on this score: “We should not accept surplus recondition war materials from the U.S. They can afford to send brand new materials to other friendly nation, why can they also send us new equipment, not surplus or reconditioned ships and planes.
“Maybe the U.S. government has a very low regards of our government because of massive corruption in the military police and civilian government. I can still remember during the Korean War when the U.S. forces used the famous F-51 Mustang plus F-80 shooting star Jet fighters together with the reliable F-86 saber jet fighter/bomber.
“Luckily our pilots then were also flying these planes. But now, our fly boys are using surplus helicopters and Italian trainer planes that often malfunction during flight.
Elite volunteer force
Robert is also strongly recommending the revival of the Rainbow Ranger Division composed of volunteer college students from different schools in Metro Manila. The training ground then for this defunct elite force was U.P. Diliman in Quezon City, originally headed by Brig. Gen. Benjamin R. Vallejo.
Tidbits from my brother: “The (Rainbow Rangers) unit trains for urban guerilla warfare. I can say training in this particular unit is tough: discipline is rigid, and lastly, morale and command, superb.
“Lastly, if these suggestions will become a reality, I have my parting words to the secretary of National Defense. Uniforms, shoes and caps should be shouldered by the government, and the commandants with their respective staff and personnel should be men of integrity.”[/u]