Clarita Carlos speaks during The Outstanding Filipino Awards Laureates Summit at a hotel in Quezon City on Jan. 17, 2023. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN Clarita Carlos speaks during The Outstanding Filipino Awards Laureates Summit at a hotel in Quezon City on Jan. 17, 2023. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

The sacking of the NSA and the takeover by the generals Featured

JUST recently, one of the more qualified Cabinet members was sacked by the President. Speculations are rife as to what triggered this singular act: from appeasing the restive military in the wake of the Duterte law that fixed the tenure of senior generals to the call for courtesy resignations from 953 PNP officials, to the recent demise of Joma Sison, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder, and the need to expiate the Dutertes, particularly Sara who had her eye on the defense portfolio and therefore in lieu of it, the reinstatement of the Duterte generals — all fueled by "Marites" and conspiracy theories.

But those who appreciate the workings of this government and Malacañang politics know better. For the military mindset overarching the country's security, defense and foreign affairs, and more importantly the Philippine patriarchal social system where men hold positions of dominance, Clarita Carlos is simply an outsider. And she's a strong woman, complicated further by a quick and smart mouth attached to a sharp mind, period! Such combinations are anathema to the machismos encircling BBM. Women broke the glass ceiling in a couple of departments. Not at the National Security Council (NSC). That's military turf.


Carlos, the only woman to head the NSC, advised the President on security and foreign policy issues. It is a collegial body chaired by BBM himself, with other Cabinet members, congressmen, including those invited by the President as members. Carlos as the director-general headed the secretariat providing technical support to the council proper. The members fancy themselves as alter egos of BBM, which in essence they are, except with bloated appreciation of their own.

It is unfortunate that national security, protection of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity are deemed exclusive proprietary tasks of the military. Carlos' impeccable qualifications include a stint as president of the Philippine National Defense College, where many of these generals, admirals and colonels pass through as her students, perforce creating for her a wide network. But a stronger adhesive binds these senior uniformed men forged in the fields of the Philippine Military Academy. Carlos is simply not one of the boys.

Thus, from the very start, she was the interloper. With her enthusiasm and academic joie de vivre she hit the ground running. An independent woman of modest means and bred for 56 years in the jaded halls of the academe, she was a tyro to the arcana of political bureaucratic life with still unsharpened political talons required for the rough and tumble world of real-politique.

It did not help her cause that even before warming her seat at the NSC, she dove right into controversy at the National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), the Duterte anti-communist creation. Although Carlos was right in urging the NTF-Elcac to desist from"red-tagging" as that militaristic approach to counterinsurgency "never works" — this was a big no-no!

Her earlier off-the-cuff pronouncements redefining security to include, food, environment and incongruously "bamboo-planting," enthusiastically egged on by allies in social media, were seen as an attempt to expand her turf encroaching into other line departments' concerns. This fueled suspicions that Carlos was transplanting her perceived UP leftist-liberal mindset to the clearly rightist environment of the NSC.

Then the knives came out. In mid-July, a letter written by NSC employees was sent to the President containing a menu of grievances: Carlos populating the upper echelon with her former top UP students, bereft of credentials; employing one known in the intelligence community as a Chinese asset and a security risk; Carlos was accused of delegating too much to these acolytes now cloaked with authority and power, upsetting the cultural and collective personality of the organization. But BBM had her back — at least, for now.

Carlos ascendancy

BBM, who was never academically predisposed, did not know Carlos. At that notable presidential debate at SMNI. Carlos' questioning about how each presidentiable, as future architects of Philippine foreign policy, would treat Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) alliance was the turning point.

Most respondents were unfamiliar with the topic at hand. Norberto Gonzales, who could have excelled having once been NSA himself and onetime Defense secretary, mumbled with a short 50-second answer.

The rest were off-tangent, except for BBM, who was given leading follow-up questions from Claire, an excellent professor applying faultless classroom manners — inadvertently giving him some slack and a leg up.

This non-debate was forgettable but not Carlos who was impressive in her role as moderator. She ruled the roost, primed her feathers showcasing her wide knowledge and expertise and perhaps the only person who understood and grasped the concepts of foreign policy, defense and security, exposing the wannabees' illiteracy. It was a Claire Carlos show! Her subsequent post-debate presence in mass and social media invested her with star quality, setting her squarely in BBM's sights. But hubris, nonetheless.

Implications for BBM

Today she's out, a victim of presidential whim swayed by decisions taken in reaction to realities he should have been in control of but wasn't. Consider these Keystone Cops scenarios.

BBM in August 2022 fired AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino and installed Centino's PMA '88 classmate Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro. Three-star General Bacarro was slated to be given the first fixed three-year term, but couldn't due to the still active floating four-star General Centino, retiring only on Feb. 4, 2023 after Gen. Bacarro's own retirement. Instead, five months later, BBM fired Bacarro and reinstalled Centino.

The reason for this revolving chair is the Duterte-era law RA 11709 prescribing a fixed three-year term for senior military officials, discontinuing the decades-long practice allowing AFP chiefs to serve shorter terms of months, accommodating their seniority.

But the law was to take effect in April 2023 — after the retirement dates of General Bacarro, but before General Centino. The Defense department officer in charge Jose Faustino Jr. was not consulted. He resigned. BBM then appointed retired general Carlito Galvez as Defense secretary.

It is known in some quarters that Galvez was not happy with Carlos as NSC. Replacing her with retired Gen. Edurdo Año, a former Duterte AFP chief and interior secretary, was a no-brainer. Whatever the reasons, Carlos was no match for the Duterte generals back in the helm of the country's security and defense portfolio.

The cabal's alibi that all these appeased the grumblings in the ranks, including Carlos as collateral damage, is frivolous, yet BBM unsurprisingly wryly corroborated: "Secretary Carlos, I think she found that position to be a little bit political. Kasi hindi talaga siya sanay sa ganon at she is an academic, a retired academic." As a sop, she was offered to head the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD), a minor post. Bruised and beaten, she was loyal to the boss, to the end.

With the Duterte generals back at the helm, the conspiracy theorists and Marites are having a field day. In social media, "revolutionary government and junta," ideas that waned during Duterte's closing years are back in fashion. Perhaps the son of a dictator, who loves to spend time abroad with his barkada, may need to hunker down and be more serious in his governance.


Read 289 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 January 2023 10:28
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