Country Listing

Philippines Table of Contents


Recruitment and Personnel

The combined strength of the four armed services at the end of 1990 was approximately 153,500. The army had some 68,000 troops, the constabulary 45,000, the air force 15,500, and the navy 25,000, including about 8,000 in the marines and 2,000 in the coast guard. After rapid growth during the 1970s, when armed forces strength trebled, total military strength remained relatively stable in the 1980s. (There were 155,000 personnel in the Philippine military in 1980.) With a relatively youthful population, maintaining the strength of the armed forces was not a drain on human resources. More than 8 million men were of military age, between eighteen and thirty-two. Military strength per capita was only 2.5 per 1,000 population, lower than nearly all the country's Asian neighbors.

Although universal service was mandatory, the Armed Forces of the Philippines was a de facto volunteer force. The 1980 National Service Law provided the legal basis for conscription and required all citizens--male and female--to perform service in the military, civic welfare, or law enforcement agencies. However, the law was never fully implemented. Conscription was not necessary during the 1980s because volunteers greatly outnumbered available slots. Despite the inherent danger of military service during the fight against the communist insurgency, limited employment opportunities for unskilled young adults ensured an abundant supply of volunteers. The armed forces had no recruiting apparatus; units instead recruited locally to fill vacancies. Potential recruits had to be eighteen years old, unmarried, and possess a high school diploma.

Officers were commissioned from three major sources. Regular officers were commissioned from the prestigious Philippine Military Academy, which produced 15 percent of all officers. Some 65 percent were graduates of Citizen Military Training, formerly the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Most received reserve commissions, whereas some, called "integrees," were integrated into the regular officer corps. Enlisted personnel who completed Officer Candidate School accounted for some 18 percent of all officers. The other 2 percent of officers received direct commissions as medical or legal professionals or graduated from foreign military academies. Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) did not constitute the professional corps found in most Western armies and were only marginally involved in leadership and decision making.

Ethnic and linguistic differences were important in the military. Local recruiting ensured that personnel were drawn from all sections of the country, but certain regions were disproportionately represented. The majority of military personnel spoke Tagalog and were from the heartland of central and southern Luzon. Despite continuing efforts to increase the number of Muslims in the military, Moros from the southern Philippines were underrepresented. Traditionally, Ilocanos from northern Luzon comprised a disproportionate share of officer and enlisted ranks. This emphasis was especially true under Marcos, who tended to promote fellow Ilocanos to positions of power in the armed forces and police. Because of this tendency--shared by previous presidents--the 1987 constitution directs that the "armed forces shall be recruited proportionately from all provinces and cities as far as practicable." Although language and dialect compelled people from the same region to associate with one another, these groups were not so exclusive that they formed significant factions.

A variety of internal divisions plagued the officer corps in the late 1980s. The most significant rifts essentially were political--between those who supported the government and those who advocated its overthrow. The military-sparked popular revolt against Marcos and the subsequent series of uprisings against Aquino brought military leaders into direct, sometimes bloody, conflict. A variety of military factions and fraternal groups, including RAM, Young Officers' Union, and Marcos loyalists, emerged as important antigovernment players (see Political Role , this ch.). In an effort to contain the influence of these groups, the government ordered military fraternal organizations disbanded in 1987. However, through clandestine contacts, RAM, the Young Officers' Union, and Marcos loyalists orchestrated the 1989 coup attempt with the support of three generals. These groups remained active in 1991, criticizing government and military leaders and threatening another coup attempt. Their activities continued to undermine the authority of the military chain of command.

Following the 1989 coup attempt, the president's military adviser, a retired army commander, attributed the involvement of so many junior leaders to a "generational gap" in the armed forces between mostly loyal senior officers and the more rebellions junior ranks. He credited younger officers' better education for the tendency of some, like those in the Young Officers' Union, to become more involved in politics and to question the directives of their superiors.

Frictions created by perceived inequity in the military's personnel system also dogged the officer corps. Although the divisive Marcos-era practice of extending generals beyond their scheduled retirement was discontinued in 1986, other controversial practices continued under Aquino. Officers with reserve commissions--the majority of the officer corps-- complained that the personnel system favored regular officers, especially Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates. Although past regimes, such as Marcos's, had advanced ROTC graduates, nearly all top generals under Aquino were academy alumni. Bond between PMA graduates, especially classmates, tended to perpetuate this favoritism. In 1986 reservists formed an organization similar to the PMA alumni association to promote their interests. The presidentially appointed Davide Commission investigating the causes of the 1989 coup attempt identified another source of discontent--the role of personal ties in promotions and assignments. Observers noted that the patronclient ties and personal loyalties that were typical of Philippine society were perhaps the biggest factor in officers' career prospects.

Women belonged to a separate Women's Auxiliary Corps in each of the services. Except for Officer Candidate School, they were trained separately. Women were assigned to a limited number of specified support positions and were a relatively small part of the total force.

Data as of June 1991

Country Listing

Philippines Table of Contents