Friday, August 15, 2008

Why most soldiers have lost the will to fight

The slow and painful death of Marine Cpl. Angelo Abeto in the battlefield in Basilan, as recounted by GMA 7 reporter Jiggy Manicad, is an eye-opener.

It gives the public a first-hand view of why the military is losing the war against enemies of the state: The foot soldier’s welfare is the least of the government’s concern.

Soldiers, as well as policemen in far-flung areas, have lost their will to fight because of low morale. Low morale is caused by the perception that they are being fed to the dogs by corrupt government officials.

Abeto would have lived if he had been immediately evacuated by helicopter from the battlefield, which he cried for as he lay wounded.

“Ang sakit ng ulo ko! Hindi ako makahinga! (I have a terrible headache! I can’t breathe!) Medevac! Medevac!” Manicad recounted Abeto as shouting.

“Medevac” is the military acronym for medical evacuation or transportation by either ambulance or helicopter from the battlefield.

A military helicopter came all right for Abeto, but it was too late. He died on the way to the hospital.

There are many Abetos in Mindanao and other places where soldiers and policemen are fighting the New People’s Army and Moro guerrillas.

That’s why soldiers and policemen don’t fight as they used to many years ago, because the government does not attend to their medical needs when they’re wounded.

Wounded soldiers, who are lucky enough to be brought to the V. Luna Medical Center in Manila, run out of luck at the hospital.

At V. Luna, soldier-patients are told to buy their own medicines as the hospital pharmacy doesn’t have enough stock. They are told they will be reimbursed later.

To a typical soldier who lives a hand-to-mouth existence, buying his own medicine is like telling a waitress to dip into her pocket to give the customer his change as the restaurant cashier doesn’t have the cash yet.

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When my father was in the military service in the late 1940s up to his retirement in 1970, soldiers fought hard in the battlefield because they were given the best possible medical attention at the various military station hospitals and, in severe cases, at the Camp Crame hospital and V. Luna.

Also during the time of my old man, soldiers’ families were given the best possible care by military doctors assigned in every camp.

At that time, soldiers dreaded retirement as they and their dependents would be losing free medical treatment and hospitalization. They retired after serving 30 or more years.

Now, soldiers are retiring en masse when they reach 20 years of service.

By Ramon Tulfo, On Target, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 08/14/2008

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