The definition of “honor” that Filipinos are more familiar with – and therefore live out more – is, in the vernacular, dangal. Dignity. They will use whatever means necessary, even illegal, to protect their dignity from hiya (shame, losing face).
The other, just as important way to define honor – katapatan, propriety – is hardly noticed or practiced.
Propriety is the definition of honor that I will use primarily here, unless I state otherwise.
The first thing people need to ask themselves is: where do the men/women who serve in uniform come from? They come from civilians who, for one reason or another, choose to forego their civilian lives in order to serve their country in the military. Therefore, the “raw material” that the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) molds into officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comes from Filipino civil society at large.
Filipino civil society is replete with gasbags who fail to realize, who tolerate, or who outright ignore, that their leaders, government, and society have chosen to not be honorable and/or live honorable lives.
Filipino civil society, as I mentioned in my previous article, has no inherent honor code. Among its members are those who openly and brazenly lie, cheat, steal, tolerate and encourage those who do so, and even vote them into office.
In short, Filipino society is the antithesis of what it means to be honorable.
There is one simple, yet profound way to show honor that is all but alien to Filipino society: keep your commitments. Whether it be a commitment to following rules, or a commitment to keep your word, this is an essential component that makes advanced and developed societies work, one that is not a strong part of Filipino tradition.
In relation to what President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino said to the PMA cadets during their commencement exercises, it will be a tremendous challenge indeed to show honor outside of the PMA’s walls.
Regardless of whether there is dishonor and corruption in the military or not, four years within the walls and the regimented environment of the academy seems to be insufficient to permanently correct the inherent flaw of the “raw material” that goes into it. Consider also, that there is strong societal pressure to conform to an environment of lying, cheating, and stealing, once the cadets exit the academy.
Discipline and restraint are alien concepts in such an environment. It is one that is unforgiving of people who do the right thing. It ostracizes civilians who do so; what more men/women in uniform? This environment encourages its members to perpetually play victims of perceived, and often times self-inflicted, injustice. Plus it encourages its members to shift blame and accountability for wrongdoing to others, instead of owning up to and facing the consequences of their actions. And finally, it emphasizes two preposterous notions: a) that popularity is a reliable indicator of validity, and b) mob rule trumps institutions.
That environment is called Filipino civil society. How can honorable men/women survive in such an environment? With unflinching audacity. And balls.
Regardless of what I think of the military as an institution – and I don’t necessarily agree with all of its methods and principles – I believe that it is a necessary one in nation building. Civil society and the military go hand in hand. Of course, I have never said the military is perfect and/or doesn’t need to change. It is far from it.
A GRP commentator wrote on his own blog insights about the military that I happen to agree with:
Now the military may not live up to its cherished principle/s perfectly – i.e. all 100% of cadets and officers who pass through the academy’s walls – in practice, and it may also be an institution that is rather slow to adapt to changes in circumstances, given that its chain-of-command is structured in an extremely top-heavy manner. But it is an educated guess of mine that the military as an institution possesses a degree of self-awareness and intellectual honesty. This enables them to self-correct any flaws that they perceive within their system, weed out those elements that don’t conform to it, and allows them to continuously work towards getting as damn near close to 100% abidance to their code as humanly possible.
Can we say the same thing of Filipino civil society? That it possesses a self-awareness and intellectual honesty that enables it to self-correct? If so, how come these civilians keep making the wrong decisions consistently, such as failing to check the corruption of their government leaders? How come they perpetually tolerate thievery amongst themselves yet cry foul when it has gone out of control like the pork barrel issue?
I fail to see a reason why any particular institution, more so the military, should be singled out as being the sole dishonorable and corrupt one. Civil society is not any more immaculate, and certainly, they contribute to some extent to that dishonor and corruption that they perceive in it.
Indeed, there may be no excuse for cadets and soldiers who fall by the wayside when it comes to abiding by their institutions’ set of principles. The military must find ways to further strengthen and increase adherence to the codes by its members. However, such efforts are in vain when the civilians they have sworn to serve and protect do not recognize and emulate the practice of such principles. Civilians are every bit just as accountable in contributing to the degree of honor present in the society they live in.
You don’t need a rank, a weapon, or a uniform to show honor. It is in the man/woman regardless of what he/she wears. Ultimately, it is up to him/her to live it out.
[Photo courtesy: outsidethebeltway.com]
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