If we can buy peace, we buy peace—because we cannot buy lives. Life that has been taken can never be given back. The leader that we need should be a patriot. This is the only country that we have—this is the only country we will ever have. He or she should completely understand that going to war against another country is not a walk in the park, however, if need be, is prepared to take that step if it well outweighs the costs.
As a military leader, I have two core responsibilities in mind: accomplishment of the mission and care for our men. As a soldier, I swore on three things: to protect the Filipino people, to protect the sovereignty of the State, and to protect the Constitution.
In my 10 years of military service as a Special Forces Officer, the Regiment has taught me and other soldiers the all-important tradecraft of developing, organizing, training, equipping and providing command and control to indigenous forces as a core of resistance or counterinsurgent force. Our job requires our 12-man team to immerse in conflict-affected communities: we eat, sleep, and live with the people. As retired US Army Col. Hy Rothstein put it, “Special Forces Operators are diplomats, cultural anthropologists, doctors, and good friends – all before their primary role comes into play.”
Immersing in these highly volatile areas where institutions violently compete over social control, it is no stranger that we ask ourselves: in an insurgent warfare such as ours, what type of leadership do we need? Is there anything we ask for in our leaders? More importantly, what leaders do we want to see in 2022 and beyond?
In a country pestered by armed insurgency for almost six decades, it has been more than several times when the Filipino soldier has been in a situation where he is risking harm on the very people he swore to protect. This, of course, is the very design of insurgency—to challenge societal control and put citizens against their governments. By understanding insurgency, the armed forces know too well that while we can always kill the terrorists—we can never kill the ideology. We can only render it irrelevant.
Currently, the members of Armed Forces of the Philippines are doing well to crush and finally end local armed conflict in the country while other branches of the government are on their toes to resolve issues being exploited by threat groups through development. In a war where your own country is the battleground and you are at risk of harming the very people that you swore to serve, we need a leader who is a diplomat and knows well on how to settle issues without the use of force—he must have the resolve, courage, determination and wisdom to use force only if needed, and to where it is needed.
We need leaders who can unite the Filipino people—regardless of tribe, religion or belief. We need leaders who acknowledge the strength of diversity—the beauty of that Filipino weave.
Listening to stories of people in the conflict areas of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and now, months in Sulu, made me realize one glaring fact: patriotism and love for country is not exclusive to the men in uniform.
Being with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and other armed groups in the Bangsamoro Region, I realized that their cause for autonomy is no less than our fight for independence against foreign powers; that they are no lesser Filipinos—and if anything, the freedom that soldiers have been fighting for is no different than that of the liberty they are willing to die for.
These are the Filipinos who fought against colonizers—the Filipinos who resisted against foreign powers. Filipinos, who, despite our difference in tribe, religion, or belief, embody the phrase “aming ligaya na pag may mang-aapi, ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo.” True enough, pose as an invader and you will face their wrath; but come as a brother and they will protect you with their blood.
These people are no lesser Filipinos—if anything, just misunderstood because of cultural differences, but for most of the part, prejudice. Immersing with our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters made me realize that the Filipino people are a beautiful weave made up of many different threads—each one unique, each one as beautiful as the other. We need leaders who can unite the Filipino people—regardless of tribe, religion or belief. We need leaders who acknowledge the strength of diversity—the beauty of that Filipino weave.
If we can buy peace, we buy peace—because we cannot buy lives. Life that has been taken can never be given back. From the wisdom of Albert Einstein, whose work paved the way for the most destructive weapon on earth, “Peace cannot be kept through force—it can only be achieved through understanding.”
The leader that we need should be a patriot. This is the only country that we have —this is the only country we will ever have. He or she should completely understand that going to war against another country is not a walk in the park, however, if need be, is prepared to take that step if it well outweighs the costs. The leader that we need should decide based on what is best for the country and not what is convenient for himself or herself. He or she should put the benefit of the country and the Filipino people above anything else. The leader that we need should be a patriot.
There is no perfect leader, nor is there a perfect citizen. As a military man and a citizen, I would choose a leader who keeps the interest of the country as his mission while caring for the Filipino people—regardless of tribe, religion or belief. I would choose a patriot.
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