Yanking the chain

Two recent posts, both related to the role the military and its chain of command play in democratic politics, have provoked some spirited and thought-provoking comments of their own, from Edwin Lacierda, Manuel Buencamino, Glenn Omanio, Erwin Rafael, and Jojo Abinales. I have just replied, at some length, to the latest entries: here, about Randy David’s unexpected praise of coup plotters past, and here, about civilian supremacy. If you think we’ve missed certain, perhaps even vital, points, please pull up a chair and join the conversation.



Filed under Readings in Politics

5 responses to “Yanking the chain

  1. John,

    Isn’t it uncanny? Just when we were talking over the weekend about the chain of command and overturning civilian supremacy, we have this talk of a coup in the offing.

    But being a newspaperman, methinks you had inside information on the rumblings in the military. Hence, a timely retort on my article.

    I jest.

  2. hi John,

    your blog has so much info i can’t wait to read your other entries… i love INQ7.net – that’s where i get news about PI most of the time. Cheers!

    Isay in Oz

  3. Jojo

    Hi John: the exchanges bring to the fore the issue of the Philippine military today. Glenda Gloria wrote a highly informative monograph on the rise in military appointments to civilian posts and also in the competition for political office. The sense I got from her wonderful piece is that we are now witnessing the flowering of the military’s version of the “trapo.” Its origins can be traced back to the Aquino era, when the likes of Fidel Ramos discovered the value of patronage politics. The military “trapo” proved more successful than Gringo and his comrades, adventurers who thought that seizing state power and assuming national leadership via the coup was their divine mission (which, in turn, fooled the likes of Randy David — 19 years later!!!). The “trapos” were more pragmatic and realistic, recognizing various venues and pathways inside the present state through which they could ascend to the top. They are probably at their zenith today, part of the presidential inner circle, situated in strategic executive offices, joining both houses of Congress. And their power includes determining who gets the plum posts within the military itself.

    My 10 centavos worth of input…what do you think?

  4. You jest, Dawin, but in earnest! The political pot is a-boiling.

    Thanks, Isay, for dropping by. I see you’ve linked to Gigi Goes Gaga, a good friend of mine who writes wonderful prose. I’ve never read so much about, ah, fashion until Gigi started writing. (Wait, there was that terrific writer in the New Yorker, was it Holly Brubach, who wrote so well on fashion I’d end up reading her dispatches in spite of myself. And Adam Gopnik too, when he was still based in Paris.) Interesting stuff (I mean your blog).

    And Jojo: That is some input. It really deserves a closer look. My only concern, at least for now, is to point out that the politicization of the military, in the sense of creating a culture of traditional politics, started before Eddie Ramos was defense secretary. It started during Marcos’s time, didn’t it? Cushy appointments outside the AFP, plum projects for the more favored ones even before retirement: as with quite a lot of things, the rot started with Marcos.

    A couple of years ago, I had a chance conversation over cocktails with an outgoing Chief of Staff. I asked him whether he wanted his term extended. No, he replied quickly, with a smile. “I’ve many offers waiting for me,” or words to that disheartening effect.

  5. Jojo

    John, on pre-martial law military politicos, we’re trying to get Anvil to agree to publish Donald Berlin’s dissertation on politicization inside the AFP up to the eve of martial law (more stories, better written than Carol Hernandez’s dissertation on the same topic). What was clear about the Marcos era though was that it was still the civilian politicos who determined the game, who dangled the money and the appointments in exchange for the officers’ giving them their fealty. Under Ramos, military trapos now regard themselves on the same level and having the same power as the civilian trapos. Ironically it was Marcos, then Gringo and his coups, who were instrumental in levelling the playing field. Ramos, however, turned out to be the ultimate beneficiary.

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