The Final Report of the Fact-Finding Commission: II: Political Change and Military Transmition in the Philippines, 1966 – 1989: From the Barracks to the Corridors of Power




This chapter examines the factors, both external and internal, which influenced the politicization of the Philippine military and predisposed it to the launching of coups.

Traditionally, the military establishment is an organization whose sole function is to provide external defense. An extension of that function is internal security, or defense against aggression from within (internal subversion). In many Third World countries, however, the military has had to assume another role — that of maintaining peace and order. The Philippines is no exception to this phenomenon.

A. Historical Development of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

When the American Military Commander of the Philippines — upon instructions from the President of the United States of America on 4 July 1901 — turned over the government to civilian authorities, the Philippine-American War (1898 -1902) had not yet ended. To meet this situation, the Governor General ordered the formation of an Insular Police Force on 8 August 1901 under Capt Henry Allen. Initially, 74 American officers were appointed to man it. By 31 December 1901, the number grew to 180. To reinforce the American officers, Filipinos, deliberately selected from various ethnic groups, were organized as scouts. In 1905, a three-month course was offered at the Sta Lucia barracks in Intramuros for Filipino recruits to be trained as officers in the Insular Police Force. In 1917, the Revised Administrative Code changed the name of the Insular Police Force to the Philippine Constabulary, tasked mainly to provide internal security.1 External security was provided by the US.

On 15 November 1935, the Philippine Commonwealth was formally inaugurated. It was a creation of the American government which retained control over Philippine affairs while granting a certain measure of autonomy to Filipinos.

A.1. The National Defense Act

In his inaugural address, President Manuel Quezon stressed the urgent need to formulate an adequate defense program for the Philippines. Since the Commonwealth period would last for 10 years, a military institution would be needed to protect the state. Besides, Japan’s aggressive policies indicated its intention to establish a sphere of influence in the area which in all certainty would include the Philippines.2 Quezon requested the services of Gen Douglas MacArthur as Military Adviser to assist in the development of the Philippine military.

MacArthur formulated the National Defense Plan. As he envisioned it, the Philippine military establishment would primarily be a “citizen army” with two main components: the Regular and Reserve Forces. The Regular Force would be “made up of individuals who follow the profession of arms as a career, and who were constantly in the service of the government. The Reserve Force would consist of those able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 21 and 50 who have been duly trained for the military.”3 For MacArthur, the development of a reasonably adequate defense was important for the Filipinos and the Americans. American pride and prestige would suffer a severe blow should the Philippines ever fall under the control of another foreign power.4

Commonwealth Act No. 1, otherwise known as the National Defense Act, approved on 21 December 1935, authorized the organization of the Philippine Army. It was tasked to protect the state against external attack, to promote internal security, and to maintain peace and order.5

On 11 January 1936, to implement the National Defense Act, Quezon issued Executive Order No. 11 formally establishing the Philippine Army. The Philippine Constabulary, which arose out of the Insular Police Force, became the nucleus of the regular force of the Philippine Army.

The Philippine Constabulary Air Group which was activated on 2 January 1935, was redesignated as the Philippine Air Force on 3 July 1947. In 1939, an Off-Shore Patrol (OSP) was organized as a unit of the Philippine Army. It was often referred to as the “mosquito fleet.” In October 1947, the OSP was renamed Philippine Naval Patrol and on 5 January 1951, it became the Philippine Navy. On 23 December 1950, President Elpidio Quirino issued Executive Order No. 389 designating the four major services to compose the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The Philippine Army (PA) became responsible for land defense, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for air, the Philippine Navy (PN) for sea, and the Philippine Constabulary (PC) which, as the national police, was responsible for the security of rear areas in case of emergency.6 Providing the command over the major services was General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines (GHQ, AFP). The Commander of the AFP was known as the Chief of Staff, AFP (CSAFP), who reported to the President as Commander-in-Chief.

A.2. US Role in the Formation of the AFP

American participation in the formation of the AFP was clear from the start, with MacArthur as Military Adviser to Quezon formulating and implementing the first National Defense Plan. The US defined and shaped the functions of the AFP. By assuming external defense, the US caused the AFP to concentrate on internal defense and peace and order. By financing the cost of organizing the military, the US necessarily determined its size, training, equipment, and supplies.

As the Pacific War drew to a close and the promised restoration of independence approached, the US began to plan for the transfer of sovereignty to the Philippines. It prepared to provide military assistance to rebuild the army which it limited to 37,000 troops, to train and equip them, and to establish a group of American army, navy, and air force officers to provide military advice.7 A program of military assistance was formulated through the 1946 Military Assistance Act authorizing $19.75 million to be administered in the Philippines by the Joint United States Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG). This relationship was sealed by the Military Assistance Agreement between the two countries on 21 March 1947, an agreement which remains in effect until the present.8

The US turned over 33,000 army, 2,000 air force, and 1,800 naval forces to the Philippines on 30 June 1946 with second-hand US army equipment and supplies already located in the Philippines. Under the Agreement, the US had sent a select group of Filipino officers to American military academies and service schools since independence.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff articulated on 22 May 1950 the assumption behind US military assistance to the Philippines thus

A sound military policy for the Philippines at the present time justifies maximum emphasis and expenditures upon forces required for the maintenance of internal security and a minimum expenditure upon forces contributing largely to national military prestige or to forces and resources largely designed for defense against external invaders.9

Thus, the AFP was not able to develop external defense capability. This was’ exacerbated by the fact that the Military Bases Agreement between the two countries signed on 14 March 1947 and the Mutual Defense Treaty of March 1951 reinforced external defense dependence on the US. US military presence in the bases, their largest overseas, and reliance on US assistance during peace and in case of external attack left the AFP developing largely an internal security function.

A.3. The AFP and the Huk Insurgency

From its establishment until the early 1940s, the AFP was confined to its original functions of defending the state. But the absence of a viable and immediate external threat to the Philippines, the emergence of the Huk (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon or Hukbalahap, more commonly known as Huks) insurgency, and US defense umbrella in the Philippines and the larger Asian region led the AFP to assume a leading role in the peace and order drive in the country.

During this time, the AFP was completely subordinated to the civilian political authority. The President, being the Commander-in-Chief, enjoyed considerable control powers over the military. Congress fully used its authority to allocate funds and confirm senior military promotions.

In the late 1940s, the rise of the Hukbalahap insurgency necessitated the expansion of the role of the AFP beyond its original functions. The Huks originated as a peasant-based movement pressing for agrarian reform. Having fought against the Japanese during the tatter’s occupation of the Philippines, the end of the war found them heavily-armed and well-organized. Contrary to their expectations, they were excluded from receiving pensions and other benefits because the government did not’ recognize them as guerrillas. The Huks criticized the government’s failure to initiate an agrarian reform program that would correct the inequitable land distribution in Philippine society, particularly in Central Luzon. In the 1946 elections, several congressmen-elect sympathetic to the Huks, including Luis Taruc, better known as the Huk Supremo, were prevented from assuming their seats. Losing faith in the electoral process and the government, the Huks then escalated their armed struggle under the slogan “bullets, not ballots.”10

The AFP embarked on an extensive campaign to defeat the Huks. However, the strategy was not confined to armed combat. Under the direction of Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay, the strategy became a fusion of political, socio-economic, and military activities, thus signaling the start of the expansion of the military’s protection, security, and peace-keeping functions. In addressing the Huk problem, Magsaysay used two different approaches: a mailed-fist policy and a policy of attraction. He said that “With my left hand I am offering to all dissidents the road to peace, happy homes and economic security, but with my right, I shall crush all those who resist and seek to destroy our democratic government.”11 He countered the Huk slogan with one of his own, “ballots, not bullets.”

Magsaysay was assisted by the JUSMAG. When Lt Col Edward Lansdale arrived in the Philippines in September 1950, the Huk insurgency was already escalating. Lansdale was not just a military adviser attached to JUSMAG. He was also the head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) clandestine and paramilitary operations in the country. With him was Capt Charles Bohannan from the US army intelligence unit. Together, they embarked on psychological warfare based on the premise that a popular guerrilla army cannot be defeated by force alone.

Lansdale’s team conducted a careful study of the superstitions of the Filipino peasants. In one operation, Lansdale’s men flew over Huk areas in a small plane hidden by clouds and broadcast in Tagalog mysterious curses on any villager who would dare to give food or shelter to the Huks.12 Another “psywar” operation played on the superstitious belief in the aswang, a mythical vampire. A psywar squad entered a town and planted rumors that an aswang lived in the neighboring hill where the Huks were based. After giving the rumor time to circulate, the squad laid an ambush for the Huk rebels along a trail used by them. The ambushers snatched the last man in the Huk patrol, punctured his neck with two holes, vampire fashion, held his body by the heels to drain the blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks discovered their bloodless comrade, they fled from the region.13

Lansdale also held regular coffee sessions with Filipino officials and military personnel. Out of this came the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR) to lure the Huks with a program of resettlement. EDCOR became the government’s response to the “land for the landless” slogan of the Huks. The plan of forming such an entity actually started even before World War II when ex-Senator Camilo Osias suggested it for the public schools. After liberation, the idea of an economic development corps was espoused by the Army for the purpose of integrating 20-year-old recruits who were to be trained on mechanized farms into the pattern of national defense. But it was not until Magsaysay became the Secretary of National Defense that the plan turned into a reality. EDCOR was placed under military control. This was his “left hand” approach in attracting the dissidents to surrender. Six months after he took office, on 22 February 1951, the first EDCOR farm project was established at Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur. The project consisted of 1,600 hectares of farm land for distribution to ex-Huks at the rate of about six to eight hectares per family. The Army would furnish each family with farm implements, a carabao, a house, seeds and other paraphernalia. In May 1947, the first batch of 56 ex-Huk families was taken at the Army’s expense to Lanao. Six years later, a total of 978 families or nearly 5,000 persons had been settled in the four EDCOR farms in Mindanao and Isabela in Luzon.14 However, only 246, or 25 percent of these families were ex-Huks. Most were members of Magsaysay’s armed forces.15

The AFP also embarked on a host of socio-economic activities such as the building of roads, bridges, irrigation systems, ditches, and school buildings, in line with their counter-insurgency (COIN) program. They also provided free dental, medical, and legal services to residents in the rural areas.

After assuming office on 30 December 1953 as the third President of the Republic, Magsaysay continued the use of the military in his socio-economic programs. He retained the defense portfolio until 14 May 1954.

But despite the fact that the military performed duties beyond their traditional roles, the civilian political authority still remained supreme. Congress continued to exercise effective control over the military through its constitutional powers over the defense budget and the promotion of senior officers.

However, discontent within the military establishment could not be dismissed as non-existent. As an aftermath of the 1949 presidential elections where there were charges of massive electoral fraud committed by Quirino, a guerrilla leader, one Col Medrano of Batangas, led a local rebellion and was reported to have solicited the support of the military. Similarly, in 1958, after Carlos P. Garcia became president following the death of Magsaysay, rumors of a coup were in the air. Although these rumors were never substantiated, Garcia took decisive action by dismissing Gen Jesus N. Vargas as Secretary of National Defense.16

But these were just plans which were never implemented, for it can be said that during that time, the demarcation lines between civilian and military authority were clearly defined. Civilian political institutions were relatively strong, regular elections provided the mechanism for changing leaders, and the military establishment faithfully adhered to the dictum that civilian authority is supreme over the military establishment.

A.4. The AFP from 1957 to 1965

At the time of Magsaysays death in 1957, the AFP had become involved in civic action and counter-insurgency functions, and in such various socio-economic projects as the building of schoolhouses, roads and bridges, digging of artesian wells, and the provision of medical and legal assistance to rural residents.

During the incumbency of Garcia, the Socio-Economic Military Program (SEMP) was adopted as a military responsibility. It aimed to use the resources of the military in the socio-economic development of the country. It authorized the Chief of Staff to utilize military personnel for land resettlement, rural development, food production, and public works construction. A number of SEMP settlements were established in Mindanao, Luzon, and Panay islands. However, this endeavor was not then undertaken on a full-scale and permanent basis.

President Diosdado Macapagal, who won the 1961 elections, did not believe that the military’s role should be extended to involvement in civic action, unlike Magsaysay and Garcia. He terminated the AFP civic action programs arguing that civic action only encouraged the military to engage in politics. He strongly believed that civic action was not a function of the military. By 1965, there had been a substantial reduction in the AFPs presence in national life. They returned to their barracks and the regularity of military life.

But it can be said that the military’s involvement in counter-insurgency, in keeping with its function of providing internal security and maintaining peace and order, led it to participate in socio-economic activities, a task beyond its traditional role.

B. The Involvement of the AFP as a Partner in National
Development: 1966 – 1971

After President Ferdinand E. Marcos assumed office on 30 December 1965, he made the AFP an integral component of his economic development program. In his State of the Nation address, he emphasized that

. . . the primary threat to our national security within the immediate future lies in internal subversion rather than from any external aggression. The military establishment will be developed along this basic premise in the years to come. However, since the development of our economy provides the permanent solution to this threat, I intend to harness to a greater extent the resources of our defense establishment in our task of nation building. It would be culpable negligence on our part if the peaceful uses of military forces were not availed of to the fullest extent possible in our continuing program of economic development.17

The Four-Year Economic Program formulated in September 1966 and approved by the National Economic Council noted that

. . . the Armed Forces of the Philippines with its manpower, material and equipment resources plus its organizational cohesiveness and discipline possesses a tremendous potential to participate in economic development which should be exploited to the maximum. Such participation becomes imperative considering that the problem besetting the country is socio-economic rather than military and that the resources available to solve this problem are scarse and limited.18

The foregoing policy pronouncements provided the rationale for the AFFs massive participation in socio-economic development.

B.1. Career Development Programs to Suit
Their New Role

The AFFs new function required skills and expertise that would be necessary to make the military better qualified for Marcos’s plans. In his 1966 State of the Nation address, Marcos called for “increased training, new equipment and heightened morale . . .”19 Imbuing the AFP with civilian management skills became one of the goals of his defense program. Service schools were re-equipped and re-staffed with career soldiers. At the first year of his presidency, it was reported that

. . . 2,781 officers and enlisted men completed courses in local and foreign service schools. And 60,000 ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Course] cadets completed the required instructions in colleges and universities in the Philippines. Of all the major services the army was the most actively involved in professionalizing its forces. Special training was conducted during the year for 167 officers. Several combat exercises were also undertaken. Refresher courses were completed by 1,360 officers and men in the Constabulary, and 92 officers from the Air Force. In the Navy, 68 officers participated in training courses. Under the Military Assistance Program (MAP), 145 officers were trained in the U.S. . . . 20

The National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), activated on 9 September 1963, became the apex of the officer’s military education.

It is the only institution in the country with the mission of educating senior military leaders, as well as civilian executives from the government, for top positions in the national government and in national and international security structures.

The NDCFs first regular course1 started on 6 February 1966. By June 1972, a total of 93 students in six classes had been graduated. In the next six years (July 1972 to June 1978), it graduated another 251 students in six classes or 151 percent over the first six classes.

Majority of its graduates were holding key and sensitive positions in their respective offices by 1977. Most of these graduates were responsible for the formulation of national or agency policies regarding national security. Among its graduates from the military, 37 had been promoted to the grade of general as of 1977.21

Occupying the next rung below NDCP in the officer’s military education is the AFP Command and General Staff College (CGSC) which was activated in 1969, with its first class held in July of that year. Previously, each major service command, except the PC, had its own command and staff school, the Army being the first to establish one. All of these command and staff schools were integrated into the CGSC.

Just like its previous counterparts in the different military services, the CGSC aims to prepare officers for senior level positions. However, in its briefing paper, the CGSC explains that training of top military men should not be limited to military matters. Although it is not explicitly stated, the institution appears to be concerned with training military men for civilian leadership roles. It envisioned the ideal of a military professional with a broad perspective of a committed leader and the incisive and analytical mind of a statesman. When the CGSC started, most of the subjects were military courses. Through the years, changes in the curriculum were mostly in terms of management courses.

The CGSC had conducted the following courses: Command and General Staff Regular Course (CGSRC), Command and General Staff Associate Course (CGSAC), Command and General Staff Special Course (CGSSC), Technical Service Command and Staff Course (TSCSC), Non-Residence Correspondence Course (NRCC), and Battalion Commanders’ Course (BCC). The CGSC also conducted important seminars as Crisis Management on Hostage Negotiations, Curriculum Development Course, and briefings on human rights. To date, the CGSC has graduated 2,322 AFP officers as shown in Table II-1.

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA)is the country’s only military academy for professional career officers. The Academy traces its beginnings to the officers’ school of the Philippine Constabulary in Manila which opened on 17 February 1905. With the passage of Commonwealth Act No. 1, the Constabulary Academy rose to full college status. It offers an academic curriculum of four years leading to a degree of bachelor of science. Graduates are commissioned as second lieutenants in the regular force.

Table II – 1 — Number of Graduates
From CGSC By Service Command























































Source: AFP Command and General Staff College, Fort Bonifacio, Makati, Metro Manila.

Other military schools include the following: the Metropolitan Citizen Military Training Command (MCMTC), Armed Forces of the Philippines Training Command (AFPTC), Philippine Air Force Flying School (PAFFS), PA Training Command (PA TRACOM), Naval Training Command (NTC), and the Philippine Constabulary Training Command (PC TRACOM). A discussion of the kind of training that candidate-officers undergo at the PMA and at the aforementioned military schools is made in the next chapter.

The AFP also sent their men to take advance degrees at various civilian schools and universities, including the College of Public Administration at the University of the Philippines, the Asian Institute of Management, and at the graduate schools of business of Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.

Other training programs undertaken by the military establishment to make its men better prepared for their newly-assigned roles included the training and equipping of the AFP engineering battalions from 1967 to 1968 in exchange for the Philippine government’s commitment to send a civic action team to Vietnam. This was undertaken with a $7 million grant from the US.22

The AFP also relied on the training programs provided by the US as a form of military aid under the Mutual Assistance Program. By 1971, Philippine military personnel, numbering 13,588, had received training from the US. Specifically, some 8,729 were trained within the continental US. One hundred and fifty-three senior officers had attended US command and general staff schools. During 1969 and 1970, five US military teams were detailed to assist the AFP in training, supply, maintenance, and equipment operations at an estimated cost of $300,000.23

The AFP also participated in training programs provided by other countries. Under the Defense Cooperation Program (DCP), AFP personnel have undertaken training courses and study visits in Australia since 1960. A total of 1,021 military personnel have participated in DCP training programs from the time it was initiated until the present year as shown in Table II-2.

The AFP also participated in study visits under the DCP to familiarize senior AFP officers with Australian Defence Force activities and procedures. Study visits included the following:

a. Dockyard Management
b. Personnel Management
c. Australian Army Organization,
d. Logistics
e. Logistics Studies
f. Survey Training
g. Formulation of Training Doctrines
h. Senior Executive Management
i. Technical Conferences
j. Explosive Safety Seminar
k. Army Health

Table II-2 — Number of AFP Personnel Who Participated
in DCP Training Programs: 1960 – 1990


No. of AFP


No. of AFP





























































Source: Office of Education and Training (OJ-8), Armed Forces of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Other Allied countries, also offered training programs through diplomatic invitation to the AFP for command and general staff courses as shown in Table II-3. Data for the years 1966 to 1973 were not available as the records perished in the fire which destroyed the GHQ building in Camp Aguinaldo in 1987. Similarly, annual accomplishment reports of the AFP from 1970 to 1986 relating not only to the education and training but to other changes in the military, were all burned during the fifth coup attempt on August 1987.24

Table II-3 — Number of AFP Personnel Who Participated
in Training Programs of Allied Countries



Total No. of
Graduates To Date




























Source: Office of Education and Training (OJ-8), Armed Forces of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

B.2. National Development Programs Undertaken by the AFP

With the decision in 1966 to tap military resources for economic development, the AFP embarked on a socio-economic program of unprecedented scale under the banner of “civic action.” Projects under civic action fell into two general groupings: those in support of national development program, and those in support of regional or community development programs. Under the former were the construction of highways, feeder roads, and pre-fabricated schoolhouse buildings, irrigation development, flood control, dredging and reclamation, manpower development, land resettlement, and industrial site planning. Under the latter were the civic action centers (Home Defense Centers or HDCs), servicing of regional development programs, and assisting the Department of Health in the provision of medical and dental services to the rural population.25

The most significant achievements of the civic action program were in the field of public works. In the first Four-Year Economic Program, Marcos stressed the need for a public works program amounting billion, with P960.4 million or 31.06 percent for the construction of new roads and the improvement of existing ones. Considering the magnitude of the construction program and the relatively short period within which it was expected to be accomplished, Marcos mobilized the manpower, material, and equipment resources of the AFP. Three major engineering units were directly involved in the infrastructural development program — the 51st Engineer Brigade which was composed of one Special Support Company and 10 Engineer Construction Battalions, the 515th Engineer Forestry Company and the Waterfront and Dredge Company of the Philippine Navy. The 10 Engineer Construction Battalions of the 51st Engineer Brigade were increased to 15 by 1967.

For a period of one year (1966), the 51st Engineer Brigade alone completed 13 major construction projects with a total cost of P3.16 million which was more than 50 percent of what was undertaken by the Corps of Engineers in twelve and one half years under previous administrations.

From 1966 to 1973, an approximate comparison can be made of the total national accomplishment with that of the AFP’s on a number of infrastructure activities as shown in Table II-4.26

Table II-4 — Percentage of AFP Infrastructure
Projects, 1966 -1973

Project AFP (in kms.) National Total (in kms.) Percent Contribution
Highways 113.645 6,431 1.767
Secondary Roads 72.736 11,748 0.619
Feeder 2,172.724 7,196 30.193
Bridges 1,468.560 37,677 3.898

Source: Col Florencio Magsino, “An Assessment of the Employment of the AFP for National Development” (Masteral Thesis, National Defense College of the Philippines, 1974), p. 54.

Although the AFFs contribution in the construction of highways, secondary roads, and bridges was very minimal in terms of the national total, its contribution to the construction of feeder roads was very substantial, amounting to 30 percent of the total. Feeder roads are those made of dirt or gravel to connect rural and far-flung areas to towns and cities.

In meeting the acute shortage of schoolhouses, the AFP constructed 4,185 units of Army-type pre-fabricated schoolhouses and fabricated 6,500 units of the Marcos-type from 1966 to June 1969. This constituted 46 percent of the administration’s pre-fabricated school building output from 1966 to 1969.27

The Navy, for its part, implemented dredging programs. The Air Force, by 1969, covered more than 3.2 million hectares with photo-grammetry for mapping purposes.28 In 28 provinces, 37 HDCs were established in the same year. These HDCs served as the focal point for coordinating inter-agency support for community self-help projects. The activities undertaken by the HDCs were many and varied, from community irrigation in Luzon to seminars in deep sea fishing in Sulu.

The AFP also provided free medical and dental services, especially in rural areas. By 1969, there were 25 military rural health teams operating in 17 provinces, attending to the public health in medically-distressed areas. In fiscal year 1968 -1969, 89,613 medical and 43,403 dental patients were treated.29

B.3. Internal Security and Peace and Order

Despite the preoccupation with civic action, the AFP continued to undertake its role of maintaining peace and order in the country. Law enforcement was continually carried out by the PC. They were quite successful in their drive against smuggling during the first year and a half of Marcos’s incumbency.30 The PC, with assistance from the Philippine Navy, arrested at least 100 of the most important smugglers.

In the Greater Manila Area (GMA), crime figures were on the rise when Marcos became president. GMA was composed of 4 cities and 13 municipalities, each having its own police force. In 1968, Marcos established the Metropolitan Area Command (METROCOM) of the PC. It assisted local police forces in GMA in dealing with urban unrest among workers and students. Other units of the AFP were transferred to the METROCOM, beefing it up to a force of 1,700 officers and enlisted men, from a meager 300-man team. From 1 August 1968 to 1 July 1970, the METROCOM was under the administrative and operational control of GHQ, but after this period, the PC took over, making the METROCOM one of the major subordinate commands of the PC with a status equal to that of a PC Zone Command in the provinces.31 Aside from assisting the local police forces in general crime fighting, the METROCOM also assisted local police agencies in the arrest, detention, search and seizure of suspects in criminal investigation and prosecution, especially in cases involving illegal possession of firearms, carnapping, and other serious offenses. Trained by the US in crowd control techniques, METROCOM obtained the opportunity to apply what it learned in dispersing demonstrations held at the US Embassy, Malacañang and in other places in 1970 and 1971.

The AFP was also deputized during elections. In 1969, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) mobilized the military in manning the polls. In 1971, military personnel were asked to keep the polls orderly and to guard the ballot boxes from the electoral precincts to the tabulating center in Manila.32

B.4. Structural Changes in the Military

When Marcos assumed the presidency, he retained the defense portfolio for the first 13 months of his term, following the precedent set by Magsaysay. Marcos immediately undertook the largest reshuffle in the history of the Philippine military.33 Of the 25 flag officers, 14 were forced to retire, including the AFP Chief and Vice Chief of Staff, the Commanding General of the Army, the Chief of PC, all four Constabulary zone commanders, and approximately one-third of the provincial commanders.34 A number of key appointments were given to officers from Marcos’s home province of Ilocos Norte. Retired BGen Ernesto Mata was recalled to active duty and was appointed Chief of Staff. BGen Segundo Velasco became Chief of PC and Col Fabian C. Ver was appointed commander of the Presidential Security Command (PSC). All three were from Ilocos Norte. These moves can be seen as an early attempt on the part of Marcos to place men loyal to him in key positions in the AFP.

In the South, increasing criminal activities such as smuggling, cattle-rustling, and the conflict between the Christians and the Muslims led to the establishment of the Southwest Command (SOWESCOM) in Zamboanga City on 21 September 1968. It became the first unified command in the AFP. It was composed of elements of the Army, Constabulary, Air Force, and the Navy. It guarded the southern backdoor. Its operations included the maintenance of peace and order, anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, anti-subversion, and campaign against other acts inimical to national security. On 1 May 1976, SOWESCOM became the Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), with jurisdiction over the whole of Southern Philippines and the responsibility of maintaining peace and order, assisting in the socio-economic development of the area, and guarding it from external and internal threats.35

B.5. Participation in a Foreign War

The Philippines also sent a unit to Vietnam. The Philippine Civic Action Group Vietnam (PHILCAG V) was the country’s contribution to the Allied efforts in that country. PHILCAG V was involved in the construction and repair of roads, bridges, buildings, in the resettlement of the refugees, and in attending to the sick and wounded from both sides of the battlefront in Vietnam.

From all of the foregoing discussion, it can be concluded that the role of the AFP increased under Marcos. But the utilization of the armed forces in socio-economic development programs is not a novel idea. It has been done in other countries. Marcos was not a pioneer in the field. The AFP also undertook socio-economic programs during the Magsaysay era. However, it was only during Marcos’s term when the non-military role of the AFP became institutionalized. Before Marcos, military role expansion took place within a political environment where the political institutions were relatively strong, the rules of the political game were observed, and the supremacy of civilian authority over the military was intact.

C. Martial Law 1972 -1986: Political Consequences
and Impact on the AFP

With Proclamation 1081, Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law. He claimed that it was warranted by threats to public safety and the security of the nation arising from increased terroristic activities of insurgent groups, specifically, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Muslim rebel groups in Southern Philippines. Proclamation 1081, signed on 21 September 1972, stated that

. . . on the basis of carefully evaluated and verified information, it is definitely established that lawless elements who are moved by a common or similar ideological conviction, design, strategy and goal, and enjoying the active moral and material support of a foreign power and being guided and directed by intensely devoted, well-trained, determined and ruthless groups of men and seeking refuge under the protection of our constitutional liberties to promote and attain their ends, have entered into a conspiracy and have in fact joined and banded their resources and forces together for the prime purpose of, and in fact they have been, and are actually staging, undertaking and waging an armed insurrection and rebellion against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in order to forcibly seize political and state power in this country, overthrow the duly constituted Government, and supplant our existing political, social, economic and legal order with an entirely new one. . . .36

As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Marcos ordered the military to “maintain law and order throughout the Philippines, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all laws and decrees, orders and regulations. . . .”37 Marcos clarified that the proclamation of martial law was not a military takeover.38 The military authorities would only be implementing martial law to protect the country. He cited the 1935 Constitution and assured that the AFP would continue to uphold the supremacy of civilian authority.39

Contrary to these pronouncements, however, the military was actually involved in the decision to put the country under martial law. In a speech before the AFP in celebration of Loyalty Day, Marcos revealed that 12 high defense officials formed the key group, who were in constant consultation with each other regarding the decision to place the country under martial law. The 12 men had been variously called the “Twelve Disciples,”40 the Twelve Apostles,”41 and the “Rolex 12”.42 They were Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, AFP Chief of Staff Gen Romeo Espino, PA Commanding Officer MGen Rafael Zagala, PC Chief MGen Fidel V. Ramos, PAF Chief MGen Jose Rancudo, PN Commander RAdm Hilario Ruiz, PSC Chief MGen Fabian C. Ver, AFP Chief of Intelligence MGen Ignacio Paz, 1st PC Zone Commander BGen Tomas Diaz, PC METROCOM Commander BGen Alfredo Montoya, Rizal PC Commander Col Romeo Gatan, and Congressman Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. The latter was recalled to active duty with the rank of colonel.43 Vice Chief of Staff Gen Rafael Ileto was against the plan because he thought the declaration of martial law would not be proper at that time. He was subsequently named Philippine Ambassador to Iran, becoming the first active duty officer to hold an ambassadorial post in the country’s history.44

Soon after the declaration of martial law, Congress was abolished, mass activities were prohibited, political parties were outlawed, and civil and political rights were suspended. Newspaper publications were ordered closed and curfew was strictly implemented.

General Order (GO) No. 1 gave the President the power to “govern the nation and direct the operation of the entire government including all its agencies and instrumentalities.”45 GO No. 2 ordered the arrest of individuals who were perceived to be participants in a conspiracy to seize political and state power.46 This was later amended by GO No. 19 which authorized the arrest and detention of any person who shall utter, publish, distribute, circulate, and spread false news and information.47 GO No. 4 ordered the observance of curfew hours from 12:00 midnight to 4:00 in the morning.48 Rallies, demonstrations, and other forms of group actions were prohibited,49 as well as the possession of firearms unless duly authorized.50

The abolition of civilian institutions like Congress, the weakening of the judiciary, and the outlawing of political parties, left the military as the only other instrumentality of the national government outside of the Presidency. The military had been called to save the Republic and restore confidence in the “democratic traditions” cherished by the Filipinos. In a country with no militaristic tradition — and where the military was traditionally low key — the AFP became very visible, performing a more expanded mission, such as security, law and order, administration of justice, greater management and administrative functions, and developmental, political and miscellaneous roles.51

C.1. Military Participation in Politics

C.1.a. Martial Law Implementor

The military became one of the vital supports of the regime. Apart from external defense, the AFP was also charged with the suppression of rebellion and the enforcement of all laws, decrees, orders, and regulations issued by Marcos. They enforced nationwide curfew, collection of unlicensed firearms, and the suppression of rallies, strikes, and demonstrations. Letter of Instructions (LOI) No. 98 vested in the PC the task of maintaining peace and order in corn procurement areas and the enforcement of pertinent rules of the National Grains Authority (NGA) in line with the government’s massive corn procurement program.52 The military was also ordered to assist other government offices in the implementation of price control imposed on commodities such as corn and milled rice.53 The Secretary of National Defense was directed to provide assistance in the collection of loans incurred from rural banks, the Philippine National Bank, and the Agricultural Credit Administration.54 The agrarian reform law, by virtue of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 27, was also implemented by the military. LOI No. 45 authorized the PC Provincial Commanders to receive sworn statements of landowners to be submitted to the Secretary of National Defense.55

C.1.b. Centralization of Police Forces

Peace and order problems continued to be the responsibility of the PC. In 1975, police forces were incorporated into the Integrated National Police (INP) and placed under the command of the PC chief. These efforts may be viewed as an attempt to centralize political control by taking away a very important power from local governments.56 The PC also supervised other law enforcement agencies technically outside the jurisdiction of the military. The PC/INP absorbed as special agencies the law enforcement units of the Land Transportation Commission (LTC), the Central Bank (CB), Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Bureau of Fisheries, and the Bureau of Forest Development.57

C.1.C The Presidential Security Command

The security role of the PSC was also expanded. Initially, the security of the President and Malacañang was the responsibility of the Presidential Security Unit (PSU). Under Ver, the PSU was expanded to battalion strength and became the Presidential Security Battalion (PSB). Much later, the PSB became an independent command, with more men than a battalion, and was renamed Presidential Security Command (PSC). It became one of the stepping stones of Ver in his rise to power. When he became the AFP Chief of Staff in August 1981, Ver relinquished formal command of the PSC to BGen Santiago Barangan. In reality, however, Ver and his sons exercised de facto control over PSC. Col Irwin Ver was the PSC’s Chief of Staff and Lt Col Rexor Ver was Commander of the PSU.58

The PSC was also involved in intelligence work, since its commander was also the head of the National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA).59

Originally, the intelligence structure of the AFP was drawn up from the individual service commands. Joint intelligence became the function of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP). The National Intelligence . Coordinating Agency (NICA) was responsible for super-vision and coordination of all intelligence services. NISA took over the functions of NICA. It became the dominant intelligence force and the “eyes and ears” of the regime.60

AFP units in a region were also unified in a composite force under a commander and his staff. This gave birth to the Regional Unified Command (RUC). RUCs were composite divisions where PC, PAF, PA, and PN, as well as Marine units were integrated under one command to facilitate better coordination of combat and support operations. Aside from artillery support, the RUCs were also provided with armored fighting vehicles and air support. It was contended that such centralization would result in efficient disaster control and relief operations, and greater responsiveness in civic action programs.61 However, centralization also helped prop up the dictatorship of Marcos and the control of the AFP by Ver.

C.1.d. Participation in Judicial Functions

The military was also vested with judicial functions. GO No. 8 empowered the Chief of Staff to create military tribunals to try and decide cases of military personnel and other such cases as may be referred to them.62 These other cases were spelled out in GO No. 1263 which included crimes against national security, violations of the Anti-Subversion Law and the Laws on Espionage, crimes against public order, and crimes committed by public officials, among others. By 1974, 20 military tribunals had been set up. In December, LOI No. 237 was issued. It ordered the return of many cases from the military tribunals to civilian courts. Despite this directive, some cases still remained with Military Commissions such as those against Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr (Ninoy), Jose Ma Sison (Joma) and Lt Victor Corpuz.

C.1.e. Management Functions

The military was also tasked with the control and management of all media communication and public utilities such as the Manila Electric Co, the Philippine National Railways, Philippine Airlines Inc, and the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority. The military was empowered to take over and control the assets of corporations as the Jacinto Steel, Inc, Jacinto Iron and Steel Sheets Corp, J and P Shipping Corp, Perro Products, the Iligan Integrated Steel Mills, the Elizalde Steel Co, and the Elizalde Rolling Mills, Inc. The then AFP Chief of Staff Espino became the board chairman of the Jacinto companies.

Many military personnel were detailed to civilian offices and individuals. Military personnel were designated as representatives of Marcos to and military supervisors of certain civilian offices, such as the Board of Transportation, Land Transportation Commission, the offices of the city and district engineers, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Philippine Sugar Commission.

GHQ issued a circular dated 18 June 1974 which laid out the policies, procedures and guidelines regarding the detail of military personnel to civilian offices. Detailed military personnel were classified into categories:64

Category I Those detailed with utility firms, public utilities, civilian government agencies, and important persons
Category II Those detailed with government corporations and private agencies
Category III Those detailed with the Ministry of National Defense
Category IV Those detailed with the Office of the President and the National Intelligence and Security Agency.

Since the declaration of martial law until 1980, there were 349 officers and 830 enlisted personnel, or a total of 1,179 detailed outside the AFP.65 In April 1980, GHQ ordered the return of military men to the AFP as a response to the personnel shortage of the combat and combat support units in the field, especially in Southern Philippines. After the recall, 115 officers and 298 enlisted men continued to be detailed outside the AFP. As shown in Table II-5, of the 115 officers, 20 were from the PAF, 34 from PN, 26 from PC and 28 from PA. Seven came from the Technical Services.

Table II-5— Officers and Men Detailed
Outside the AFP As of April 1980


Branch of Service

PAF PN PC PA Techserv Total
OFFICERS 20 34 26 28 7 115
ENLISTED PERSONNEL 35 48 107 108 0 298

Source: AFP Inventory of Military Personnel Detailed Outside the AFP (Office of the Adjutant General, AFP, April 1980), as cited in Rodolfo D. Dimaano. “The Detail of Military Personnel to Individuals, Offices and Establishments Outside the AFP: An Appraisal” (Masteral Thesis, National Defense College of the Philippines, 1981), p. 22.

Most of these officers and men were detailed with the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in various capacities. Others were assigned in civilian offices like the PCA, the Jacinto Corporation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), BIR, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Agriculture, and the Philippine National Oil Co.66

C.1.f. Investment Activities

Marcos also rewarded the military with investment corporations. PD No. 257 created the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea Investment and Development Corporation (PEFTOK-IDC).67 PEFTOK-IDC was granted “P4 million in capital stock. The decree granted the corporation the power to engage in various commercial enterprises as the creation of all kinds of investment opportunities, development of agriculture, acquisition of lands for agricultural, pastural and related purposes, and engagement in the business of general and wholesale merchants and exporters, among others.

Another investment corporation that was created for the military was the Philippine Veterans Investment Development Co (PHFVIDEC), established in 1973.68 The initial capitalization was valued at $500,000 which was expanded to P10 million by the end of 1973. It was exempted from tax and was opened to military personnel on active duty.

C.1.g. Developmental Roles

The military institution also embarked on developmental roles, in keeping with the tradition started by Magsaysay and was utilized to the fullest in the first years of the incumbency of Marcos.

From 1972 to 1977, the AFP participated in the construction of 2,866 school buildings with an aggregate cost of P97.7 million. They also participated in the construction and repair of irrigation systems, rural electrification systems, and resettlement homes worth P244 million. The military helped the government in its anti-pollution campaign through the inspection of factories and industrial sites, as well as the clearing of 23,168 square meters of waterways and 269,155 square meters of esteros in the GMA. For the same period, 1.3 million medical and dental patients were treated.

The AFP had also conducted 1,301 air evacuation missions, 506 airlift and 88 search and rescue missions. All over the country, 2,237 hectares of agricultural land within military camps had been cultivated and 11,567 heads of cattle and hogs were raised. The AFP also planted more than 100,000 trees in support of the national reforestation program, and 683 rain-making sorties were undertaken by the Air Force to preserve the viability of watersheds and agricultural lands.69

In the field of construction, AFP engineer battalions completed a total of P1.33 billion worth of infrastructure projects from 1973 to 31 July 1982 as shown in Table II-6.70

Table II-6 — Total Value of AFP
Infrastructure Projects: 1973 – 1981


(in millions)


P 32.30

















Source: Juan Ponce Enrile, “The Supportive Role of the Defense Ministry in National Development,” in Fookien Times Yearbook. (Manila: Fookien Times Yearbook Publishing Co, 1982 – 1983), p. 113.

Military officers were also appointed as Presidential Regional Officers for Development (PROD). The PRODs were regional implementing officers for specific programs of reform and other vital projects as agrarian reform, the establishment of farmers’ cooperatives, agricultural production, self-employment, and community development. LOI No. 36 granted them the authority to utilize the prerogatives of the Office of the President in their supervision of projects to enable them to harness the manpower and other resources in the area to achieve their regional objectives. Three out of the original 11 PRODs were military officers: Region II was under the Commanding General of the Northeast Command, Region IX was under the Commander of SOWESCOM, and Region X was under the Commanding General of the 4th Infantry Division (4 ID). By 1978, six out of the 12 regions had military men as PRODs: Region II was under Col Gil Manuel, Region III was under Col Benjamin Santos, Region VII was under BGen Mario Espina, Region IX was under RAdm Romulo Espaldon, Region X was under BGen Alfonso Alcoseba, and Region XI was under Col Emilio Ahorro.71 Obviously, military men were assigned as PRODs in areas with insurgency problems, where the military did not only perform its role of protecting the country from internal subversion, but also assumed a developmental role as part of the overall counter-insurgency strategy.

C.1.h. Political Functions

Marcos appointed active duty officers to perform civilian functions in government and state organizations. A number of officers acted as officials of political units. For example, BGen Benjamin Duque was appointed as Governor of Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province while RAdm Espaldon became Governor of Tawi-Tawi, on the basis of the rationale that these were areas with serious problems of internal security. With the dismantling of Congress and the ban on political parties and activities, the military was able to replace traditional politicians, and became the dispensers of political patronage.72

Other roles and functions contributed to the visibility of the military. By authority of Paragraph 4, Section 2 of Article X of the 1973 Constitution, COMELEC was granted the power to deputize, with the consent or at the instance of the Prime Minister, law enforcement agencies of the government including the AFP to ensure free, orderly, and honest elections. From then on, the military was used extensively during elections in the succeeding years. COMELEC Resolution No. 1313, promulgated on 4 April 1978, deputized the AFP during the elections on 7 April 1978. Similarly, COMELEC Resolution No. 1434, promulgated on 14 January 1980, called on the AFP to help in the 30 January 1980 local elections.

C.2. The Growth and Expansion of the AFP

This expansion in role was accompanied by an increase in size and budget. The AFP grew from 57,100 in 1971 to 113,000 in 1976, with a marked increase of 97.89 percent over a five-year period. To complement the regular forces in the battle against the New People’s Army, the Integrated Civilian Home Defense Forces (ICHDF) was formed. By 1985, the defense establishment included about 274,300 regulars and paramilitary personnel, plus another 124,000 men as reserves as shown in Table II-7. For purposes of comparison, the figures for 1990 for the major services are also shown. The military budget also increased by 500 percent in four years, from P880 million in 1972 to P4 billion in 1976.73

Table II-7 — Strength of the AFP: 1971 – 1990

1971 1976 1985 1990
Regular Forces
Army 17,600 45,000 70,000 67,256
Navy 8,000 17,000 28,000 23,801
Air Force 9,000 16,000 16,800 14,818
Constabulary 25,500 35,000 43,500 41,521


57,100 113,000 158,300 147,396
Irregulars and Others
Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) NA 25,000 65,000 NA
Integrated National Police (INP) NA NA 51,000 NA
Reserves NA 45,000 124,000 NA

Legend: NA – Not Available
Sources: Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance, 1971 – 1972 (London: Institute of Strategic Studies, 1971), p. 30; Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance, 1976 – 1977 (London: Institute of Strategic Studies, 1976), p. 60; Manila Chronicle, 23 November 1987, p.7, as cited in Walden Bello, Creating the Third Force; U.S. Sponsored Low Intensity Conflict in the Philippine (San Francisco: Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1987) p 32 For 1990 figures are obtained from OJ-1 (Personnel), Armed Forces of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

But while the size of the military increased, the AFP experienced shortage of combat personnel which led to mass enlistment and the transfer of men from desk jobs to the field. Lacking adequate training and discipline, these contributed to deprofessionalization and demoralization, especially among the men in the field.

C.3. The Rise of the Twin Insurgencies: CPP and MNLF

The arrest of the leaders of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) in 1952 led to demoralization among the ranks. By 1954, the Huk rebellion had virtually collapsed. Pursuit of the armed struggle was further discouraged by the enactment of the Anti-Subversion Law in 1957 with severe penalties for membership in the PKP.

In the late 1960s, intellectual and political ferment among young students at the University of the Philippines (UP), much impressed by Marxism and such international events as the Cuban Revolution and China’s Cultural Revolution, formed the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) led by Amado Guerrero (reportedly the pen name of Joma Sison). They joined the PKP through the mediation of an Indonesian postgraduate student at UP, but were expelled in 19 67 due to ideological, generational, and leadership differences with the old PKP leaders. These young Marxists formed the CPP.74

Meanwhile, a Huk faction under Commander Sumulong degenerated into a crime syndicate. Disgusted, one of his lieutenants, Commander Dante (Bemabe Buscayno), seceded with his men and joined the CPP. Thus, the “marriage between Dante’s army in search for a party and Guerrero’s party in search for an army gave birth to the NPA [New People’s Army] on 29 March 1969.”75 The National Democratic Front (NDF) was established in April 1973 to unite all left-oriented groups fighting the Marcos regime under one umbrella.

The NPA insurgency grew substantially during the Marcos regime. Although the size of the military increased through mass enlistment, the men lacked adequate training, equipment, and support. With the breakdown of discipline, human rights violations increased, and demoralization set in as the military failed to secure mass support or to suppress the insurgency despite its size.

Furthermore, the mismanagement of the economy and rise of “crony” capitalism and graft and corruption exacerbated the poverty problem, especially in the rural areas. The government gradually lost control of the countryside, unable to implement a meaningful socio-economic approach to the problem of insurgency. Instead, NPA recruitment intensified.

On the other hand, Mindanao has been marked by tension between Muslims and Christian settlers. In 1968, a separatist Muslim (later Mindanao) Independence Movement (MIM) led by older-generation Muslim leaders, declared the independence of Mindanao from the Republic. Young Muslim recruits, the Group of 90, were trained by English and Palestinian mercenaries in the forests of Malaysia to organize an army for MIM. However, disillusionment with and lack of trust in traditional Muslim leaders led these young recruits to form the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Bangsa Moro Army (BMA) in mid-1971, henceforth, to act in behalf of the Bangsa Moro. Nur Misuari, a contemporary of many KM leaders at UP, became the MNLFs leader. However, the 1971 local elections drew its members away from the MNLF. Many of the members of the Group of 90 joined the Barracudas and Blackshirts, armed Muslim groups which fought the anti-Muslim Ilagas.76

The declaration of martial law convinced the MNLF leadership that peaceful change for Muslims was no longer possible. The order to surrender all firearms by Marcos, and the program to create a “new society” were interpreted as repression of their aspirations for separate identity.77 In October 1972, they launched an armed struggle against the regime which escalated to dangerous proportions with serious implications for the AFP.

The conflict invited the involvement of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), some of whose members supported the MNLF. Negotiations between the MNLF and the Marcos government mediated by the OIC led to the conclusion of the Tripoli Agreement in December 1976. Pursuant to it, two autonomous regional governments were set up in Muslim Mindanao. Development programs were undertaken to improve conditions there and Muslim rebel surrenderees were integrated into the AFP. These reflected the government’s recognition that a purely military solution to insurgency, whether communist or Muslim, would not work.

D. The Lifting of Martial Law: More Form
Than Substance (1981 – 1986)

Martial Law was lifted in January 1981 by virtue of Proclamation 2045 on the basis that anarchy had been successfully checked, the leftist-rightist rebellion substantially contained and the secessionist movement effectively overcome.”78 But it was a cosmetic act. Subs-tantively, nothing much had changed. Civil liberties continued to be constrained and the media remained under control. Although political parties were allowed to exist, electoral laws and regulations favored the ruling party organized by Marcos, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). In 1984, the regular Batasang Pambansa, with only about 50 active opposition members, was convened.

The military’s martial law roles and the machinery for their effective pursuit remained intact even after the lifting of Proclamation 1081. It continued to manage the Jacinto group of companies. Military tribunals continued to exercise jurisdiction over cases involving subversion. The military continued to implement presidential orders and decrees and went on with its law and order functions such as the suppression of strikes and other forms of mass actions.

The role expansion of the AFP enhanced its capacity to intervene directly in the political affairs of the country. The abolition of Congress, the muzzling of the press, and the weakening of the judiciary left Marcos as the only civilian authority in control of the military. Marcos used the military to enforce his orders and decrees, and to perpetuate himself in power.

In exchange, Marcos coddled his favorites in the military. Promotions continued to be his sole prerogative and personal loyalty became the primary criterion. Well-connected officers were able to place their people in key and juicy positions. This was noted by then Vice Chief of Staff Lt Gen Ramos in a letter to Marcos dated 19 February 1986. He wrote that the constant jockeying for key positions by some officers to obtain “midnight” appointments would not be good for the AFP, considering the grave and complex problems that the country faced.79

The presence of extendee generals effectively blocked the promotions of middle-grade officers. Besides Ver and the three major service commanders — MGen Josephus Ramas, Commanding General, PA, MGen Vicente Piccio, Commanding General, PAF, and RAdm Brillante Ochoco, Flag Officer in Command (FOIC), PN, the other 18 extendees were MGen Delfin Castro, BGen Angel Kanapi, BGen Carlos V. Martel, BGen Hamilton Dimaya, BGen Cirilo Oropesa, BGen Angel Mapua, BGen Alejandro Felix, BGen Andres Ramos, BGen Arsenio Silva, BGen Mariano Miranda, BGen Madrino Munoz, BGen Sinfroso Duque, BGen Leo Santos, BGen Santiago Barangan, BGen Narciso Creus, BGen Ramon Cannu, BGen Manuel Mercado, and BGen Telesforo Tayko.80

Consequently, some officers became retirable at a fairly young age but at fairly lower ranks. A lot of officers were bypassed. A number of officers were promoted over several other more senior and qualified candidates. A breakdown in the merit system and demoralization became inevitable.

In the field, the men in combat suffered losses not only because of inadequate training and shortage of equipment and supplies but also because of the lack of troops. The need for manpower resulted in mass enlistment and the transfer of men from desk jobs to armed combat. The concomitant result was that such troops fought against insurgents seasoned in guerrilla warfare.

In August 1983, Ver was implicated in the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. Marcos was forced to place Ver on a leave of absence while the investigation was going on. After being initially cleared by the Sandiganbayan, Ver immediately resumed his position as Chief of Staff.

The assassination unleashed massive popular opposition to the Marcos regime and the military organization that sustained it. Ninoy’s martyrdom united the people and gave them courage to openly oppose the dictatorship. It became clear that the military leadership was a willing tool to perpetuate the regime at all costs.

Within the military, the assassination and the shame that attended it brought to the fore latent disaffection among some officers leading to the eventual movement for reform.

Independently of the assassination, a number of organizations began to sprout as Ver and his men continued their efforts to control the entire establishment. During the height of the Mindanao crisis in the early 1980s, the Diablo Squad was organized for mutual assistance of enlisted personnel. It was ordered disbanded by Ver but reappeared as the Guardians Brotherhood, Inc (GBI).81 Their purpose of fostering mutual understanding and cooperation among members of the AFP and the INP remained the same as Diablo’s original objectives. The GBI is duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ex-Lt Col Gregorio Honasan’s role in the GBI is not clear, but he signed the Articles of Incorporation of GBI as a witness.82

But the most prominent group was the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) whose original activities are stated in their Manifesto. According to it, their efforts would be geared towards the attainment of the AFFs new thrust of uplifting the morale and welfare of every man and woman in uniform, enhancing the operational effectiveness of the military establishment, and restoring the people’s faith in the armed forces. With its initial members coming from PMA classes 1971 to 1984, membership expanded to include retired alumni who voiced out publicly their sentiments while many active officers signified their support quietly. A fuller discussion of the RAM is made in Chapter IV.

E. Post-EDSA (1986 – 1989): Return to Barracks?

When the Aquino administration came to power, it sought to redefine the role of the military. The 1987 Constitution, over-whelmingly ratified by the Filipino people, embodied principles which sought to establish the proper spheres of military activity. In its Declaration of Principles and State Policies, the following articles state that

SEC. 3. Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.

SEC. 4. The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State, and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal military or civil service.

In its General Provisions, it states the following

SEC. 4. The Armed Forces shall be composed of a citizen armed force which shall undergo military training and serve, as may be provided by law. It shall keep a regular force necessary for the security of the State.

SEC. 5. (1) All members of the armed forces shall take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend this Constitution.

(2) The State shall strengthen the patriotic spirit and the nationalist consciousness of the military, and respect for people’s rights in the performance of their duty.

(3) Professionalism in the armed forces and adequate remuneration and benefits of its members shall be a prime concern of the State. The armed forces shall be insulated from partisan politics.

No member of the military shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity, except to vote.

(4) No member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.

(5) Laws on retirement of military officers shall not allow extension of their service.

(6) The officers and men of the regular force of the armed forces shall be recruited proportionately from all provinces and cities as far as practicable.

(7) The tour of duty of the Chief of Staff of the armed forces shall not exceed three years. However, in times of war or other national emergency declared by the Congress, the President may extend such tour of duty.

SEC. 6. The State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission. The authority of local executives over the police units in their jurisdiction shall be provided by law.

SEC. 7. The State shall provide immediate and adequate care, benefits, and other forms of assistance to war veterans of military campaigns, their surviving spouses and orphans. Funds shall be provided therefor and due consideration shall be given them in the disposition of agricultural lands of the public domain and, in appropriate cases, in the utilization of natural resources.

The foregoing provisions emphasize the supremacy of civilian authority over the military by changing the concept and structure of the Armed Forces. As provided in the Constitution, the Armed Forces is to be composed of a citizen armed force, while maintaining a regular force for the security of the State, unlike in the National Defense Act which provided for a Regular and Reserve force. The present Constitution also prohibits military personnel in active service to serve in civilian positions by appointment or designation, confining the military to its function of maintaining national defense.83

It has likewise significantly reduced the Commander-in-Chief powers of the President by limiting the grounds and duration for the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus and the proclamation of martial law. Only invasion and rebellion, when the public safety requires it, can be invoked as a ground for such suspension or proclamation. It shall not exceed 60 days and may be revoked by Congress by a vote of at least a majority of all its members voting jointly in a regular or special session. The revocation cannot be set aside by the President and only Congress upon initiative of the President, can extend it. Moreover, the Supreme Court may review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the suspension or proclamation or its extension.84 This will prevent a partnership of the executive and the military leadership similar to what evolved during martial law.

The administration also sought to address the grievances of the military. In terms of legislation, a total of82 bills and resolutions related to the military were filed with the House of Representatives as of 30 April 1990. As of 2 May 1990, a total of 141 of such bills and resolutions were filed with the Senate. But as of these dates, only six bills have become laws or parts of laws.85

Within the military, the main thrusts of internal reforms were to resurrect the AFP. After the first 100 days of the New Armed Forces of the Philippines (NAFP), Chief of Staff Lt Gen Ramos identified two objectives to be accomplished

1. The implementation of wide ranging internal reforms aimed at restoring and reinforcing the credibility of a “reconstituted” and “reinvigorated” AFP; improving the discipline, morale and welfare of its personnel; and increasing its operational effectiveness in the continuing battle against insurgency; and

2. The implementation of strategic campaign plan code-named Mamamayan based on the three pillars of national reconciliation, security and development.86

Strategic/operational plan (Oplan) Mamamayan was the military’s comprehensive approach to the insurgency problem. It was a three-pronged approach which included not only security and development but national reconciliation as well. It sought to involve the whole military in a coordinated effort against the insurgents. The plan also included the regionalization of troops in the sense that soldiers were assigned to their ethno-linguistic regions.

The military also adopted several measures aimed at improving discipline, training, value formation, and morale among the troops. The value formation program included moral and spiritual development, socio-cultural affairs, and troop information and education (TI & E). Many of the soldiers’ grievances were also taken into consideration. Overstaying generals were retired. Military pay scales were upgraded and an even policy of investigating human rights violations committed by both the military and the insurgents was developed.

Structurally, internal reforms also aimed to bring the establishment back on track after years of disorientation. Key AFP commands were reorganized to ensure centralized planning and direction at the GHQ and to have decentralized operations and decision-making in the field. In 1987, the RUCs were abolished. In its place, the Area Unified Command (AUC) was established. Along this line, the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) covering Regions I, II, and III, Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) covering Regions IV and V, SOUTHCOM for Regions IX, X, XI, and XII, and the National Capital Region Defense Command (NCRDC) were activated. The operational control over SOLCOM was transferred from GHQ to Headquarters, Philippine Army (HPA), effective 16 October 1987. However, GHQ retained administrative control over SOLCOM. The naval forces were also reorganized into naval districts to coincide with the AUC set-up.87 In 1988, the Visayas Command (VISCOM) was activated to cover Regions VI, VII, and VIII.88

A number of formations and units were also either deactivated, reorganized or redesignated. The PSC has been downgraded to a NAFP – Wide Support and Separate Unit (NAFPWSSU) and is now called the Presidential Security Group (PSG). The Aviation Security Command (AVSECOM) which was responsible for the security of Ninoy Aquino when he arrived at the airport, has been renamed Philippine Air Force Security Command (PAFSECOM). The METROCOM has been renamed Capital Regional Command (CAPCOM).89

The NAFP also announced a campaign to purge its ranks of undesirable personnel at the higher levels of command and in the provinces as part of its reform program. However, no formal evaluation of its effectiveness and comprehensiveness was made public. Instead, the NAFP remained faction-ridden. Despite a previous order to disband groups within the military, new ones were organized like the Guardian Centre Foundation, Inc, (GCFI) which was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 18 April 198690 and the Young Officers’ Union (YOU). Honasan is one of the incorporators of the GCFI. Five of its other incorporators (Nicanor Cagurangan, Leonides Montehermoso, Oscar Arevalo, Rogelio Attunaga, and Agustin Tuncol) were also GBI incorporators.91 The persistence of factions and other developments within the AFP leading to the staging of six coup attempts against the Aquino government will be discussed in Chapter IV.

The foregoing discussion shows that political change and military transformation from 1966 to 1989 saw the expansion of the role of the military amid the weakening of political institutions brought by martial law and its aftermath. The popular opposition engendered by the assassination of Ninoy Aquino led to political change to rebuild democratic institutions and to redefine the role of the military. The next chapter deals with the multi-dimensional environment of the AFP.


(1) Edy Catuar Dimacali, “The Philippines’ Military Establishment Revisited” (Office of Historical Activities, Armed Forces of the Philippines), photocopied and unpaginated.

(2) Army Historical Division, Philippine Army, History of the Philippine Army. 1897-1945 (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1981), pp. 88-89.

(3) General Douglas MacArthur, Report on the National Defense in the Philippines (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1936), p. 26.

(4) Ibid., p. 11.

(5) Commonwealth Act No. 1, dated December 1935.

(6) Dimacali, op. cit.

(7) Carolina G. Hernandez, “The Extent of Civilian Control of the Military in the Philippines” (Doctoral diss., State University of New York at Buffalo, 1979), p. 126, hereinafter referred to as “Civilian Control of the Military”.

(8) Ibid.

(9) US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Military Assistance to the Republic of the Philippines,” 22 May 1950, as cited in ibid., p. 188.

(10) Luis Taruc, He Who Rides The Tiger: The Story of An Asian Guerrilla Leader (New York: Frederick Praeger, 1967), pp. 38-42.

(11) Carlos Quirino, Magsaysay of the Philippines (Manila: Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Society, 1981), p. 61.

(12) Joseph B. Smith, Portrait of a Cold Warrior (Quezon City: Plaridel Books, 1976), p. 95.

(13) Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars: An American’s Mission to Southeast Asia (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), pp. 72-73.

(14) Quirino, op. cit., pp. 61-62.

(15) Stephen R. Shalom, The United States and the Philippines: A Study of Neo-colonialism (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1981), pp. 79-80.

(16) Sworn Testimony of BGen (Ret) Jose Crisol, former Undersecretary of National Defense under the administrations of Presidents Macapagal, Garcia and Marcos, before the Fact-Finding Commission (FFC), 24 August 1990.

(17) State of the Nation Address, Congress of the Philippines, 22 January 1968.

(18) Four-Year Economic Program, September 1966.

(19) State of the Nation Address, Congress of the Philippines, 1966.

(20) Annual Report of the Chief of Staff, 1 July 1966-30 June 1967, as cited in Viberto Selochan, “Professionalization and Politicization of the AFP” (Doctoral diss., Australian National University, March 1990), p. 133.

(21) Juan Ponce Enrile, “Six Years’ Accomplishments as Seen From the Sixth Year,” in Fookien Times Yearbook (Manila: Fookien Times Yearbook Publishing Co., 1987), p. 105.

(22) Four-Year Economic Program, September 1968.

(23) Shalom, op cit., pp. 108-110

(24) Letter from MGen Alexander P. Aguirre addressed to Chairman Hilario G. Davide, Jr, FFC dated 7 August 1990, Exh. “L-DND”.

(25) Manuel T. Yan, “The Armed Forces of the Philippines,” in Fookien Times Yearbook (Manila: Fookien Times Yearbook Publishing Co, 1969), p. 97.

(26) Col Florencio Magsino, “An Assessment of the Employment of the AFP for National Development” (Masteral Thesis, National Defense College of the Philippines, 1974), pp. 54-55.

(27) Yan, op. cit., p. 97.

(28) Ibid.

(29) Ibid., P-177.

(30) The Quiet War: A Report to the President (Manila: Department of National Defense, 1967), p. 13.

(31) Hernandez, “Civilian Control of the Military,” p. 210.

(32) DND News Bulletin, 6 November 1971, as cited in Hernandez, “Civilian Control of the Military,” p. 212.

(33) Selochan, op. cit., p. 132.

(34) Manila Chronicle, 6 and 7 January 1966, as cited in ibid.

(35) Ibid., p 135.

(36) Proclamation 1081, dated 21 September 1972.

(37) Ibid.

(38) Statement of President Ferdinand Marcos on the Proclamation of Martial Law, 22 September 1972.

(39) Ferdinand E. Marcos, The Democratic Revolution in the Philippines (Manila: Privately printed, 1977), p. 160.

(40) Hernandez, “Civilian Control of the Military,” p. 217.

(41) Alex Brillantes, Dictatorship and Martial Law: Philippine Authoritarianism in 1972 (Manila: Great Books, 1987), p. 40.

(42) Richard Bonner, Waltzing With A Dictator (New York: Times Books, 1987), p. 3.

(43) Speech of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, “A Pledge of Loyalty to the Republic,” delivered at the Loyalty Day Celebration, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, 10 September 1974.

(44) Carolina G. Hernandez, “The Role of the Military in Contemporary Philippine Society,” The Diliman Review, Vol. 32, No. 1 (January-February 1984), p. 19, hereinafter referred to as “The Role of the Military.”

(45) General Order (GO) No. 1, dated 22 September 1972.

(46) GO No. 2, dated 22 September 1972.

(47) GO No. 19, dated 6 January 1973.

(48) GO No. 4, dated 22 September 1972.

(49) GO No. 5, dated 22 September 1972.

(50) GO No. 6, dated 22 September 1972.

(51) Hernandez, “The Role of the Military,” p. 19.

(52) Letter of Instructions (LOI) No. 98, dated 10 July 1973.

(53) LOI No. 157, dated 18 January 1974 and LOI No. 115, dated 20 February 1973.

(54) LOI No. 117, dated 11 September 1973.

(55) LOI No. 45, dated 6 December 1972.

(56) Hernandez, “The Role of the Military,” p. 20.

(57) Enrico Azicate, “The Politicization of the Military,” (Quezon City: Third World Studies, 1987), p. 40, photocopied.

(58) Shuhud Saaid, “The NAFP: Oplan Mamamayan and the Unfinished Revolution,” Asian Defense Journal (January 1987), p. 12.

(59) Hernandez, “The Role of the Military,” p. 20.

(60) Azicate, op. cit., p. 45.

(61) Ibid., p. 38.

(62) GO No. 8, dated 22 September 1972.

(63) GO No. 12, dated 30 September 1972.

(64) Rodolfo Dimaano, “The Detail of Military Personnel to Individuals, Offices and Establishments Outside the AFP (Masteral Thesis, National Defense College of the Philippines, 1981), pp. 5-6.

(65) Ibid., p. 20.

(66) Department of National Defense, Roster of Troops on Detached Service with MND/DND and with Other Offices. 30 June 1985, Exh. “MMMMM-3”- Commission.

(67) Presidential Decree (PD) No. 257, dated 31 July 1973.

(68) PD No. 353, dated 21 December 1973.

(69) Juan Ponce Enrile, “Meeting Challenges with Realistic Policies,” in Fookien Times Yearbook (Manila: Fookien Times Yearbook Publishing Co., 1977), pp. 82-84.

(70) Juan Ponce Enrile, “The Supportive Role of the Defense Ministry in National Development,” in Fookien Times Yearbook (Manila: Fookien Times Yearbook Publishing Co., 1982-1983), pp. 112-113.

(71) LOI No. 36-A, dated 5 November 1972.

(72) Hernandez, “Civilian Control of the Military,” p. 237.

(73) Walden Bello, Creating the Third Force: U.S. Sponsored Low Intensity Conflict in the Philippines (San Francisco: Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1987), p. 31.

(74) Francisco Nemenzo, “Rectification Process in the Philippine Communist Movement,” in Lim Joo-Jock and Vani S., eds., Armed Communist Movements in Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984), pp. 74-75.

(75) Ibid., p. 80.

(76) Eliseo R. Mercado, “Culture, Economics and Revolt in Mindanao: The Origins of the MNLF and the Politics of Moro Separatism,” in Lim Joo-Jock and Vani S.t eds., Armed Separatism in Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984), pp. 154-160.

(77) Ibid., p. 161.

(78) Proclamation 2045, dated 17 January 1981.

(79) Letter from the Vice Chief of Staff Lt Gen Fidel V. Ramos addressed to President Ferdinand E. Marcos, dated 19 February 1986.

(80) Saaid, op. cit., p. 17.

(81) Sworn Statement of Elmer Sagsago done in the City of Baguio, dated 9 May 1990, Exh. “E-Sagsago”.

(82) Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC Reg. No. 123899, Articles of Incorporation of the Guardians Brotherhood Incorporated, dated 10 December 1984, Exh. “A-Guardians”, herein after referred to as GBI Articles of Incorporation.

(83) Fact-Finding Commission, The Urgency of Legislation Implementing the Military-Related Provisions of the 1987 Constitution, Interim Report No. 3, 15 August 1990, pp. 3-6.

(84) Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. (2 February 1987) Article VII, Section 18.

(85) A detailed discussion of military-related legislations is in the Fact-Finding Commission’s Interim Report No. 3.

(86) Saaid, op. cit., p. 15.

(87) Armed Forces of the Philippines Annual Report, (1987), pp. 5-6.

(88) Armed Forces of the Philippines Annual Report., (1988), p. 5.

(89) Saaid, op. cit., p. 26.

(90) Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC Reg. No. 132118, Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws of the Guardians Centre Foundation, Inc, dated 15 April 1986, Exh. “B-Guardians”.

(91) GBI Articles of Incorporation, op. cit.