July 04, 2008

Sorely missed

Retired Navy Captain Danilo “Ka Dan” Vizmanos would be turning in his grave had he still been around to hear the Board of Marine Inquiry Chairman conducting the investigation into the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars berate the Philippine weather bureau for issuing “too technical” bulletins that laymen could not understand. He would have found it laughable that maritime officials could suggest that a ship crew would be unable to read a weather bulletin correctly because it was too technical.

In the same way, Capt. Vizmanos would probably have pooh-poohed the US dispatch of an aircraft carrier and its attached warships to the Philippines to assist in the rescue, retrieval and relief operations in the wake of the killer Typhoon Frank. He would certainly have substantiated this column’s understated comment that it was overkill in terms of humanitarian aid, suggesting more sinister intentions consistent with US geopolitical strategy.

Ka Dan was commissioned an ensign in the Philippine Navy upon graduating from the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in New York in 1950. He rose through the ranks to become AFP Inspector General with the rank of Navy Captain (equivalent to a colonel in the army). He incurred the ire and displeasure of the AFP top brass when he stood by his thesis “The Emergence of the People’s Republic of China as a World Power and its Impact on Philippine Security and National Interest.” It was the turning point in his life when he thereafter chose to unswervingly serve his people and country above personal ambition and convenience.

Times like these, Captain Vizmanos is sorely missed. He was a “rebel soldier” in the most profound and real sense. He was an upright military official, an ardent nationalist, consistent internationalist, a revolutionary intellectual, an avid social commentator and a political activist par excellence as well as a solid family man.

Ka Dan died a poor man who left behind a rich legacy of his life and ideals for generations of Filipinos to come. He authored three books “Through the Eye of the Storm,” “Martial Law Diary” and “A Matter of Conviction.” His writings have been described as “a critique of a social order that has chained the country to its colonial moorings and perpetrated social injustice.”

I would like to use this column to share with readers the tribute rendered him by a fellow military man, Dr. Dante C. Simbulan, PMA Class 1952. Dr. Simbulan served with the Corps of Professors and taught at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City till his retirement in 1967. He has a Doctorate in Political Science at the Australian National University, and is the author of the book, THE MODERN PRINCIPALIA, THE HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF THE PHILIPPINE RULING OLIGARCHY published in 2005 by the U.P. Press.

“Ka Dan and I were both political prisoners, ‘classmates’ in the prisons of the Marcos dictatorship. Like Ka Dan, I was arrested at about the same time and jailed for 2 1/2 years without charges.

Unlike many generals of the AFP and PNP today (who are mostly graduates of PMA), Ka Dan has observed the Code of Honor inculcated in us Peemayers for four years: that we must not cheat, lie , nor steal nor tolerate those who do among us. Though not a PMA graduate, he also lived the PMA ideals of "Courage, Integrity, and Loyalty", the so-called CIL embossed in our class rings. Indeed, he could have been one of the few among us who still believe AND PRACTICE these. He could have been, and I believe he will be, an excellent role model of both cadets and young officers of the AFP and PNP.

Many generals today have not only abandoned the honor system and the ideals of CIL, but have also flaunted their ill-gotten wealth, living in mansions in Ayala-Alabang, Corinthian Gardens, Valle Verde, Green Meadows and such high-class and gated communities of the wealthy few, rubbing elbows with the high and mighty in our society. They have lied and cheated for their superiors – including their fake Commander-in-Chief -- in order to be promoted or to get coveted assignments. On the other hand, they have jailed and court-martialed those PMA graduates who still follow the straight path, who still want to tell the truth no matter what is the consequence. In short, these generals today have become part of the problem --part and parcel of the corrupt ruling oligarchy!

In contrast, Ka Dan Vizmanos refused to follow this pattern. He did not serve the dictator Marcos nor did he benefit from such service. Instead, he fought the dictatorship which trampled on the constitutional rights of citizens. He protested against the violation of human rights by the military and the police minions of Marcos.

But Ka Dan did not only protest but also showed enormous COURAGE in defying the dictator and his minions during Martial Law resulting in his incarceration; he demonstrated a strength of character, the HONESTY AND INTEGRITY to live within his means (even though, like the others, he had the opportunity to enrich himself while holding responsible positions in the AFP). Today, like Rep. Crispin 'Ka Bel' Beltran, he lived and died in the same old house with just the bare necessities that his meager income could afford. Ka Dan, like Ka Bel died a poor man. What a contrast to the lifestyle of the generals of
the present dispensation!

Most important of all, Ka Dan Vizmanos showed his LOYALTY, not to the ruling elites and the corrupt system they represent, but he gave it wholeheartedly to the Filipino people, especially to the suffering and oppressed masses of our unjust society.

He was against the mendicant and beggarly attitude of both our civilian and military leaders to our erstwhile colonial master, the United States. He criticized the long-standing dependency of the government and the military on the Americans. He ridiculed the junk, the 'surplus' equipment that the U.S. is giving us, to 'modernize' our armed forces. He caricatured the expressions of gratitude of our so-called leaders to the 'generosity' of the Americans for giving us 40-year old helicopters!

He wanted our country and our armed forces to be self-reliant and not be a tail of the U.S. kite. He wanted to see the Philippines attain real independence and exercise our sovereign rights as a respected member of the world community of nations. Last but not least, Ka Dan's vision is to see our empowered people participate in government and not just the few political dynasties who
lord it over us all in determining our future and in shaping our destiny.

I salute you, Ka Dan, and am truly proud to have known you. Kami'y iyong iniwan, ngunit ang iyong diwa, adhikain at paninindigan ay hindi namin kakalimutan at aming ipagpapatuloy ang ating layunin hanggang hindi makamtan ang paglaya ng ating bayang minamahal.

Tinitiyak kong darami sa ating mga kasundaluhan at opisyal ng military ang makakakita sa iyong maningning na halimbawa at darating ang araw na ang AFP ay magbabagong anyo. When that time comes, it will no longer be the protector and defender of a corrupt ruling system, but will be transformed into a true armed forces of the people, the protector of our people's interest, a defender of our national independence and sovereignty, and the reliable guardian of a true and authentic democracy.”#


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