MANILA, Philippines -- A 2014 target for the members of the Philippine Army to leave their non-traditional job of controlling internal security threats is not an ambitious plan for their chief, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
A son of a decorated soldier who died rallying for peace, Bautista told ANC’s Pipol that the plan is achievable “if we can get our acts together as a country.”
He is referring to the Army’s campaign plan to end internal conflict by 2016. Two years prior, however, there should already be a substantial achievement “so we can start transitioning to our traditional role.”
He said internal conflicts, those dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People’s Army (NPA), is not part of the “traditional job” of a soldier. He said they should really be dealing with external threats and helping communities in times of disasters.
Bold words to describe a 40-year-old conflict. Bautista knows his, however, especially with a difficult background that would otherwise push another to do the contrary.
His father, Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista lost his life in the hands of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) even if he had then come bearing gifts of peace.
Lured into talks for a ceasefire, he and 34 other colleagues went to face MNLF rebels unarmed.
The senior Bautista was killed during a peace mission in the infamous October 10, 1977 massacre in Sulu. They were ruthlessly gunned down by the rebels led by Usman Sali.
The Army chief was only 19 then. “I went straight to Villamor Airbase to receive his remains…it only motivated me to finish [my training and studies at the Philippine Military Academy].”
Avenging his father’s death lurked in his mind, but it was the legacy of peace that shrouded his career until today.
“I had to complete the legacy of my father…He gave up his life to pursue the agenda for peace…I remember him saying, we’re all Filipino brothers, we don’t have to kill each other,” he said.
He remembers both his parents did not even want him to join the military. Fast forward to today and several medals thereafter, Bautista knew he had a job to finish.
He never thought of his father as being naïve in facing the MNLF unarmed.
“I saw in him the necessity to reach out…He knew the risks, but he took it just the same,” he said.
In November last year, he became the youngest to become head of the Philippine Army. He even beat around 10 leading contenders to the post.
He admits the country is still fighting the same war. This is why he wants the members of the MILF and the NPA to remain on the negotiating table.
“A lot of people have given their lives for peace…I feel like we have to do something for all those who came before us and those who deserve peace,” Bautista said.