It boggles the mind why the Philippine Army needed to promote congressman and world boxing champion Emmanuel Pacquiao to lieutenant colonel. But the promotion or commissioning of Pacquiao – depending on who is describing it – has undoubtedly demonstrated yet again the Armed Forces’ serious lack of accountability and truthfulness, to say the least.
The issue is not really if Pacquiao is capable or not of leading men into combat. If courage were to be a sole basis for that, the Pambansang Kamao, a veteran pugilist, would surely qualify if only for his sheer heart in facing opponents who are bigger than him and in demolishing them. Good combat leaders did not necessarily have the academic degrees to back them up.
Hannibal Barca was raised in the battlefield and became one of the ancient tacticians to have used the double envelopment or pincer movement. So was Miltiades who commanded the Greeks in the Battle of Marathon and William Wallace of Scotland who became popular when he was played by Mel Gibson in the movie “Braveheart.”
Degrees do not a good commander make since there have also been cases of educated men who allegedly order their soldiers to slaughter civilians such as in the case of then General Jovito Palparan who is reputed to be the “Butcher of Mindoro.”
As the story continues to develop over several weeks, Pacquiao’s chief-of-staff, lawyer Franklin Gacal, Jr., has added a new spin to it. It is now Pacquiao, the poor boy with no college degree from General Santos, against the intellectuals who question his “commissioning.”
“Love of country is shown by the willingness to serve and protect the people, not by possession of intellectual arrogance,” he said.
Even if we go by the arguments of Gacal that Pacquiao’s commissioning is allowed under Republic Act 7077, it is also stated that elected and appointed officials could be commissioned by the Reserved Force “based on existing military rules and regulations.”
This gives credence to the point raised by former National Defense College chief Clarita Carlos that Pacquiao is not qualified to be promoted because of the lack of a college degree.
But the rules can always be bent. Exceptions can always be made especially so for someone who has not only amassed honor for the country but, above all, wealth for himself and might soon be the next commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.
The Army’s lack of transparency was demonstrated by the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Reservist Affairs Colonel Quirino Calanzo in an interview by Anthony Taberna over Punto por Punto when he said that Pacquiao actually applied for the promotion, a claim that the Pacman denies.
Whether Pacquiao really wanted or even asked for that rank is now subject to speculations.
What is clear now is the fact that the AFP is even confused over what to do with him should an invasion come. Should he lead a battalion into combat or lead, as Calanzo said, the physical fitness training of the AFP?
It is disturbing that the leadership of the AFP cannot really explain to the public in clear and certain terms why someone like Pacquiao needs to be promoted or must be promoted. It is worrying to see AFP officials stumbling upon one another to come up with coherent reasons why the Pacman’s rank should be pole-vaulted.
An armed force that cannot be accountable or transparent to the people on an issue as simple as this obviously cannot be believed when it says that it has nothing to do with extra-judicial killings in the country.
Everyone wants to please Manny Pacquiao. And that for me is the more worrying and disturbing fact. We, too, are confused, as to who are our heroes.