Even with a few months left in Duterte’s official term, he continues to give huge favors to his armed agents, especially to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He often calls them “my soldiers” when he visits their camps, when he incites them to kill or rape, and when he prioritized them to be inoculated. Duterte favored them primarily by lining up their pockets and giving them power.
Serving as foundation of Duterte’s terrorist reign, the military and police are continuously being beefed-up and strengthened. There are now approximately 400,000 soldiers and other state security forces, way more than the 347,000 when his presidency began. The regime also increased the number of CAFGU elements, which it targeted to bring to 79,000 last 2020. In 2015, there were only 56,000 paramilitary elements in the country. The AFP currently has 190 generals while the Philippine National Police (PNP) has 146.
Duterte is increasing the number of military personnel in a desperate attempt to end the armed revolution. In 2016, the Philippine Army which is the biggest branch of the AFP only had 81,000 personnel distributed in 87 maneuver battalions. The 88th IB was deployed in October 2017 as the first among 20-35 battalions which Duterte sought to establish. The 99th IB, one of the newest battalions, is currently stationed at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija
US funds and control
It was easy for Duterte to carry out his plans as these were funded by the US. From 2016-2019, the regime received a total of ₱27.2 billion in military aid. This included the ₱13.1 billion worth of weapons and military equipment. The regime is set to receive an additional ₱9.8 billion in aid this year.
Among those funded by the US was the establishment of the 11th ID in 2018 which currently covers the islands and seas of Sulu and is targeted to be filled with 4,500 personnel. Part of this is the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the Philippine Army which was patterned after the military structure of the US and is directly funded by it. It operates with complete aerial support, cannons, armored personnel carrier, and others. The 11th ID and BCTs are directed by the US under the pretext of conducting military exercises.
The regime also established a Cyber Battalion of the army which focuses on attacks using the internet.
In line with Duterte’s aligning with China, the AFP also received Chinese military aid. This includes 6,000 Norinco rifles which the regime received in 2016. As part of its rivalry with the US, China is exerting efforts to influence AFP officials to counter the US’ control over the military. It is evident that there is now a pro-China faction in the AFP which believes in the growing power of China in the region, or benefits from kickbacks from anomalous public contracts and receives favor from Chinese drug and smuggling syndicates.
Rewarding the butchers
Since 2016, Duterte has pushed salary increases for his soldiers and police. He was able to gain their loyalty by doubling the monthly salary of regular troops up to generals. The basic salary of new soldiers (₱29,668) is higher by ₱6,000 compared to the entry-level salary of public school teachers. Meanwhile, the monthly basic pay of nurses remain at ₱22,000-₱24,000. The increase was implemented to attract more recruits. However, AFP branches have yet to achieve their recruitment targets.
On top of this, soldiers and police receive various allowances and benefits for food, clothing, housing and others. Those who participate in operations and combat receive additional allowances. Their take home pay is relatively higher as they are not obliged to contribute to national pension funds unlike other government employees.
Officials receive separate allowances. Captains receive an additional ₱7,000 while the highest ranking general receives ₱35,000. This excludes rewards given to soldiers who are decorated with medals which can reach up to ₱100,000 monthly.
These are still minimal compared to huge rewards given by the regime to generals in exchange for their support. Duterte placed military officials in key government positions after retiring, favoring particularly generals who were previously deployed in Davao. Retired military officials occupy at least 12 positions in his cabinet, in addition to those with lower positions.
Generals aggrandize themselves with public funds. In his attempt to control the flow of illegal drugs and contrabands into the country, he immediately placed a retired military official to head Bureau of Customs (BOC) when he sat in power. When the attempt of former BOC chief Nicanor Faeldon to smuggle ₱6.5 billion worth of shabu was botched, Duterte replaced him with two other former generals.
He also appointed three former military and police officials to successively head the Bureau of Corrections to control the operations of druglords inside prison compounds.
In 2017, millions of pesos are believed to have been pocketed by Duterte’s generals by securing the procurement of the warships for the Philippine Navy. Even Duterte himself is involved in the anomalous ₱16-billion contract. His generals have also benefited from Duterte’s termination of rival government officials under the pretext of the “war on corruption” and “war on drugs.”
(The second part of the article will be published in the next issue.)