Oban: 'Our reform agenda have taken root'
(Editor's Note: This is the text of the speech delivered by outgoing Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban when he turned over command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa on December 12, 2011.)
It all started in this very same grandstand, when on April Fool's Day of 1974, we were herded together for our trip to the Philippine Military Academy, and there began my journey of life in the military service. As I end it today, the 37 long years I wisely spent didn’t feel that long. Truly, when we have a good thing going, time flies so fast that before we know it, it’s gone.
Among the many good things in our country, is the opportunity to render personal military service. It may be fraught with danger, but it certainly didn’t stop the more than 125,000 strong-willed Filipinos who now comprise the Armed Forces, and thousands more, waiting to be called to active duty. I believe that in the heart of every Filipino, there is a yearning to become a soldier, an attestation that love of country is a virtue very much alive in the Armed Forces.
I therefore consider it my good fortune to have joined the AFP, an organization like no other, where we have voluntarily given up some of our rights, for the sake of the greater good, for the greater number of people. That is why we are called a service organization, because the reason for our existence is to render service to our fellowmen.
Just being in the Armed Forces gives me great joy; being designated as the Chief of Staff however, created such a profound sense of pride and happiness that only 41 officers before me have known. I realized how distinct an honor and privilege that was, because just like the presidency, only one can become Chief of Staff. After a few days, the gravity of that designation dawned on me: that I alone, bear the responsibility of what happens to the AFP under my watch.
I started my post as Chief of Staff amidst a cloud of gloom, brought by a survey that perceived the AFP to be the most corrupt agency in government. We were hit where it hurt the most, the honor and integrity of the AFP, for without these values, our Armed Forces cannot muster the moral courage so essential in the profession of arms. Every soldier reeled painfully under this false accusation, and thus, every soldier committed himself to turn this perception around.
From general headquarters down to the lowest ranking foot soldier, we worked doubly hard on our continuing efforts to reform our organization, and remove every vestige of corruption in our ranks. And as I step down today, I can proudly say, that we have succeeded in re strengthening unto ourselves, the values of honesty and integrity, the basic ingredients that make us proud members of the AFP.
Kaya kong ipagmalaki sa ating mga kababayan, na walang magnanakaw sa ating hukbong sandatahan.
Mr President, the reforms we have continues, as we march together with you sa ating matuwid na daan. We understand that our quest for lasting peace can only be attained if all our efforts are founded on good governance. Our 18 point reform agenda have taken root, ensuring more deliberate procurement planning and programming, more transparent procurement process, and more efficient logistics management. We have strengthened the capabilities of our Inspector General, our internal auditors, and our Provost Marshall, if only to send the message that we mean business, in the business of reforms.
When I assumed as Chief of Staff, our personnel fill-up stood at 96%. With the observation that personnel vacancies can be corrupted through the so called “ghost” soldiers, we have intensified selective recruitment, so that today, as i leave the Armed Forces, personnel fill up stands at 99%. The remaining one percent, ang incoming Chief of Staff na po ang pupuno. Mahal na pangulo, tinitiyak ko, wala pong multo sa inyong mga sundalo.
With our government’s resolve to end all internal conflict and achieve lasting peace, we your soldiers are inspired by the outpouring of support that we have received for IPSP Bayanihan. The whole of nation approach has allowed us to work with all sectors in the realization that the quest for peace cannot be left to the Armed Forces alone. The tools of war can never be the instruments of lasting peace. In building roads, schoolbuildings, health centers, water systems, and the like, we enjoyed our partnership with countless agencies and organizations. We pray that the friendships formed will bring even greater partnerships in the future.
The IPSP Bayanihan will undergo refinements as it reaches its first year on Jan 2012. The review will be participated in by all its stakeholders, including civil society organizations. We have recently met with them, and we welcome this critical partnership for the varying perspectives they provide. We have had a good year with IPSP Bayanihan. By working with all sectors in its refinement, we expect an even better second year for our peace and security plan.
On our external front, my term as Chief of Staff was made more exciting by the advent of the so called Pacific Century, with the world’s great powers showing keen interest in areas that are right in our own backyard. Given this, the AFP’s mandates of securing our territorial integrity, and ensuring our sovereignty remain non-negotiable. Hence we have taken bold steps to upgrade our defense capabilities.
We are completing work on our Coast Watch System, designed to give us a good situational picture of our highly maritime domain. But even if we know whats out there, if our equipment will not work in battle, it won’t make much difference how much else our sailors know. Hence, our capability upgrades, which include the arrival of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, which will be commissioned together with a proudly Philippine made navy transport ship, on Dec 14, a day after my retirement.
Of course, all these, and much more, could not have happened without the intense interest of our Commander in Chief in his Armed Forces. Just 18 months into his presidency, we have already received P18.9B to modernize the Armed Forces, more than half of what we got from our previous 15-year AFP modernization program. Maraming salamat mahal na pangulo, for looking into our fighting conditions,.. And our living conditions…
Of the President’s Pabahay program, the total application processed by the National Housing Authority now stands at 8,270. Para sa mga sundalo, isang masidhing pangarap ang magkabahay, kaya dahil dito, mahigit walong libong “wish ko lang” ang natupad. Maraming salamat po, mahal na pangulo.
Mr President, sa dami ng gusto kong banggitin, baka lumampas po ako ng retirement day dito. So may I just respectfully present to His Excellency, my Tour Of Duty report as the 42nd Chief of Staff of the AFP. It is my belief that in every page, you will see the faces of our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines, for without them, there will be no such accomplishments to present.
(CSAFP presents his TOD to the President)
I liken my Tour of Duty report to a footprint that marks how things have been under my watch. But in as much as it is likewise a command responsibility to shape the future of the Armed Forces, we have crafted a document on our proposed force structure of the Armed Forces. This is a product of a long and comprehensive consultation process involving various units at all levels of command, that we may present an AFP organizational structure responsive to current and evolving concerns.
Mr President, may I therefore have the honor of presenting to our President and Commander in Chief, our Force Development Program, triggered by our future organizational structure, the blueprint of the AFP of tomorrow.
With both my footprint and blueprint submitted, I now let go of the reigns of our Armed Forces.
I wish the best to our incoming Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Jessie D Dellosa AFP. It is with great confidence that I hand over to you the leadership of the AFP, knowing fully well that it shall prosper under your care. As you hit the ground running, I share the faith of the entire Armed Forces in your capability to lead it to even greater heights of success.
I thank and praise our Lord, from whom all good things come, for the blessing of life, and the opportunity to lead our fellowmen. I pray for your continuing blessing and guidance, to the men and women I shall leave behind, and to me and my family, as we move on and face another blessing of our lives.
I thank, from the bottom of my heart, our President, for believing in me, and inspiring me to move on, especially during those dark moments when lives of our soldiers were lost in the field. As your Chief of Staff, these losses are as personal to me as they are to the families of our fallen heroes. And whenever the bells toll, they toll not only for the fallen, but for us who remain standing, diminished as we are by their loss.
To our Secretary of National Defense, the Hon. Voltaire Gazmin, I thank you for the wisdom of your counsel and the confidence you instill in us, simply by just being there.
To the officers, men, and civilian employees of the Armed Forces, salamat sa inyong lahat. Dalawang beses ko lang kayo gustong makasama, now and forever. I will not miss you as I go, dahil kayo ay nakaukit sa aking puso. As I go, let us remember always, what matters most in the profession of arms: honor, courage, integrity.
Mga kasama, gusto kong ipagmalaki natin na hindi ako nagbago. Sa posisyon ng Chief of Staff, pumasok ako na Oban, at lalabas pa rin na Oban, walang baon.
To the love of my life Toton, and my son Tobit, after I sign my relinquishment orders, I am all yours. Gusto ko gawin yung di natin nagawa nang ako ay Chief of Staff, ang mag Jollibee. In the many hours that I have spent in my office, I realize that, at the end of the day, nobody ever said, I wish I spent more time in the office. It’s always I wish I spent more time at home.
Sa inyong lahat, paalam, mahalin natin ang nag-iisa nating Hukbong Sandatahan, na patuloy na nagmamahal sa nag-iisa nating bayan. Mabuhay ang ating Hukbong Sandatahan! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay tayong lahat!
I shall now sign my relinquishment orders.