The controversies haunting the AFP today over issues of corruption in the military has tainted the men in uniform. Thus, we couldn’t help but picture three faces of military soldiers: the lowly rank and file, the young officers-reformists and the corrupt generals. Way back in the late ‘90’s there was already a break-away group of military personnel who wanted reforms and staged a coup d’etat, though failed, has left leads to the wrong curves and bounds on the problems in governance, be it in the military service or national government. It was another eye-opener for the ordinary citizens to be aware of.
The story that follows, however, is not about a rebel soldier, nor a corrupt military officer, but a soldier of good conscience who used his tact to save the lives of his men and their counter-part and at the same time, protect the Philippine Constitution.
This is a story of a true Filipino soldier.
He grew up in Fort Bonifacio… schooled in Fort Bonifacio . He was due to sail across the seas when he finally decided to fulfill his promise “to serve God, country and people” by joining the the Philippine Marines a few months after he graduated at the merchant marines academy in Fort Bonifacio.|
He’d just turned 24 when he was commissioned to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and found himself a young lieutenant, scaling his way to the hills of Norzaragay, Bulacan, with other new soldiers like him, carrying their tag as “the few, the proud, the marines” for some insurgency mission.
In solitude, he would remember himself with other young boys playing soldier games with toy guns, running here and there, hiding in corners, shooting playmates and mimicking the sound “rat-tat-tat-tat”, all just for a game that little boys play, and all just for fun. But in the midst of a death-defying operation, clad in a soldier’s uniform and a real rifle held in his arms, he would close his eyes, remind himself that it is no longer a young boy’s game, but sacrifice and duty for the country. Thus, he would pray deeply to God for strength and safety.
The latter part of 1989 was hot and shaky. Political instability was felt and there was restlessness in the military. Until that dawn in December, a coup d’etat awakened the country, led by some disgruntled military officers and their elements. He, however, stayed and took a stand to defend the country and the Constitution.
In no time at all, the bad news broke out. The tanks were marching in the streets again, which signal that a bloody encounter may happen anytime. Some people rushed to the streets, not for the same ideals and beliefs of the renegade soldiers, but out of curiosity and excitement, unmindful of what may happen with their lives just to watch a true-to-life shooting and gun-firing of real-life soldiers… like what they see in the movies and television series. But for him it will be a fateful day for anyone coming in the middle of war… and anytime, it could be the last hour on earth.
The radio announced that rebel soldiers had taken key installations in the city. There was already panic outside homes and “red alert” in the military was raised. The whole day was heavy and unrelenting, and the call of duty to defend the country has come to the nerves.
But who are these “enemies “ at that time? What pushed them to take up their arms and desire to try to grab power from ‘Cory Government”? Is the struggle worth dying for?
He focused his lens towards the end of the long road with one hand on the walkie-talkie radio informing his Commanding Officer the distance of the upcoming soldiers believed to be members of the lost command ? the rebel ones. It was already dark and these rebel soldiers would want to pass through Whiteplains Subdivision, a private community where civilians reside, towards the gateway to Camp Aguinaldo. 100 meters…90..70…50…40 meters…
“Commence fire!” he heard over the radio he was holding. He felt his body stiffened. With the command he had just received, he has to relay the command and order the same to his men all awaiting with their ammunition ready to fire at a final signal for that encounter.
“What sir?” he replied as if he didn’t hear the command. “Commence fire!” and he heard it again, loud and clear.
Yes, he was brought up in Ft. Bonifacio. In his blood runs the blood of Andres Bonifacio, a Filipino patriot during the Spanish revolution and embraced as one of the country’s national hero, he too, would protect his fellowmen from harmful elements of the land. His arms and feet are of Bonifacio, tough enough to fight and defend the constitution… but at that very moment, he knew he cannot follow the order to kill… he paused and realized that his heart is Rizal, another beloved national hero of the Filipinos, who doesn’t want bloodshed, who would not kill a brother though they have different beliefs and wings to fly with.
He pretended again that he could not hear clearly what had been ordered to do… that something was wrong with the radio waves… that it was choppy, so he told his superior … and he turned off the radio.
“ ‘Mate, come join us, please”, he heard from the other side as the soldiers fast approaching their line. You can imagine soldiers on both sides all armed, all ready to click their rifles, and any moment an ambush could break the night. He turned down this time a request, while the previous one, a command. “No, I have my CO, you can talk to him your grievances”, he replied bravely but politely.
That encounter was a peaceful one. No blood shed, no bullet flight, only exchange of reasons. And lives of the soldiers and civilians were spared on that ground by one soldier, despite consequences he may face afterwards. Arms were held down and the men in uniform as brothers in the military service, respect each other’s beliefs in taking action of reforms.
In a few days, the Cory Administration was on top of the situation again. ‘Coup plotters were controlled… some were hunted, others were handcuffed after their operation. And the rest was his history.
Soldiers are made to follow orders without complaints, without questions. BUT THEY SHOULD OBEY WITH GOOD CONSCIENCE…THEY MUST FOLLOW WITH THE RIGHT JUDGMENT. And a good soldier is not afraid to face the consequences of his action, if his act is worthy of sacrifice.
To this day, unless a culture of discipline be instilled in every soul, unless corruption be scrapped in the system, and unless men of honor and good conscience take the seats of governance… we can still expect arms of dissatisfaction coming in the streets …wanting reforms, and crying for justice as well.(“,&