But then one learns about another kind of military men, like the generals who turned down the idea of martial law when it was proposed to them during the Arroyo administration, or those who refused to lend themselves to any election manipulation, and the men who soldier on against the greatest odds, including lack of materiel, And one realizes that the first set constitutes only the proverbial and very few rotten apples in a very large barrel containing otherwise healthy fruit.
Lt. General Arturo Ortiz, the 53rd commanding general of the Philippine Army, and Major General Emmanuel Emmanuel Bautista, his successor, not only exemplify the healthy fruit in the army barrel, but have been at the forefront of the efforts to ensure that the other fruit do not get contaminated, and become healthier.
We are all aware that Ortiz was awarded the Medal of Valor — the military’s highest honor — by then President Cory Aquino, when he was still a young captain. Even then, it was clear that he was a man who led by example — he did not ask his men to do as he said, but to do as he did. He led them into battle, not pushed them into it. And during his tour of duty as commanding general, he managed to visit every single frontline unit of the Army as well as make sure that they got the funds and support they needed. As he reported proudly in his farewell speech: “Kaalinsunod nito, ipinatupad ko po ang mga polisiya at alituntunin na naaayon sa prinsipyong ang Punong Himpilan ng Army ay naririto upang tugunan ang pangangailangan at pagsilbihan ang mga nasa frontlines at hindi ang pagharian at utusan lamang ang mga ito (Accordingly, I carried out the policies and regulations in line with the principle that the General Headquarters of the Army is here to answer the needs of and serve those in the frontlines and not to lord over and order them around).”
And this principle he carried out up to his last day in office. The commanding general’s retirement and the turnover ceremonies are naturally a big deal, and tradition calls for a large “despedida” party for the retiree, and a demonstration of the army’s materiel — tanks, helicopters, etc. — during the turnover ceremonies itself. Apparently Ortiz nixed all these preparations — ordering that the funds saved should go to the soldiers in the field instead. How’s that for living by your principles? And if the reader thinks the amounts saved are small potatoes, think again. I am told that the tanks, for example, would have had to come from Tarlac where they are parked, or whatever the military term is — and the fuel consumption for each tank is one liter for every two to three kilometers. Add to that the fuel consumption of the helicopters for the flyby, and you come up with a pretty penny.
Ortiz’s concern for his soldiers is deeply ingrained, not just skin deep. When he learned of the deaths of his men in the Basilan fiasco he reportedly flew immediately to where they were, and cried over them — he was so distraught that he couldn’t sleep that night.
I learned all this while waiting in the grandstand yesterday morning for the Testimonial Review to start, from some of his colleagues and subordinates. And, of course, I am also witness to the fine job he did of refurbishing and reimaging Fort Magsaysay — another indication of the fact that the army money is spent for the army does not go to individual pockets.
Ortiz’s successor, Major General Manny Bautista, seems to have skipped over two years’ worth of his PMA upperclassmen to get the post — something apparently previously unheard of in the army. He is PMA class ’81, and the other candidates were from ’79 (Ortiz’s class). But it does not look like he is begrudged the position. It may have helped a little that he is a military brat whose father, Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista, was killed by the NPA in an ambush while Manny was either still in the PMA or fresh out of it.
But his main pluses, aside from his very impressive vitae, is that he has been instrumental in implementing Ortiz’s Bayanihan project (actually it is the national strategy, where the army is trying to “win the peace” — hearts and minds of the civilian population through its health, infrastructure, and other civic projects). Moreover, he is credited with being a major force in the so-called Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR), which envisions “an army that is capable of performing its mandate, is owned and loved by the Filipino people and is a source of national pride,” complete with the final objective (circa 2028) of being a world-class army. His colleagues think that if anyone can implement that road map, Bautista can.
As I said earlier, Ortiz and Bautista are excellent examples of what the Philippine Army is all about. And on a personal note, I find it extremely heartwarming that these soldiers, who are supposed to be real “macho,” are extremely respectful of their wives (read not only faithful, but appreciative), and their mothers. That has to be a good sign that human rights will be respected and that the days of extrajudicial killings attributed to the military are numbered. And this augurs well for the success of the ATR.
Congratulations to both of them, congratulations to PNoy for his excellent choices (in this case). And congratulations to the Philippine Army.