The Philippines is a liberal democratic state, republican in character and where sovereignty resides in the people. In so far as the relations between the military and the government are concerned, the Philippines has always operated according to the principle of the supremacy of civilian authority over the military at all times, even during martial law and authoritarian rule or from September 1972 to February 1986. The major difference between this latter period and other periods in Philippine post-independence history is the destruction of formal and informal oversight institutions over the military and the police and where oversight was personal (under Marcos) instead of institutional as in other periods.
A study conducted by the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies in 2005-2007 that sought to develop a Security Sector Reform Index (SSRI) for the Philippines came up with a number of relevant information on the issue of security sector reform and governance. The study identified the security sector as consisting of (1) the core security forces; (2) the security management and oversight bodies; (3) justice and law enforcement institutions such as the Ombudsman and the SandiganBayan; and (4) societal institutions. It looked at whether the principles of good security sector governance (transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation, responsiveness) were present or absent in the security sector.
The study found that democratic principles of governance, including the relationship, authority, power, duties, and responsibilities of these security sector actors, both core and oversight bodies, abound in the country’s constitution and laws; and that oversight institutions have been established in government and outside government as well. There is also awareness of their power and some oversight capacity, albeit they are in general short of both material and competent manpower resources.
However, much leaves to be desired as far as the manner in which these oversight powers are exercised by legislative committees, executive, and judicial bodies over the uniformed services. There are far too many instances of misuse, abuse, and lack of observance of applicable law, rules, and regulations in the exercise of these powers. Thus, the contribution of security sector reform so far undertaken through various programmes has not led to the promotion, and, much less, the achievement of sustainable peace in the country.
Moreover, the continuing influence of the military (and the police) in politics in particular are likely to shape security sector reform and governance in the Philippines.
An examination of the reform efforts affecting the uniformed services would show that they are mostly related to the discharge of the main mission of core security sector actors, such as the Philippine Defense Reform (PDR) programme in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) whose main targets include the enhancement of the capacity of the AFP to move, shoot, and communicate, abilities that are so essential to what is seen as the AFP’s main mission in the short to medium term which is counterinsurgency.
Finally, how does one reform the highest officials of the land? The President as Commander-in-Chief of the AFP also has wide and deep powers over appointments in the AFP, the PNP, the executive and judicial branches of government, as well as the constitutional bodies. How does one reform the politicians who succeed in elections and later on occupy executive and legislative as well as oversight positions? Might a good option be to train the staff of legislative and other oversight bodies in the hope that they might influence their principals?
Thus, much is left to be desired about the state of security sector reform and governance in the Philippines. The task is not the government’s alone. It is as much the government’s as it is of everyone in civil society.
Carolina G. Hernandez, PhD
Founding President and Chair, Board of Directors, Institute for Strategic and Development Studies.
Chair of the GFN-SSR Advisory Group
A more extensive version of this paper is available here.
The Document Library contains links to a number of SSR related documents either focussing specifically on SSR in The Philippines looking at the country alongside others as a case study. A selection of these are listed below: