Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

The Expanded Nontraditional Role of the AFP: A Reassessment

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

The Expanded Nontraditional Role of the AFP: A Reassessment

Article excerpt

This article argues that the experiences of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during decades of counterinsurgency have had both positive and negative consequences for the AFP as an institution, as well as for state-building in the Philippines. Positive experiences can be attributed to the AFP contribution of its military values to its external environment, while many of the negative experiences are accounted for by its expanded interaction with its external environment. This kind of interaction, though essential, managed to undermine its professionalism and values, specifically from graft and corruption. Furthermore, the article argues that though there are seemingly insurmountable problems, the situation for the AFP and the state is not entirely hopeless. This optimism lies in good leadership from the top, especially political leadership.

The article also examines the traditional role of the AFP. In doing so, it takes a look at its history of security and development and then its current national security challenges. To assess both the relevance and the adequacy of AFP participation and contribution to the overall developmental effort, the resource capacities of national civilian institutions and AFP are examined. This includes identifying public expectations of the AFP and risks associated with its expanded role. Essentially, the gaps between the AFP and civil government, civil society, and the average citizen are brought to light. Finally, the article concludes with a summary of findings.

Traditional Role of the AFP

The National Defense Act of the Philippines specifies the traditional role of the AFP as defender of the state and protector of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. This role is consistent with the universal role given to the armed forces of any country. Though formalized soon after the Philippines gained its independence from the United States in 1946, the AFP's less formal beginnings already saw defensive actions during the revolutionary war against its former colonial master Spain in 1896-1898, against the United States in 1899-1901, and against Japan during World War II. Following independence, the AFP defended the state against Filipino rebels who wanted to overthrow the government. Some degree of revolt has persisted to this day. The AFP decisively defeated the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) and its military arm, the Huk army, in 1954 following an insurgency war that began in 195 1. The AFP continues to fight the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People's Army, which has rebelled against established authority since 1968. The AFP fought against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Mindanao from the early 1970s until 1996 when a peace treaty was signed. That notwithstanding, a breakaway faction called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has managed to wage war since 1975. In fact, although the MILF has taken part in peace talks with the government, another breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement/Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, continues to wage war. Then, of course, there is the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which continues to operate in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and occasionally inflicts casualties on the AFP.

The AFP is neither as large nor technologically modern as most of its regional counterparts. In fact, it is arguably among the weakest militaries in the area. The army is the largest among the three branches of service, comprising some 10 infantry divisions with 3 brigades each.1 The navy is next in size, followed by the air force with around 15,000 personnel.2 While the army is relatively better equipped (probably because its equipment does not cost as much), the latter two branches leave much to be desired in terms of mission-essential gear. Since U.S. forces left in 1991, the AFP has experienced a serious degradation of its combat arsenal, including combat support and combat service support. …

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