Bagong Lipunan

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Few Good Men

The Few Good Men


From Lynette...

The author of this letter is Lynette Ruiz who works for Sen. Honasan and has been with him during his visits to different AFP camps. Her letter has been making the rounds on the Internet through e-mail. I decided to publish this on this site along with other excerpts from write-ups regarding the soldiers involved in the battles of Mindanao. This edition is dedicated to them, the FEW GOOD MEN who are in their remote and lonely outposts as you are reading this, risking life and limb so we can enjoy freedom from terrorism and oppression and those who are against the democracy and sovereignty we treasure the most.

"The stories I tell bother us, make us uncomfortable because they upset our cocoon. But we will have to know it, we will have to face it, we will have to understand it...." - L. Ruiz


To start off, please forgive me for what will be a long, emotional and not-so-social-and-light message, but I feel that to us who have been given much, much is also asked from. I do not expect you all to react with sweeping actions, but it would be good if we could pray at night with a clear knowledge of what we are, in the first place, praying for and about.

I was in a moviehouse once with a friend and an advertisement for the Armed forces of the Philippines came on. It was titled "Kawal ang Tatay Ko" and featured children of our soldiers singing a tribute to their fathers. Videos showed our Army, Navy, and Airforce personnel in the different roles they play in society. I cried. My friend teased me and laughed. I felt bad.

In the light of what is happening to our brothers in the South, I oftentimes feel helpless and frustrated in trying to make some of my friends understand what I've seen and experienced in the line of duty. But I know I have to keep on trying. So please bear with me.

On one occasion about a month ago, Sen. Honasan decided to make the rounds of AFP camps and talk to the soldiers and feel their "pulse". We went to Camp Tecson in Bulacan, home of the Scout Rangers, our Army's elite group. Sila ang mga unang unang hinaharap sa kalaban pag gera, panugod kung baga. A lot of their officers are young. Most are our age.

We were informed that the group we met in the camp was just a skeletal force since a lot of them were already deployed to Kauswagan the day before. They expressed their concerns to my boss. They spoke of their pay and benefits and it broke my heart to hear the dialogue, feel their anxiety as they looked out into space as if contemplating on what would be of them.

The same story unfolded with the Marines, elite naman ng Navy. I met Capt. Ivan Papera, an injured marine. He has a glass left eye. When asked what happened, he responded by saying "Sir, I donated my left eye to the battle of Basilan"

A few days after that conversation, we found out that he was once more shipped out to the very same place where his vision was shot. He's only 30 years old.

He, along with hundreds of others, are being sent to Mindanao to wallop the enemy - for a combat pay of P8.00 a day. Eight pesos a day! KILL OR BE KILLED for eight pesos a day - can you all believe it? And yet there they are, our soldiers. They face their fears... wala nga namang pinipili ang bala - muslim man o kristiyano. Believe me, handang mamatay para sa atin ang mga ito, ready to die at 24, 25, 26 years old - for us. And for what? For the kind of salary that won't even pay for their coffins if they die in battle. Oo, meron nang batas na nagbibigay ng increase sa kanilang mga sweldo, but this is an UNFUNDED LAW. Para bang pang P.R. lang ang mga balitang tumaas na ng husto ang kanilang bayad.

Can you imagine being sent to war at our age? I'm only beginning to find my place in this world at 28! We will never know. But I caught a glimpse of it as I stared into the eyes of a Col. who just came back from Kauswagan hours before our conversation, telling the story of how a friend of his died when he "caught" a bullet in his chest a bullet which Col. Querubin felt was meant for him, not his friend nagkataong hinarangan siya ng kaibigan niya.

Have you seen a soldier cry? Pamatay. Kung sine pa lang eh umiiyak na tayo, see the real thing. A soldier fighting for a people who hardly see them as heroes, a government that barely addresses their concerns. They're taking care of us, who's taking care of them?

Read an article by Mon Tulfo published in the Inquirer a few days ago. He called our soldiers "tanga" and "mga gago" for not being able to contain the situation. Has he been to war at all? A reply letter by Mrs. Susan Abaya ordered Tulfo to listen to the interview of a Sgt. Villanueva who lost both his legs recently in Basilan. He said that he will never file for retirement because he still has his life to give over again, 2 legs short but still. Tulfo apologized in print.

This is the vicious cycle that made the Mindanao situation explode - it's a story which has been going on for decades. Filipinos vote for their officials based on popularity and not credibility and sincerity of service, kanya kanyang kurakot, nawawalan ang bayan. Meanwhile, disgruntled people turn rebels. Rebels storm towns. Soldiers are called in (with their outdated armaments and Spartan slippers sometimes). Soldiers wallop the enemy and they are town heroes. Soldiers have done their duties mandated them so they tell the townsfolk that the government agencies will now take over.

Time passes, no DSWD, no DPWH, Mayor is getting richer by the minute - disgruntled people again. Soldiers once more get a call to the same town. They go back to find the same enemies and get ready to teach them a lesson. But then how come the townspeople give them dagger looks? Because in the eyes of the townspeople, THEY are the liars, they are the enemies now because they promised that things will be better, but they didn't get better -- and the Mayor is still getting richer by the minute, the higher officials, by the second.

So why am I trying to make people understand? Because not a lot would. But those who do can make a difference even in little ways. We may pray for our soldiers, but Scout Ranger Lt. Ruben Guinolbay, a friend of mine, who's only 27 years old and who's probably in the zones right now doesn't know that. I think we should let them know that we thank them for staying in the battlefield while we sleep beneath the "blanket of protection" that they provide us with night after night.

In the movie "The Beach", one of the guys survived being mangled by a shark but ended up with a festering leg. Their "perfect" little community could not deal with his cries of pain and suffering so they decided to leave him just outside of their village in a tent. Basically, left him there to die. And they went back to their perfect little way of life.

The situations I have pointed out are our cries of pain. The stories I tell bother us, make us uncomfortable because they upset our cocoon. But we will have to know it, we will have to face it, we will have to understand it, for if not, how different are we from those people who left their companion to die?

I know we know better because we got good values. I hardly expect us to rally and turn renegade activists but small things can snowball and miracles can happen with collective prayer and action (for those who feel like it). And believe me, this will pass and the country will then be setting its eyes on us, or on our children, to make the changes.....

"He who has once gazed into the glazed eye of a dying warrior on the field of battle
will think twice before beinning a war." -- Prince Otto Von Bismarck


The Finest in Soldiery

This is an excerpt from Mrs. Abaya's letter to Mon Tulfo after the latter called the soldiers in the Mt. Puno Mahajid operation mga "tanga" and "gago". She made it clear that the soldiers did their very best and endured a lot of hardships during that time and do not deserve to be called those names after what they've done for us.

There came a point where Mrs. Abaya wrote of her visit to one of the injured soldiers in the V. Luna hospital. This part struck me (and probably Tulfo) the most:

''...Please go visit Sgt. Armando Villanueva at the V. Luna Hospital whose both feet were blown off during one early dawn encounter near the Abu Sayyaf's lair. Listen to him talk why he chose to be a soldier, ''mahirap na trabaho pero kailangan may lalaban kung kailangan para sa bayan at kababayan'' and why the Abu Sayyafs have to be stopped ''masyadong pananakot dinudulot nila sa mamamayan.'' Watch his face lighten as he says ''sa trabaho namin alam naming puedeng mangyari eto okey lang in-line of duty'' to dismiss a sympathetic glance on what remained of his legs. He adds proudly ''hindi ako magpapa-CDD (complete disability discharge--RT) at alam ko makakatulong pa naman ako.'' He has been in the service for 13 years, surviving many previous encounters... "

I have never imagined one of my countrymen to have a virtue this high and noble, beyond that of any ordinary man... He did not speak of misery, nor asked for "rewards", much less appreciation for his sacrifices for he did it selflessly. Para sa akin, kahit wala na siyang paa, buo ang pagkatao niya sa mata ng Diyos. This man deserves no less than our salute and praises.

Mon Tulfo eventually apologized in print.

The soldiers eventually rescued 17 of the hostages from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf. The operations are still going on to rescue the remaining captives.

From the Website of "Bob Ong"

Kahit ano sabihin ng ibang tao, nagpupugay ako sa mga sundalong Pilipino. Habang sulat ako ng sulat dito at basa ka ng basa dyan... sila nandoon sa digmaan at ginagampanan ang tungkulin nila sa bayan.

Nakakapanlumo ang sinapit ng mga sundalong nawalan ng paa, kamay, at buhay sa Mindanao. Pero kung tutuusin, mas maswerte pa rin sila, pati ang ang mga sundalong pinugutan ng ulo at dinukutan ng mata, kumpara sa mga rebeldeng walang konsensya, at mga politician na walang delicadeza.

Karamihan sa mga sundalo e mababa lang ang pinag-aralan. Work experience: janitor at security guard. Pero para sa kin, tae lang nila ang ilang prominenteng tao na iginagalang natin sa lipunan... mga magnanakaw at mapagkunwaring salot ng bayan.

Godspeed to all Army, Marine, Air Force, Police and Navy Personnel now in Mindanao guarding and fighting for the people's freedom. May your breed continue to flourish. Thank you and may God richly bless you and your families.

Till VICTORY is ours, and there is no more enemy but peace.


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