There is this commendable practice of the Philippine Military Academy of inviting graduates who have attained senior ranks in our uniformed services to the Academy shortly before retiring to review the Corps of Cadets in their uniforms for the last time before they are pastured off into retirement to join the long grey line.
Last Saturday, seven of these graduates mostly from the Philippine National Police were so honored with one very notable absence. Police Director Getulio P. Napeñas, the erstwhile commander of the PNP Special Action Force who figured in the now-famous Mamasapano Senate hearings who will also retire this July was not there. Rumor has it that he was deliberately not invited.
This is shocking, to say the least. This is not one of the prouder moments of the Academy; shame on the senior officers responsible for it. In the overall scheme of things, this ceremony is not a big deal. It is more of a nostalgic trip along memory lane for graduates to be able to troop the line one last time. It is an emotional moment for graduates because once retired, it is an altogether a different world.
There could be no other explanation for Napeñas’ exclusion except his acrimonious exchanges with the senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the House and Senate hearings on the Mamasapano encounter. The outgoing AFP Chief of Staff, General Gregorio Catapan, went on record as saying that only Napeñas did not trust the AFP.
But why deprive a graduate of reviewing the Cadet Corps one last time? After all, he has as much right as any other graduate to do so. Has the AFP sunk so low as to be so petty? Did the PMA on its own decide not to invite him, or did the order come directly from the Chief of Staff of the AFP? Such pettiness only reinforces the notion that the leaders of the AFP are not at all a good sport. They must have taken what Napeñas said during the hearings personally; now they bear a huge grudge against him.
What happened to those solidarity marches after the hearings? The marches must have been done just for show and did not mean anything at all. What did they really expect Napeñas to do? Take all the blame for what happened? He already said that he was willing to take responsibility for his own role but it would be totally inconceivable for him to accept someone else’s fault.
The trouble was that no one was man enough to follow suit.
Had Napenas kept his mouth shut, the truth would have never come out. Thanks to him, at least the public was able to find out most of what happened. Not everything, unfortunately. He was one of the most credible resource speakers during the hearings. If it were not for him, the Bangsamoro Basic Law would not have been scrutinized the way it was done and would have been signed into law by now with all the defects and imperfections.
Clearly, Napeñas is being punished unofficially. I spoke with some graduates and there is not one who agreed with what the PMA did to Napeñas. If it is any consolation to him however, his standing in the PNP remains solid as ever. Senior PNP officers, when they retire, are normally given equivalent honors if they wish. I hope that the PNP will rise to the occasion and give this deserving officer his due—a departure honor befitting his good standing in his service.
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The Department of National Defense has recently cancelled a P6.5-billion shore-based missile system (SBMS) with Israel in favor of procuring other defense items such as helmets, night goggles, body armors and hand-held radios to better equip our soldiers.
This sudden cancelation is again raising some eyebrows because of suspicions of corruption.
To be fair however, procuring the SBMS because we want to defend ourselves from missile attacks coming from China was probably not the best war planning in the first place; canceling the deal actually makes sense. There are probably better missile defense systems that could be procured and the probability of China raining missiles on our territory is remote. Besides, if China wants to invade us, there is nothing that we can do. Whatever we can buy, the Chinese can buy ten times more.
It would therefore make more sense to improve the quality of our individual soldiers in training, equipment, doctrine and leadership. The P6.5 billion could also have been spent better to procure more practical defense items such as patrol boats for better and wider patrol coverage of our territory. It seems that one problem of this recent DND action is that three of the items being procured are already included in the P85-billion AFP 2013-2017 modernization project. Perhaps this procurement is in addition to the P85 billion. Either way, the timing smells fishy.
Could the change have something to do with the pending retirement of some people? Just asking. Nonetheless, this sudden change tells us once again the kind and level of planning that goes on in our AFP. Terrorism is once again taking center stage. But all the while, the AFP as of late has been talking of territorial defense which is going to be the focus of defense planning. This is because of the signing of the peace deal with the MILF. The AFP cannot seem to make up its mind and is sending conflicting signals here.
Whatever the reason for the cancellation of the deal with Israel, let us hope that it is for the reasons given by the AFP and not because of the retirement of some people.