this spratly thing


Philippine Marines on the former BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. Photo credit:

Iloilo City – With all the advisers that they have at their disposal, it is so frustrating to continue to hear unrealistic, at best, and totally inane, at worst, ideas about how to deal with the Spratly Islands (or Kapuluan ng Kalayaan) dispute. I get the UNCLOS thing and the multilateral talks approach. What usually follows next is the standard line on military modernization. The latter part, I don’t quite get.

We are not going to go into an all-out war with China. Despite its aggressive military stance, China will not go into an all-out war with the Philippines. China will continue its one reef, one sandbar or whatever, at a time invasion. The only way to stop them would be to put a strong enough force to serve as a deterrent to further conquests. I’m not even sure we can do that. The Philippine Armed Forces does not have the capability to garrison, much less, defend these little reefs.

Realistically speaking, our best bet is still having the US Navy staking a presence in the area.

Even as our Vice Presidential candidates talk about this military modernization, it is befuddling to note that no mention was made of the 18 soldiers killed in Basilan just the day before. We seem to have become manhid to the continued sacrifice of our soldiers. Again, no one will be called to account for the tragic death of our soldiers. This guy Napenas (of Mamasapano fame) even has the gall to run for Senator as part of the UNA slate.

The military seems to be in denial about the burgeoining IS presence in Mindanao. This latest loss of the lives of 18 soldiers of the 44th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was attributed to the Abu Sayyaf when it seems that this is a breakaway group which has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Despite all those intelligence funds sloshing around in the budgets of the military and non-military agencies of government, this failure again highlights the incomprehensible defeat at the hands of what had been a group of bandits.

My point is this – we focus too much on military modernization relative to this Spratly thing while our soldiers continue to die at the hands of a lightly-armed insurgent group. Isn’t it way past time for the military and its civilian leadership to take a hard look at itself and figure out why they always run into ambushes? It’s always the same story – someone gets kidnapped, military in hot pursuit of bandits responsible for kidnapping, military ambushed, soldiers die. Sobra nang kawawa ang ating mga foot soldiers and their families while their generals enjoy the country club life in Villamor, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo or wherever they have those military-run golf courses.

It has become tragically obvious that for far too long, our military has been and continues to be outsmarted by insurgents who run rings around them. If this were a one-off thing, you could attribute this to a an everything went wrong, this won’t happen again event. But these have not been isolated cases. Instead it points to a serious systemic problem within our armed forces which calls into question their tactics, training and everything else that characterizes a military organization.

It is only fair to ask that with all the billions that we have spent on the armed forces, does the Philippines actually have the military that it needs to face our country’s unique situation? It seems to me that we don’t.

The Filipino soldier will likely never fight in a war against China. But, it is certain that the Filipino soldier will fight the cadres of the New People’s Army, the Filipino soldier will fight the bandits of Abu Sayyaf, the Filipino soldier will fight the growing number of IS proxies and so on so forth. The question is – is the Filipino soldier properly equipped in terms  of training, tactics, weaponry and logistics to fight this kind of war?

So, to our dear leaders – if you really want to know, the Filipino soldier doesn’t care about modernization in terms of China, they care about the little things – a working rifle, night-vision goggles, electronic intelligence, working communications systems, the right training and tactics, modern helicopters (not those refurbished Hueys ha) to provide close air support and MedEvac, etc., etc. The Filipino soldier needs the little things that will help him fight a war that they are now fighting and not things that will be of use in a war with China that they will never fight. So take those 12 P1.5 billion per piece FA-50PH fighter jets and go fight China yourself











my choice (part 2)

Iloilo City – F. Sionil Jose, propounds that a president strongly backed by the military would be the solution to our problems. A Marcosian solution one thinks. Behind his thinking, however, is the allusion to the fact that we are such a poor excuse as a nation that we need a dictator or at least a strong president to get us all in line. The lack of discipline, the abject disregard of the rule of law, the lack of purpose, the being mayabang na wala namang ipagyayabang, the pretentiousness, the every person for himself mentality (just look at the traffic), the national inferiority complex – all these need to be eradicated for us to really change and fulfill our potential as a nation. F. Sionil Jose believes a Lee Kuan Yew-type leader is required (my interpretation).

It is hard to accept that only a military-backed dictator will be able to launch a revolution to “re-form” our institutions.

The Philippines and the Filipino people is/are an impressionable lot. Rather than a military-backed dictatorship, we need a visionary leader who will also have the “sticktoitiveness” to push through with the necessary steps to build on a broad-minded vision. Someone who will have the balls to say what needs to be done and actually get it done. Someone who will argue by force of reason and logic rather than someone who will do so with the barrel of a gun pointed at your head.

Our Constitution, with its imperfections, is a relatively good one. We argue on the constitutionality of things based on technicalities. This misses the point. Our Constitution is a set of aspirations and promises. Sadly and very frustratingly, our institutions which are tasked with fulfilling these promises and thus getting us closer to these enunciated aspirations have failed us. The presidential oath of office binds our President to protect and defend its Constitution. It would have been better had the phrase “and fulfill its promises” been added. Regardless, we need someone who will understand this and do so.

Sadly, there is no one in the horizon for 2016 who seems capable of doing so.

of football players, football writers and missing the point: the stephan schröck controversy

Pasay City – Sometime in 2012, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) was finalizing the launch of its nationwide grassroots program called Kasibulan. One of the main proponents of that initiative was Coach Aris Caslib who was then and continues to be the PFF’s Technical Director. We were having a discussion on the framing of this program in the context of the development of football in the Philippines. We were talking about performance indicators that we would need to be able to judge the sucess (or failure) of the PFF’s various player development programs. We were thinking big and we discussed being able to qualify for the World Cup in 20 years or so as a goal. One of the indicators of program success that he said and that has stuck to me was that – “we have to reach a point where we dominate football in Southeast Asia” or words to that effect.

Four years in, we are still not where we could say we are dominating Southeast Asian football. Thailand still holds that distinction. Having said that, we have certainly become more competitive having reached the semifinals of all the Suzuki Cup competitions – the unofficial Southeast Asian championship – since that conversation with Coach Aris took place.

It is also worth noting that domestically-based players are gradually starting to become more competitive in fighting for slots in the Men’s National Team. Our youth teams are also becoming more competitive – an indicator of some success at the grassroots level. Yet, we are far from where we want to be.

One of the more informed and astute football writers/analysts that we have, Ryan Fenix, came out last week with an article on ( that has caused more than a minor stir in the football community. With the article titled, “After strong North Korea performance, where does it leave Schrock and the Azkals?”, it was bound to cause some controversy.

The title aside, Ryan’s piece if properly read asks some good and insightful questions. The big question that has raised all the fuss is whether the Azkals play better without Schrock. It is a question raised by an astute observer of the game and not a malicious shot meant to create discord.

Stephan Schrock is the best all around player we have. If you look at the best lineup that the Azkals can trot out, Schrocky is probably head and shoulders, talent-wise, above our fourth or fifth best player. This being the case, it is unavoidable that there will be times when players get caught ball-watching rather than moving into space where Schrocky can find them. This is not a unique phenomenon. The Michael Jordan Bulls had many moments like this. When one player is recognized by far as the best on a team, he needs the other players to become even more effective thus making the team that more devastating.

This phenomenon is not Schrocky’s fault nor anyone elses at this point. It is a challenge for the coaching staff to make the adjustments to take advantage of the individual talents on the team. We have a depth of talent, other than with central defenders, that we have not had before. It is therefore not unfair for Ryan to ask a question (probably rhetorical) which when taken in the proper context does not question whether Schrocky deserves to be on the team. Of course, the Azkals are better with Schrock. The point is that we need to be conscious of finding ways to maximize his prodigious skill combining it with the talent that he is now surrounded by.

The future of the Azkals remains bright. Other than the holes we need to fill in central defense, we are stocked elsewhere with the next generation getting some experience now.

Kudos to Ryan for asking questions that should be asked. That is what we need so as not to be complacent.

I do hope that Thomas Dooley is retained up until the next World Cup cycle. He has the Azkals playing beautiful football. He has not been afraid to experiment and more important, he has not been afraid to throw the young players out there. While befuddling (and maybe maddening) to some, this is necessary to help our team grow and find out how we can be successful in matches that count.

2012-03-24 Kasibulan GDO Workshop 054We have a long way to go. There will be bumps along the way. Having said that, the seeds for long-term success are there and some of them are starting to bear fruit. I just hope the PFF continues to build and maintain focus on the grassroots program. More than the National Team program, it is what happens in the often forlorn pitches in Iligan, San Carlos City, Davao, Barotac Nuevo, Tacloban, Los Banos and countless others that will determine whether we will dominate Southeast Asia on our road to the World Cup and sustain such dominance.

Keep on writing Ryan!