The only amusing part of the story on the discovery of an armoury of government-supplied weapons large enough to supply 1,500 soldiers in the Ampatuan compound was the feigned shock from the leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
PNP chief Jesus Verzosa was taken aback on learning that the recovered firearms included two antitank weapons. He said only government forces were allowed to purchase and carry these kinds of weapons.
Pull the other one, Jesus! It has been known for years that military commanders sell arms and ammunition to anyone with the cash, even to the groups the AFP is fighting.
Selling bullets to the enemy that are used to kill your own troops, how low can you get?
This issue was brought out in Gracia Burnham’s book, In the Presence of My Enemies, in which she described her experience as a hostage of the Abu Sayyaf:
“More than once I heard Solaiman on the sat-phone calling Zamboanga, talking to a lady named Ma’am Blanco. He would give her all his specifications for guns, bullets, you name it. ‘Who are you ordering from?’ we asked him one day. ‘Oh, the army,’ he replied. ‘We pay a lot more than it should cost of course. So somebody’s making a lot of money. But at least we get what we need.’
The discovery that massacred members of the convoy were probably killed by guns from the government arsenal in Bataan comes hot on the heels of news that the army and police not only refused requests to protect the convoy but took part in the killings.
Nor did the AFP and PNP cover themselves in glory in disaster relief after Typhoon Ondoy. The very visible presence of the Indonesian military after the Sumatra earthquake was in stark contrast to the do-it-yourself approach here. Although I regularly see army trucks driving around in Manila when there is a perceived threat to national security (such as a small peaceful rally at the Edsa shrine), I saw only one army truck going down EDSA in the soggy aftermath of the typhoon, carrying unfortunate shivering young soldiers in T-shirts.
Presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro was Defense Secretary at the time and came up with a perfect excuse for the military’s absence:
He said much of the police and military’s modest assets had been apportioned to internal security operations in line with the government policy to crush terrorism and the communist insurgency. “The thing is, we cannot just order the AFP or the police to shift roles.”
What an incredible statement. Why not? The military and police have the equipment and the discipline to respond to disasters, which is why all over the world they are pulled in to help out. Yet here the security forces are too busy chasing NGO activists and communist phantoms to do the same.
There are times when you wonder whether we might almost be better without any security forces. Sure, private armies would flourish, but they do anyway and without the AFP and the PNP around at least it might be harder for them to buy bullets.