On March 22, during the celebration of the 124th Anniversary of the Philippine Army, former Commanding Generals across generations were honored with a parade and review. The Philippine Army leadership traces its roots to Capt. General Artemio Ricarte, who is regarded as the father of the Philippine Army, and the first chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Those who attended represented almost seven decades of service to the nation from the ’50s to the present.
In the profession of arms, leadership provides the human dimension in the full range of combat. Under different commanders-in-chief, during martial law, post-martial law and up to the present, the Philippine Army has been consistent in its professional conduct, because the Commanding Generals have remained true professionals.
Its slogan of “Serving the Nation, Securing the Land” rallies every soldier under all seasons to remain true to their oath. Aside from leadership excellence, former Commanding Generals followed a typical pattern that extracted the best in them to achieve high goals.
Political stability is a condition when equilibrium exists in a nation where public governance operates normally, in order that the private sector can pursue their normal course of business, and the rights and freedom of all citizens are protected. It is determined by the following: management of power, management of wars and conflicts, and the quality of leadership and discipline of its Army.
MANAGEMENT OF POWER
The struggle for power is an act of domination that involves the imposition of will. Our political system has been designed to impose influence and subjugation to the less fortunate and weak. Hence, political dynasties have emerged and been nurtured to perpetuate power.
Worst, it has been used as a retaliatory tactic to penalize and incarcerate political opponents term after term.
Due to the unlimited ambition, and insatiable thirst for material wealth, political leaders at times have exceeded the limits of human patience. This gives rise to corruption and sometime in our history, people were no longer outraged by the political and moral abuse of their political leaders that instead of demanding laws to advance common good they followed in the footsteps of abuse and immorality. Under these circumstances, people emulate the self-indulgence of their leaders giving rise to more corruption.
The Army under these conditions have diffused the impasse and acted as the balancing factor to maintain political stability. They never usurped power. In many cases in history, the politicalization of the Army to the point of siding with corrupt political leaders have forced societies towards turmoil and chaos. One can only look at some European countries during the middle ages and some African and Asian counties in contemporary times to understand the gravity of such situations.
At every stage of our nation’s history, the Commanding Generals have exercised their command authority with restraint and dignity, though they possess extensive and massive physical power due to the Army’s arsenal of weaponry. It has and will always side with the people.
According to Gen. Colin Powell, “Of all manifestations of powers, restraint impresses men most.” Army leadership neutralized and mitigated the irrational application of political power that could have pushed the nation to instability. People Power I and II are proof of their professional conduct.
MANAGEMENT OF WARS AND CONFLICT
The Army has never lost its core competence as a warrior, even if the main government agenda is peace. It vigorously prepares for war. Its high state of morale and discipline, and the exercise of the highest quality of leadership has always made it possible for the nation to eschew the taste of defeat. The institution has neutralized and mitigated political inadequacies, and the inefficiency of governance.
National discipline defines the state of order of society. Political stability is its by-product. Freedom that champions democratic space emasculates national discipline. Military organization provides the culture of national discipline.
In its strictest sense, the Army is the repository of strict discipline. Generally, human beings have an innate resistance to obedience. Discipline eliminates this resistance, habitual or subconscious. Humans are afraid to go to war but discipline produces in individuals a form of vicarious courage which produces victory in battle.
QUALITY OF LEADERSHIP AND DISCIPLINE OF ITS ARMY
The Commanding Generals represent a leadership of a team professionals that have transformed and insured the desired discipline of every soldier. These enduring values shape the Army’s culture in war and in peace. Military preparation is the real test of character that creates a pool of military leaders. Political strategy can be further strengthened if the citizenry manifests a modest form of discipline to complement the Army. Corruption of our political leaders saps the national resolve to prepare the war. Peace as an agenda deflates the will to win.
An environment of ease, comfort, and opportunity countenances materialism. Let us not be deceived by political talk that we can achieve absolute peace, because peace is only a space between two wars. Preparation and readiness for war lengthens that space. CGPAs (Commanding Generals of the Philippine Army) by virtue of their position, professionalism, and will to win have inspired many generations of soldiers to be true warriors and undaunted defenders.
All the CGPAs share a common thread that has guaranteed political stability. These lifelong legacies are essential to their success.
A sense of destiny. The cost of leadership is constant sacrifice. It is because they live for a cause greater than and outside of themselves.
The pattern of successful military leadership. It is the reality that every senior leader has exemplified some leadership traits and principles while in the pinnacle of his military career, exercising the noble authority to command the Army.
A shared and communicated vision. The dominant perspective that the 40 Commanding Generals shared in common was a smart vision, which helped the Philippine Army evolve into what it is today. This vision has drawn the thin line between the leaders who reached the pinnacle of leadership and those who do not. They had the ability to “see” and place things in their proper perspective.
A mixture of toughness and sentiment. Molded by the harsh realities of their calling, their character is a mix of toughness and compassion. But they also possess a high sense of self-confidence, a source of strength in standing by their convictions and making decisions. The CGPAs reached the highest pinnacle of leadership distinction as their triumphs reflected the soul and substance of leadership.
There is much that can be learned by business leaders and professionals from how the Army applies management and leadership theories to the challenges of leading a fighting force. Solid successes and enduring legacies are the fruits of leadership and management applied with vision and commitment, insights that can enable stability and progress on many fronts.
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Jaime S. de los Santos is a member of the MAP National Issues Committee, presently Professorial Lecturer of Management (Part-time) UP — Diliman, Project Coordinator, Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project.