Paging ANC

The next time Sen. Pong Biazon guests on any of your shows, can you kindly ask him the following question?

Some of us who keep blogs or post in their comment threads have been exercised by the vexing role of a professional military in a functioning democracy. I myself tend toward the idea that the chain of command is the military; it is what makes the armed services viable in the first place. At the same time, and from different points of departure, many of us have arrived at the conclusion that, even in the military, conscience is primary.

Some, like myself, understand this primary role in a more limited sense. Only illegal or immoral orders can be the subject of a conscience-bound act of disobedience. (Edwin Lacierda asks a crucial question; I hope I will have time later today, after the many Sunday obligations have been attended to, to give the question the attention it deserves.)

Now Biazon — a former Marine general, the savior of Camp Aguinaldo, and an ex-Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces — has struggled with the tension between the primacy of conscience and the essential role of the chain of command almost his entire life. In his questioning of Marine general Franciso Gudani ("Congratulations, Marine!"), he hinted as much.

At one point, after Gudani told him about his moral dilemma regarding possible election fraud, Biazon recalled an incident in his military career which he said was similar to Gudani’s. A long time ago, in a matter involving smuggling in Cavite, he said, he was asked, either by a superior officer or an influential politician, to look the other way. He said he refused to do so.

I do not remember what he said after that, whether he was relieved of his command or transferred to another post or left to wither on the narrow ladder of military promotion. In fact, Biazon left it pretty much at that. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile butted in to crack a joke, saying, "This minister was not the one who told you to look away, right?" or words to that same effect. (Which makes me think the incident happened during martial law.)

The question for Biazon: Did he break the chain of command then? If he didn’t, what did he do, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of smuggling and high-level cover-up?

These aren’t facetious questions; I really would like to know how, in that particular incident, the tension between conscience and chain of command was resolved. Perhaps he has answers the "internal audience" of the AFP needs to hear.


Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

6 responses to “Paging ANC

  1. Jojo

    Hi John: re Biazon’s dilemma. The book by Al McCoy on the PMA discusses similar problems when it came to dealing with smuggling in Cavite. The essay of John Sidel on the Montanos, which is part of the edited volume Anarchy of Families (again edited by Al M.) also mentions this problem. Finally Vic Corpuz also “talks” about this in the movie made about him a decade or so back.

    My sense is Biazon’s experience with politician-smugglers happened in the pre-martial law era, when Marcos and Cavite kingpin Lino Bocalan were lording it over the smuggling of “blue seal” cigarettes in the province’s ports. He probably was a young captain or major then.

    With the exception of the 1989 coup, the Marines have generally remained loyal to the concept of civilian supremacy. They defended Marcos in 1986 even though deep down they knew he was corrupt; they also formed the main bulk of Cory Aquino’s defenders in the coups before 1989. Gringo managed to break that fidelity in 1989, but since then the Marines have gone back to fighting the insurgency and separatist rebellions.

    I am sure General Gudani and Sen. Biazon are seething over yet another instance of civilian abuse of power. But whether that anger — which I am sure is shared by the entire Marine corps — is enough to get them to defy, once more, their civilian overlords, is another question.

  2. Hi, John. Please allow me to answer your question in behalf of my father. He’s not much into technology so he leaves the surfing, blogging and emailing to me.

    He told me that story (among countless others)many times, perhaps to teach me the value of integrity.

    First, he was asked by a superior officer to look the other way. His operations against smugglers were hurting some local politicians, who in turn, were putting pressure on the superior.

    By my own experience, now being a member of congress representing Muntinlupa City, politicians really try to exert influence over military officers, something which my father HATED during his entire military career and upt to now that he’s a senator. He believes, which of course, I also share that belief, that military officers should be insulated from political influence. That’s one of the reasons why he is determined to expose the use of the military during the elections, as heard in the Garci Tapes.

    Anyway, back to the smuggling story, he did not follow what he deemed an immoral order and continued to operate against the smugglers. Eventually, he was simply transferred to another post.

  3. Thank you, Congressman. I appreciate the information, as I’m sure those who find themselves dawdling in this site will too. I was a little worried that Sen. Biazon may hold today’s present crop of officers to a standard different from his.

  4. richard guzman

    Just want to comment about ex cavite gov lino bocalan as i know him for 39 yrs. He is a good and helpful person. From magsaysay to marcos time he was their moneymaker and many old politicians living now ay nakinabang sa kanya. He was used by the cia to fund weapons to help suharto fight communism in indonesia during the late 50s. Ganun ba ang isang taong tanga. Mahiwaga siya and a legendary heroe to me.

  5. elena bocalan

    Mr. Guzman, I am Lino Bocalan’s daughter, it would be nice if we could chat someday, masarap malamang may nagmamalasakit hanggang ngayon. Best regards. Hope to hear from you.– my e-mail address.

  6. allenabocalan

    mr. guzman, i am lino bocalan’s granddaughter. sana po one of these days puwede ko kayo maka-chat. it seems that marami po kayong alam regarding my grandpa, your knowledge po may be a bi help for me to answer some questions for my thesis. thank you po. this is my email ad:

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