Address of President Marcos at the 56th UP Vanguards Alumni Homecoming
His Excellency Ferdinand E. Marcos
President of the Philippines
At the 56th UP Vanguards Alumni Homecoming
[Delivered at the University of the Philippines, May 6, 1978]
The Backbone of Our Armed Forces
I AM VERY glad to be at this Vanguard homecoming. I was supposed to be down South, in Palawan. But I heard the miserable state in which the Vanguard leadership was, because they were looking around and could not get a guest of honor, not even the President or the Chief Justice. And so I decided to stay behind and let the First Lady attend to the South in the meantime.
The trouble with letting her go out alone is you always discover that she does not need you. But mat no longer is a surprise to me. Anyway, I am very glad that I am here. I always enjoy myself at a Vanguard meeting, not only because of the jokes about age. You know, whatever the Chief Justice says — at last stage, the man is not old, he is dead.
But, you know, a man in public life is like a soldier. Before he goes to an appointment, he psyches himself up for the particular occasion. I remember when we were soldiers — who were in Bataan with me? Well, almost everybody here was. Nick Jimenez was there. He almost killed me, incidentally. You remember that old story. I am glad that he does not shoot straight. Romy Espino was there. General Santos is something else. Do you know that he took me out of Manila after the raid on my headquarters and the raid on the Philippine General Hospital, the raid on my house where they got my brother? He took me out of Manila in a staff car of the Bulacan provincial constabulary command. I was dressed in proper uniform. Of course, I was a lieutenant of the puppet constabulary in 1944. And so, let us give a hand to General Santos.
I see many others here. I see Tony Quirino also. He used to hunt with us. He did not do any shooting though. I wondered then what he was doing when we left him alone. And so many others. Narsisi is here? In the fighting in Besang Pass, he planted the Philippine flag on top of Bukol point at Besang Pass in 1945. Besang Pass Day is fast approaching, and I remember it because it’s June 14. We used to go out on patrol, you remember, you used to psyche yourself up. You always psyche yourself up whenever you go out into hostile territory. You think of all the contingencies that may arise. You’re going out for three days, and you need iron rations and you alert the men and tell them about the situation. You give them everything. But more than that, you start checking on whom you think is too weak to come along with you on this particular patrol.
The same thing is true with a man in public office. Before you go out to deliver a speech or go out to any appointment whatsoever, you psyche yourself up. Now, I am not saying that before I came to the University of the Philippines, I psyched myself up for hostile territory. Because I always relax whenever I am here. And look what I got myself into. I now have to pay for a building.
But, you know, these people think they put one over me. They didn’t, but I promised this several years ago. They were way behind in their collection, so I waited for the building to be finished. Now it is almost finished. And now I can come and claim the honor of helping build this building, although we did not spent very much for it.
You know, the Chief Justice and I were comparing notes, of course, first about the ladies. That is the usual subject of conversation for everybody over 40, I guess. And we all agreed that the girls in the universities today seem to be better looking than the girls in our time. But I reminded him: That is only because your memory is failing you. 1934 is his year and 1937 is my year. I am afraid I commit treason by saying that the girls then were not as good-looking as the girls now. I am certain that my original analysis was correct. And that is, our memories don’t go that far.
So, may I congratulate the Vanguard for collecting ladies of such beauty and talent. You know, this used to be the first qualification of a Vanguard. In our time, I mean. We always picked the better-looking girls for sponsors in the university.
Anyway, my generation is that generation that still met with Aguinaldo, Aglipay and the revolutionaries of 1898. I remember talking to General Emilio Aguinaldo. This was immediately after my election to Congress. We had gone to Kawit on a celebration of Independence Day, June 12. I think it was 1947-48. And he told me: You know, the problem with being a soldier is, six months after a war, you are completely forgotten. And I am told, he said, that I should have died during the revolution, because nobody remembers me now. Of course, I immediately dissuaded him from such a belief. But his words stuck in my mind. Six months after a war, the soldiers are forgotten. And he asked me: Were you a soldier in the last war? And I said, yes, I was one of the many who fought in the last war. Well, he said, you better remember what they also told me. To be remembered, you should have died in the war. And this old man, perhaps having turned cynical because of the long years of lack of recognition—you remember, he ran for President against President Quezon in 1936 the first Commonwealth election. And I was talking to him 10 years after that— 1946, 1947 thereabout. This was the old man who had established the first Republic in Malolos in 1898. Half a century later, he was still bitter about the whole thing.
Yet here in the Philippines, we notice however a change in the atmosphere. Because soldiery, while still merely sometimes just a preparation or the beginning of a career, has become an important adjunct of national life. Why? Because we have been fighting since the last World War. You remember, we fought the insurgency immediately after the war— 1945, 1946 up to 1954. and we have been fighting since then. We are still fighting a secessionist movement.
This is why I am very glad that the Vanguard is an active organization. It keeps alive the virtues of soldiery, that of courage, of patriotism, dedication, pride in our flag and pride in oneself, because soldiery more than anything else is pride in oneself, pride in your achievement as offered and dedicated to an ideal as differentiated from all other activities. Your achievement, for instance, when you go into a profession, well, you have pride in that profession of yours. But it is more circumscribed. It is narrow in perspective than that of the soldier. The soldier offers it to the nation and this somehow marks his profession with a higher form of nobility.
And I speak of this because everywhere I go, especially when I am among the younger elements of our people, the first thing that enter my mind is: I wonder who among the young kids, the men and the women, will follow in our footsteps. I just asked the Chief Justice: whom do you think among these young men and women will become a chief justice to follow after your example? And, of course, he also asked: Whom do you think will become a President? My answer is, anybody who is a Vanguard has the potential to become President.
You received this with hilarious acclaim and laughed at it. But let me tell you. The world is becoming materialistic. The world is becoming very, very gross everywhere else, not just in the Philippines but everywhere else. The modem world is forgetting its ideals. The modern world is forgetting such things as the old virtues. The modern world is forgetting that there are things greater than affluence and popularity. That after all is said and done, when you are buried or burned, if you are cremated’ you cannot bring anything with you except perhaps some kind of a claim to have contributed to a lasting structure. And what is the most lasting of structures? It is the nation. It is the country. It is the flag. That flag will always be there, and the nation will always be there and the country will be there—long, long after you and I are gone. Long after all these transitory preoccupations have passed away, there will be a country, there will be a nation.
And the one and only question that will be asked to each and everyone of us probably will be: What was our contribution to that nation?
And the Vanguard, whatever anyone says, like such other organizations, is an organization that has contributed greatly to the building of a nation. Look at those who are here present. Is it strange that the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is here? We are at present engaged in trying to reorganize the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The Philippine Constabulary, for instance will be reorganized from the four-zone concept into, say, ten regions, eleven regions, thirteen regions, whatever it is, that we may agree upon. And the complement of the joint staff under the Chief of Staff has now up to eight.
What does all this mean? That we have been moving along? And who are helping out in this? Of course, the PMA graduates. But the greater number of officers in the Armed Forces, believe it or not, are still reserve officers. They come from the Vanguard. They come from the University of the Philippines Vanguard.
These are like the doctors and the nurses who go to New Jersey from the Philippines. If you pull them out, all the hospitals in New Jersey will close. The same thing is true if you pull back all the reserves in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. You won’t have an Armed Forces of the Philippines.
This comes as a shock to many people, but it is true. And if, by and large, those reservists, these men who are actually running the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the lower levels — because most of the men who are in the reserves never get to the position of Chief of Staff. You have here two examples of those who have reached the position of Chief of Staff. The only full general in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the only men who are qualified to put four stars on their collars are the chiefs of staff, beginning with these gentlemen here. However, the great bulk of them are the lieutenants, the company commanders, and they go as high as battalion commanders. And they constitute the backbone of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Let me tell you what happened in 1973. In 1973, the secessionists took over the great number of provinces in Mindanao. You remember that? When I was in Marawi City — for some reason, the city was taken over by the secessionists ahead of time, they mistook their cue, I guess — in October 1972, I was shocked at the realization that there was a secessionist movement, there was a rebellion in the middle of Mindanao. Marawi City had been taken over. Detachments were wiped out. And then this spread. Lebak, Cotabato was taken over sometime at the end of February 1973. Then Jolo followed. Basilan. Then Tawi-Tawi. Then Zamboanga del Sur. Then the attack on Cotabato City. And Cotabato City was endangered for a while. You know who saved the day for the Republic of the Philippines? The reservists. When we asked the civilians to tell us exactly what they wanted, you know what they said? We can’t wait for the reinforcements because we know you are busy with the NPA in Luzon. But give us arms. Break out the armories in Mindanao and give us the arms and we will handle the secessionists.
And so in a period of two weeks, we organized 16,000 reservists in Mindanao. This will be one of the chapters that will be written about the participation of the reservists — men who probably trained with the Vanguard. Because when I went down to Cotabato, I met some of these officers, mayors, judges. I saw, of course—some of the judges were kitchen police, the usual thing, you know, when trouble comes, during a crisis, the more forceful elements take over and the wiser ones step back. The wiser ones always stay in headquarters. But we organized 16,000 men.
And that is why, I am very happy to note that the Vanguard lives on. This reminds me of the political campaign. Now, look, we are through with the campaign, you know.
Anyway, 1973 to 1974 thereabouts was an interregnum which was occupied with the utilization of reservists, I am very glad that the Vanguard continues to uphold the ideals of the organization. And let me congratulate General Ver’s reelection to office.
You know, if you keep him busy with the Vanguard, the Chief of Staff might recommend his retirement. I am just kidding, of course. That is a very sore point with the generals right now.
We have 77 generals in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We are retiring about 44 by the end of June and we will probably start retiring 17 by the end of May.
I am certain that the reelection of General Ver is going to prejudice my office. But just the same, if it is necessary, I order him to accept this. However, let me say that, indeed, the election of General Ver to the position of national commander of the Vanguard certainly is well deserved for he has set up so many of these projects that we are proud of.
Anyway, we just had a visit from the Vice President of the United States. I know that you are interested in this. I note that some of the newspapermen followed me. They probably want to know what the footnote is to this document, this joint statement, and why it took such a long time to be agreed upon.
You know, we were supposed to meet the whole day of the third day, which we did. We met the whole morning, from 9:30 to 12:30. In the afternoon, we met again, and then we appointed a committee to work out the joint statement. From 2:30 up to 5:30, they could not agree on anything. Before the state dinner which we tendered in honor of Vice-President and Mrs. Mondale, we had to break from protocol and work on it again at about seven o’clock — seven to eight. This was referred to Washington. And, of course, on our part, we also made all these noises about referring it to the National Security Council. The truth of the matter was that I already had the authority of the National Security Council. I didn’t want them to believe that if they were going to refer it to Washington, I was not going to refer it to somebody else also. And so all this palabas, you know.
And the question that arises now is: What was this all about? You know, the joint statement is simple: the two leaders met, etc., etc.; it was agreed that there would be an acceleration of the bases agreement. Why? Because I noticed that they had been dragging their feet on these negotiations. The United States has a treaty. Alam naman ninyong mayroon tayong kasunduan sa Estados Unidos. Embodied sa tatlong kasunduang iyan ang mutual defense, military assistance, and military bases. Three treaties. And in 1966, you remember, I asked that the military bases agreement, which was supposed to be for 91 years, be reduced to 25 years. Do you remember that? I went to Washington and we entered into an agreement. It was reduced to 25 years. But that was the time when the United States had a monopoly of atomic weapons and, therefore, I asked that if we didn’t want it anymore, we should be able to dispense with it. Because I am thinking in terms not only of myself and of our generation, but also of the generations to come. The perspectives and perceptions the next ten years would be different. Suppose I were no longer there? And I presume that that would be correct. What would the successor say if we did not give them a little leeway or option? Thus I suggested that we would review all of this now and every five years from now.
I noticed that many of the newspapermen did not note this particular aspect. Do you know that that was one of the most difficult points? Because we have an understanding: they can stay in the bases for 25 years. That is a Guantanamo situation. You remember that the United States has a base in Cuba? Cuba kicked out everybody, but they couldn’t kick out the United States from Guantanamo base. Do you remember that? And the United States is still there in Guantanamo base. Why? Because they refused to recognize Castro and his regime and they have refused to deal with him.
Now I suggested that this agreement therefore be put down in writing. They agreed. Now, the other important thing was the question of sovereignty, as you know. Sovereignty enters into many, many questions, not just the question of compensation or jurisdiction; and there had always been skirting, postponement, delay and evasive actions which were too obvious for satisfaction. I therefore insisted that there be an understanding on this because I sort of suggested, you know, you don’t want to go home without something and unless we agreed on this, you could not get anything. Because sovereignty, to me, I said, is not negotiable. There had to be a prior statement about sovereignty before we could continue.
And so we came to this agreement. What does this joint statement mean? By the way, are there any newspapermen around here? Are the Malacañang people represented here? That is all right. You can ask me questions later on. Well, anyway, the Clark Air Force base is 52,000 hectares, Subic Naval base is 17,000 hectares. It excludes the bay and the training ground across the bay in Olongapo. We have now succeeded in getting an agreement to be signed which will mean that all of these will be returned to the Philippines physically. And then we authorized the use of certain facilities in another agreement by the Armed Forces of the United States, under conditions that we are going to agree upon. What does this mean? This merely means that, in all probability, Clark Air Force Base will be reduced from 52,000 to 4,500 hectares. It also means that Subic Naval Base will reduced from 17,000 to about 8,000 hectares. It does not include, of course, the watershed and, the training ground across the bay.
But whatever it is, it is of such primary importance to us that I feel there should be some understandings as to how these matters should be handled by both the media and our people.
I also would like to announce to you that this will now go to a panel. On our side, this panel will be headed by a Vanguard brother, no other than General Romeo Espino, the Chief of Staff, who will now work out the details of taking over from the American commander.
I think that this will be historic in a sense because for the first time we will be able to raise a Philippine flag inside the bases which we consider Philippine military bases. In short, the entire complex, whether it is Clark Air Force Base or Subic Naval Base, will now be considered Philippine military bases.
On the economic side, what has come out of this visit is, I would estimate to be about $340 million worth of tariff cuts. We were able to obtain better treatment for our products, more specifically coconut oil and Philippine mahogany plywood. Remember that our coconut oil used to pay 8 percent tariff, while palm oil, our competitor was paying zero or nothing in the United States market. Plywood, with Philippine mahogany facing, was paying 20 percent tariff. This is going to be reduced to 8 percent which is equal to the tariff on the other plywoods coming from other countries.
At the same time, there are other products that will be worked out. We are now going to move into another textile agreement; you remember that we have a textile agreement which is supposed to expire this year. And they were going to let it expire without any further arrangements. Textile is becoming one of our principal exports. Then we will also have a restudy of the countervailing investigations. You remember that our exports of garments have what are known as incentives, BOI or Board of Investment incentives. And these were considered cash incentives by the United States so much so that the exporters of garments in the Philippines were compelled to pay an amount equal to the incentives that are given by the Philippine government. In short, they were going to wipe out the incentives that we are giving to our infant industries. We called attention to this fact as being unfair and unjust, because it does not injure American industry and there are several other items, including sugar on which there is now going to be a reopening of negotiations and studies.
At the same time, I would like to announce that the American government has now indicated its desire to meet with ASEAN, with the Philippines as the lead in the US-ASEAN negotiations. And the next meeting will be in Washington on a ministerial level, if approved by the ASEAN ministers that will meet in Bangkok next June, or July, I think.
These are the results of this visit. More than anything else, however, we have been able to, first of all, show that we adhere to the principle of human rights. That the matter of how to conduct our internal government is a matter that belongs to us alone, and that it has no connection whatsoever with foreign affairs. If there is a war, which is internal like insurgency, if they want to come and intervene, first let us know because we don’t want them to intervene. It is the policy of the Philippines that we shall never ask foot troops from anyone, including our ally the United States, to come to the Philippines. If, however, there should be any massive attack in the form of the complexion and quantity or magnitude of the Japanese attack the Philippines in 1941, then we will look into this matter. But as of now, we, of course, have told everybody that it is our policy to stand on our own feet, to be self-reliant. We can handle anything that we may meet in the matter of insurgencies or secessionism. Anyway, it is the policy of the United States not to intervene on these matter. Therefore, when it comes to anything which involves internal order inasmuch as they are not going to help, anyway, they should not intervene in the decisions that are to be made. And this was accepted.
Then the final matter is the question of basic policy about the encouragement of the emergence of free, independent, stable, small states capable of contributing to the solution of the problems of Asia and towards the maintenance of stability in this region. And that is in the best interest of everyone if the Philippines is permitted to develop into a really free, independent, and strong state. This is, of course, to say there should be no efforts at the destabilization because it will hurt them as much as it will hurt us.
So, my friends, let me close these remarks, as the Chief Justice has called our statement, with again the reminder that the Vanguard is almost like the—I was going to say, almost like what the College of Law used to say. You remember what the College of Law of the University of the Philippines used to say? The College of Law was always so proud of the fact that the government was ran by the College of Law of the University of the Philippines. Well, Probably you can say, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is ran by the Vanguard of the University of the Philippines. It is not therefore far-fetched to say that the Vanguard should therefore maintain its high standards, its quality of instructions and its ideals. For it is here where the achievements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines start. I have always said the Vanguard and the Philippine Military Academy constitute the twin posts on which rests the structure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. If one were lost, if the PMA alone remains, I am afraid we would have a tilted structure. If PMA were lost and only the Vanguard, then you might also have an imbalance. And, therefore, we should maintain this structure on these twin posts.
I therefore always wish the best for the Vanguard. And rest assured, so long as I am President of the Republic of the Philippines, I will support the efforts of our Vanguard fraternity.
Source: Presidential Museum and Library
Marcos, F. E. (1980). Presidential speeches (Vol. 8). [Manila : Office of the President of the Philippines].