A Study of Corruption in the Philippine Navy

by | Oct 10, 2001 | Policy, Research and Other Articles


On 26 May 2001, Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped 20 persons from Dos Palmas, an upscale resort in Palawan. The next day, a joint task force was formed to conduct pursuit operations (PDI, 27 May 2001). On 28 May, a reconnaissance plane spotted the kidnappers’ group aboard three boats approaching the Mapun Island Group (MIG)(PDI, 28 May 2001). Immediately, four navy patrol crafts were dispatched to conduct a naval blockade on the island. Then finally on 31 May, Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya claimed that they have slipped through the naval blockade and are now in Sulu and Basilan (PDI, 31 May 2001). Presidential Spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao quickly forgave the Navy for its ineffectiveness when he said: “the gunmen’s boats had top speeds of 40 knots, way beyond the capability of the Philippine Navy. Using that type of craft they would have eaten up the wide expanse of Sulu Sea between Palawan and Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi (Mapun) in five hours” (PDI, 28 May 2001). Tiglao further stressed: “The biggest problem really is the Philippine Navy has few patrol boats. There are plans to increase the number of these patrol boats” (PDI, 28 May 2001). These statements coming from the presidential spokesperson clearly signified three things: First, the cluelessness of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) Administration regarding the true situation on the ground and its total reliance on sanitized information given by the AFP leadership; Second, its ignorance of the capabilities of its navy; Lastly, the GMA Administration’s penchant for tolerating grossly incompetent acts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in this case the Navy, due to her political indebtedness to it for being primarily responsible for installing her as President of the Republic.

The kidnappers actually used motor launches (lancha) that run a measly 12 knots as seen by the Air Force reconnaissance plane and reported to the Western Command. This probably explains why the kidnappers reportedly took two days (and not five hours as Tiglao said) to travel from Dos Palmas to MIG. Besides, the kumpit (fast motor boats used by smugglers in the South), while it is true that it can run up to 40 knots (without load), it is never used for prolonged sorties as it easily runs out of fuel. Its reported fuel consumption is approximately 500 liters per hour at the speed of 40 knots. For it to traverse Dos Palmas to Mapun and eventually to Basilan, they would need space for at least 10 drums of fuel aside from the space that the kidnappers and hostages would occupy. For a sleek boat, which measures no more than 60 feet, this is impossible unless they had a convoy of at least five kumpits, which is totally unheard of, and costs around P25 million.

The four navy patrol crafts should have successfully blockaded MIG, which only has a land area of approximately 30 square nautical miles (n.mi.), had they been deployed correctly. Each craft has a navigational/surface search radar that has an effective scanning radius of six n.mi.. This means that if properly positioned, the four patrol crafts’ radar sweeps should have overlapped at least at the middle, thus covering the whole MIG up to three n.mi. off the coastlines. However, as it happened the Task Group Commander in charge of the blockade, relying heavily on intelligence reports, positioned all four crafts 1 n.mi. off Tandatao Point of Mapun mainland at 500-yard intervals, thus minimizing their surface search capabilities. The Naval Special Warfare Group team that landed in the area supposedly to rescue the hostages, found out that indeed one of the boats used was anchored near Tandatao Point, but the kidnappers’ group was either in Pamelikan Island or Binlut Island, the northern islands of MIG andboth were way beyond radar range from where the crafts were positioned thus, enabling the group to slip off to Basilan.

The escape of the Abu Sayyaf through the naval blockade was one tactical blunder that caused great humiliation and enormous costs to the country. To be simply ignored and forgiven by the President (through Tiglao’s statement) was a display of weakness as a Commander-in-Chief of the AFP. But the President could not have been that stupid and weak, as this gesture had showed. Thus, it is rather safe to conclude that, as mentioned earlier, it was her political indebtedness and fear of the AFP that prevented her from imposing sanctions lest she suffers the same fate as former President Joseph Estrada through another ‘withdrawal of support’ by the AFP. These unfortunate political concessions, first demonstrated in the case of Rear Admiral Guillermo G. Wong AFP during the Philippine Navy leadership crisis that occurred in February 2001 (to be discussed later in this paper), while it would favor certain officers, could further deteriorate the Navy, and the AFP.

While it would seem that the incident cited above has dwelt more on incompetence and ineffectiveness, this paper will show that this is just one manifestation of the ill effects of corruption in the Navy. More specifically, how corruption made this incident even possible in the first place.

Through the years, the Navy top brass have always raised the issues of obsolescence and shortage of operating assets of the fleet to cover for the Navy’s ineffectiveness. But is this really the case? Or, is it simply caused by an institutionalized corruption that exists in all levels and in all areas of the organization? If so, then what is the cost? How could this problem be solved? These are the questions that this paper intends to answer.

In going about the discussion, a brief look at the history of the Navy will be necessary to appreciate its importance and relevance to the country. Other basic facts about the organization will also be laid down to provide the necessary backdrop to the main subject of the paper.



The Insurgent Navy

The Philippine Navy traces its roots way back to the Philippine Revolution against Spain with the handover by the Americans of a captured Spanish steam pinnace to General Emilio Aguinaldo on 20 May 1898. The vessel was renamed Magdalo and emerged as the first watercraft of the navy. Soon, several other merchant ships donated by patriots were added to form a nascent fleet. The Insurgent Navy was instrumental to the revolutionary cause through its conduct of basic naval operations, such as troop deployments and arms shipments. The first successful amphibious assault against a Spanish garrison was even spearheaded by the Magdalo at Bacoor Bay on 26 May 1898. Its effectiveness went on throughout the Filipino-American War. However, after the capture of President Aguinaldo on 23 March 1901, the insurgent navy disintegrated. (Zulueta, 1998: 20)

The Off-Shore Patrol

The Navy was reborn with the creation of the Off-Shore Patrol (OSP) on 14 April 1938. A few patrol crafts and three high-speed torpedo boats, also known as Q-boats, were the pioneers of this force. They were intended to form part of a nucleus of 55 Q- boats that would repel enemy amphibious landings as General Douglas McArthur had envisioned. But before the acquisition of more Q-boats, war had broken out. As a consequence, the OSP was relegated to other roles such as, troop insertions, intelligence operations, and ferry missions. Though they had a few skirmishes with Japanese Navy ships and warplanes, after the fall of Bataan on 8 April 1942, all ships of the OSP had to be scuttled. (Giagonia, 1997: 147)

The Post-War Navy

After World War II, the country had a surplus of war materiel given by the US. Among these were 83 ships of various types. Thus, the OSP was reorganized and upgraded into the Philippine Naval Patrol, to become a major command of the AFP. On 23 December 1950, through E.O. 389, the Philippine Naval Patrol was renamed as the Philippine Navy. (Giagonia, 1997: 245)

For the next four decades, the Navy experienced a confluence of events and performed various roles in furtherance of national security interests and national development. In the 1950s, the significant roles were to conduct counter insurgency operations against the Hukbalahap and ferry missions during the Korean War. These were followed by the anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations in Sulu, where the Navy was credited for destroying the network of illegal operations of the most notorious band of pirates and outlaws, including the dreaded Kamlon. The 1960s were highlighted by activities such as the ferry missions during the Vietnam War and by the bilateral and multilateral naval exercises that further strengthened the Navy’s maritime defense posture in the region. The anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations in the south were also sustained during this era (Giagonia, 1997: 247-272). Throughout the 1970s until the early 1980s, the Navy reverted to its counter-insurgency mode, this time against two fronts, the Muslim secessionists and the communists (Zulueta, 1998: 44). During the 1986 EDSA Revolt, 85 percent of the Navy joined the rebels led by then-Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and then-AFP Vice-Chief of Staff and Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel V. Ramos. ( Giagonia, 1997: 310)

According to Zulueta: “By the time things were simmering down to a semblance of peace quiet in the early 1990s, the American naval and air forces, stung by the Philippine Senate’s rejection of a treaty that would have prolonged their stay in the Philippines, were leaving in a huff. Suddenly, the Philippines saw its ‘surrogate’ navy and air force heading for the gates of Subic and Clark, leaving the resident highly anxious about its national defense.” (Zulueta, 1998: 46)

Commodore Jose Francisco, former Field Officer-in-Charge, commenting on the American withdrawal, aptly stated, “All throughout the years the Americans were here, we had the military assistance agreement with them and logistical support from them, and all that the government had to do was pay our salaries. What happened was that we had an indigestion. We knew it would not last, but when it did end, we were at a loss” (Zulueta, 1998: 46). Rightly so, among the benefits the Navy had when the US baseswere still around were: the US  Military Assistance Program (USMAP), the equipment hand-me-down program of the US; the Foreign Military Sales (FMS), part of the bases rental fees are channeled back to the AFP for the purchase of surplus US military hardware or ship repair packages; use of floating drydock and other facilities; foreign training programs and technical consultations; and the security blanket for external threats. (The latter could arguably be considered a benefit since it may be due to this dependence, the Philippine Navy never got to prepare to become an independent and credible navy by the time the Americans left.)



The Navy today has for its mission, “to conduct prompt and sustained naval operations in support of the AFP’s mission.” (NOQC Naval Orientation Reference Handguide, 1997).


1. Provide naval defense to ensure the sovereignty of the Philippines and to protect the people from external threats

2. Conduct naval operations in support of air and ground operations

3. Conduct maritime law enforcement within the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

4. Promote safety of life at sea and environment protection 5. Assist in national development efforts

Organization (see Annex A)


Personnel1,687 Officers (see Annex B)
10,561 Enlisted Personnel
Marines387 Officers
7,142 Enlisted Personnel
BudgetP6,014,191,000.00 (see Annex C)
Patrol Ships143
Patrol Boats3510
Transport Ships94
Auxiliary Ships82
Patrol Craft3217
Service Craft199
Fixed Wing94

*Operational Readiness:

 Ships: 38.5%

 Aircraft: 42.8%


1. Limited Surface Warfare

2. Naval Gunfire Support

3. Amphibious Warfare

4. Sealift Operations

5. Domestic sea control

6. Search and Rescue

Present Role in Society

The traditional role of any navy is to obtain ‘sea control’ when necessary. Sea control is the ability of a fleet to control certain maritime areas (Mahan, 1885) for whatever purposes it may serve. It involves deployment of naval forces to engage, destroy or repel enemy naval forces, and carries with it the right to forbid passage through capture or destruction (Agudelo, 1994: 25). While the Navy can obtain sea control within our territorial waters, it cannot do so beyond it. This is due to the fact that our fleet could not match up to any of our neighbors’ navies. Thus, the Navy today cannot perform its primary mandated task to provide naval defense to ensure the sovereignty of the Philippines and protect the people from all external threats. With this, the role of the Navy has been relegated to conducting internal security operations and maritime law enforcement. But the Philippines, with its recognition as an archipelagic state where, according to Zulueta, “the islands, waters and other natural features form an intrinsic geographical, economic and political entity,” these roles seemed as paramount to the survival of the state as naval defense. (Zulueta, 1998: 14)

Internal Security Operations (ISO) involve naval gunfire support, amphibious and sealift operations. These are defined in an operations plan and are often conducted in conjunction with air and ground forces. For the past decades, the Navy had been very active in this role in support of counter-insurgency operations. On the other hand, Maritime Law Enforcement (MARLEN) is actually the primary role of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which was separated from the Navy and transferred to the Department of Transportation and Communication in 1998. However, due to the PCG’s lack of surface assets and also due to the wide expanse of the Philippine waters that include the EEZ, the Navy was deputized by various government agencies to enforce their specific laws. MARLEN involves the conduct of active and passive patrols to achieve naval presence in areas were illegal activities are perceived to be rampant.

While it is a known fact that several Navy ships are of World War II vintage, most of the boats/crafts that conduct MARLEN operations are new and acquired only in the mid-‘90s. They are highly effective for coastal patrols being armed with 25 millimeter cannons and have maximum speeds of 30 knots.



Corruption, according to Sosmena, is “defined as a dysfunctional and pathological act that negates the accomplishment of its constitutional mandate of promoting public interest” (Sosmena, 1999: 6). While according to Klitgaard, “it is the misuse of a public office for personal gain.” (Sosmena, 1999)

Corruption may be categorized in two ways: individualized or systemic (Carino, 1985: 15). Individualized corruption is where a person performs a secret moneymaking act in relation to his duties as public official or government employee. While systemic corruption is committed in an agency where, according to Caiden, “corruption has become so regularized and institutionalized that organizational supports back wrong- doing and actually penalizes those who live up to the old norms” (Caiden, 1977: 306). Carino says further, that it is “demonstrated when bureaucrats and clients can describe the same illegal process, including such details as bribery rates per service and the way these are shared among the members of the syndicate throughout the agency. Those with ‘initiative’ and ‘daring’ share the largesse with their colleagues with less opportunities, thus engulfing everyone in an administrative culture that tolerates, even idolizes, the fruits of corruption.” (Carino, 1985: 15)


The loci of corruption in the Navy are found in two distinct areas: operational activities, which are ship-based and administrative and support activities, which are shore-based. Ship-based activities include individual Navy ship activities and Naval Task Forces (NTF) directly involved in naval operations. Shore-based activities, meanwhile, include operations or functions of the various staff/support units such as personnel, intelligence, logistics, finance, training, etc. Under these are the various forms of corruption, which are not necessarily peculiar to each.

Ship-based Corruption

Direct Bribery – “Any public officer who shall agree to perform an act constituting a crime, in connection with the performance of his duties, in consideration of any offer, promise, gift or present received by such officer, personally or through mediation of another….” (Art 210 of the Revised Penal Code 1987)

Case Illustration #1

On or about 1600H of 7 June 1995, while patrol ship PS1 was anchored off Sacol Island, Zamboanga while conducting a naval blockade against Abu Sayyaf Group reportedly hiding on the said island, a medium-sized lancha was sighted suspiciously steaming nearby. Upon sensing its possible hostile intentions, the crew of PS1 signaled it to come alongside. The lancha was then inspected and it yielded P11 million worth of smuggled goods. It was also reported that two Navy patrol crafts were sighted approaching the lancha but observed to have reversed their course when the lancha unintentionally went near PS1.

During interrogation aboard PS1, the master patron confessed that they were hired to transport the goods from Sandakan, Malaysia to a designated place near the coast of Zamboanga City. They were further instructed to rendezvous with Navy patrol crafts that will escort them to the drop-off point.

The lancha and its crew were then apprehended and its goods were confiscated.

* This special ‘escort’ arrangement is common to the small patrol crafts assigned in Naval Forces South. The personnel assigned in these crafts are particularly vulnerable to bribes since these are the workhorses of the fleet that conduct MARLEN patrols. The bribe package includes monthly rice and cash incentives for the crew, plus repair expenses for the craft. A utility boy, who also doubles as courier is also provided on behalf of the smuggler.

Case Illustration #2

In August 1999, a patrol gunboat (PG1) along with three other patrol crafts received a directive from NTF61 to conduct naval blockade/MARLEN patrols at designated areas in Sulu Sea, several n.miles off Jolo Island. Also contained in the directive was an intelligence report stating that there will be an attempt to smuggle in assorted firearms and explosives to the island that evening. PG1 and the other crafts then proceeded as ordered and vigilantly kept watch over their designated areas where the Muslim extremists were supposed to pass as stated in the directive. The following morning, the PN boats returned to port empty-handed. A few days later, the NTF61 operations officer invited fellow officers to a drinking spree. There he openly bragged that he just got a payoff amounting to P100,000 from a known big-time smuggler. The payoff was for letting the smugglers pass through a few nights ago without being apprehended, by ensuring that their sea-lanes were cleared of Navy patrol boats. He did so by directing all patrol boats to proceed to their designated areas away from these sea lanes.

*It is common knowledge for Naval intelligence operatives that only small-time smugglers would dare dash their way through the waters of the South. Their merchandise are often blue seal cigarettes, ukay-ukay or small quantities of lumber. However, most of them are armed with machine guns and sometimes have armed escorts. On the other hand, big-time smugglers, pirates and bandits (including the Abu Sayyaf) will never venture out into the Philippine waters unless they are given ‘clearance’ by the Navy, Customs and PNP personnel (the Navy mole in these transactions is usually the operations officer of the NTF). They would not risk losing their valuable merchandise, which include arms, explosives, drugs and other contraband, to a crusading Navy captain patrolling the high seas. Another given fact is that the bulk of the arms supply of the MILF are sea-borne. MILF Commanders use big- time smugglers as fronts to conduct their transshipment operations. This form of bribery is also common in the Quezon province where illegal logging is rampant, and in the Northern coasts of Luzon where all forms of smuggling are being conducted.

Extortion – a crime “committed by means of intimidation of persons, that is, by extorting money from a person. In cases where a law enforcer has apprehended a person committing a crime and the officer demands money from the culprit as the price for not arresting or prosecuting him, even if the latter is willing to give money, there is nevertheless some element of intimidation because of the threat of impending arrest or prosecution. (Aquino, 1987: 427)

Case Illustration #3

On or about 1900H of 14 May 1999, the Commanding Officer (CO) of a patrol gunboat (PG2) assigned in Davao, received an intelligence report stating that a known smuggler will attempt to smuggle contraband that evening to the southern coast of Davao. Immediately, PG2 was off to sea to conduct patrols to intercept the unknown craft. A few hours later, PG2 picked up a radar contact a few miles off their position. As the patrol gunboat approached, the crew noticed that boat was unlighted yet running at a steady speed, an obvious indication of smuggling activity. PG2 then overtook the suspected smuggling boat and conducted inspection. True enough, the boat yielded contraband worth at least P2 million. After the inspection, the patron was invited inside PG2 for interrogation. Present during the investigation were the CO, Executive Officer (EXO), Chief Master At Arms (CMAA), and the patron of the boat. Upon being seated in the wardroom, the CO said to the patron: “Didiretsohin na kita, magbigay ka ng P100,000 at pakakawalan kita.” The patron haggled for a while but eventually agreed. He went back to his boat and after a few minutes, returned to PG2. The patron gave a bag to the CO, who then counted the money inside. Satisfied with the transaction, the CO ordered the boat to be released. The CO then went inside his room with the bag in hand.

* This is a classic example of individualized corruption as defined by Dr. Carino. This is often done by the extreme scalawags of the Navy, which are not few.

Fraud Against Government (Pilferage) – “Any person subject to military law who steals, embezzles, knowingly and willfully misappropriates, applies to his own use or benefit, or wrongfully or knowingly sells or disposes of any ordnance, arms, equipment, ammunition, clothing, subsistence stores, money, or other property of the government furnished or intended for the military services thereof.” (Article of War Nr 95).

Case Illustration #4

In March 1995, the CO of a patrol gunboat PG3 received a directive from the Naval Task Force 71(NTF71) to conduct MARLEN patrol around the waters off Saranggani. The CO then re-provisioned and re-fueled to full tank capacity for the protracted mission. After refueling, PG3 left port. However, when they were already out at sea, instead of conducting MARLEN patrols as directed, the CO instructed the crew to moor their patrol boat to a payaw or fish marker. After securing their patrol boat to the payaw, the CO then ordered to shut off the engine. During this time, the CO was constantly reporting to NTF71 that his craft was continuously patrolling the designated area. After four days of being moored to the payaw, PG3 went back to port. The CO then reported the negative result of his patrol to the NTF71 Commander and then made a phone call to a contact. Early morning the next day, a motor launch went alongside PG3. After a few hours, the motor launch left but not after siphoning 10,000 liters of fuel saved by PG3 during the operation and paying the CO P60,000 as payment at P6/liter.

Shore-based Corruption

Malversation – “Any public officer who, by reason of the duties of his office, is accountable for public funds or property, shall appropriate the same, or shall take or misappropriate or shall consent, or through abandonment or negligence, shall permit any other person to take such public funds, wholly or partially, or shall otherwise be guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property….”(Art 217 Revised Penal Code 1987).

Case Illustration #6

In 1999, patrol gunboat PG4 underwent major repairs that had a budget cost of P50 million. While the vessel was drydocked in Navotas, the Executive Officer found out that the steel plates placed on the hull were below the specifications stated in the work order. He then reviewed the other areas of the work package and discovered that most of the spare parts being installed during the overhauling of the main engines were used ones coming from another gunboat of the same class that had been mothballed. Thus, when he computed the actual cost incurred by the contractor, the total repair package should have been only P5 million. The EXO then went to the Headquarters to complain about the repair irregularities and the grossly overpriced contract; he was surprised to find out that the repair had already been accepted by the Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee six months earlier, which means that the contractor had already been paid even while the repair was still unfinished. Six months later, PG4 completely bogged down right after a send-off ceremony for deployment. It is now programmed for another major repair.

Case Illustration #7

On 22 December 1999 during the Command Christmas Party, the Commander of the Philippine Fleet distributed P450 each to all the personnel in his Command. For a total number of personnel at above 4,000, this would compute to roughly P2 million. Then on January 2000, the Patrol Force (a major unit of Philippine Fleet) prepared documents for the ‘ghost repair’ of an already operational patrol gunboat amounting to P3 million, apparently as payment for the cash advanced by a favored dealer during the said Christmas party.

* Case illustrations # 6 and 7 will show why only 38 percent of the total naval assets are operational. For the Navy top brass to say that the Navy has few patrol boats is of their own undoing. Had these funds for repair (almost P350 million in the present budget) been used properly all these years, there would have been more ships to patrol our waters. A patrol boat with a speed of 20 knots is capable of patrolling an area of almost 3,000 sq n.mi. in a 10-hour patrol. Several boats positioned properly, could project a Naval presence in the vast Philippine waters that would effectively deter outlaws.

Case Illustration #8

The Office of the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff for Personnel, O-N1, among other functions, is the staff in charge of personnel accounting. It listed the total number of active military personnel (officers and EP) at 19,714. This total excludes those assigned at the General Headquarters (GHQ). On the other hand, the Philippine Navy Finance Center (PNFC) is the unit in charge of providing the pay and allowances of personnel. In the PNFC list, the total number of personnel (excluding those assigned in GHQ since their salaries are handled by the AFP Finance Center) is 20,496 or 782 more than O-N1’s total. Simply put, the Navy is paying an additional 782 personnel whose whereabouts are unknown.

*These ‘ghost personnel’ came from those who have left the service through attrition, AWOL, retirement, death, etc., and have not been dropped deliberately from the payroll.

Case Illustration #9

Each officer assigned in the Headquarters of the Philippine Navy (HPN) receives an average of P3,000 monthly as ‘incentive pay.’ To afford this, the HPN prepares documents for ‘ghost deliveries’ also known as ‘conversion.’ At 193 officers, this would amount to almost P600,000 a month.

*This is done in almost all major units that have the authority to procure. Other variations of this are overpricing, under delivery and substitution. This is easily done because of collusion between dealers and all those involved in the procurement process. The COA Auditors turn a blind eye to these irregularities because they receive commissions equivalent to 1-2 percent of the total amount in the purchase orders. A Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report further states that: “After 1991, negotiated deals became the norm, with the AFP going straight to the President for whatever big purchase it wants to make. Nearly all these deals turned disadvantageous — if not downright disastrous — to troops in the end…officers say that corruption has become so pervasive in the AFP that the crooks in their midst have evolved a vocabulary of their own. For instance, one colonel said, ‘cost of money’ means ’the amount a proponent pays to facilitators for making his dreams come true.’ ’Cleared money,’ meanwhile, is ‘money (procurement budget) that has been converted (to other uses), which one could spend anywhere.’ Put another way, it is ‘laundered money,’ he said. Contractors for their part said that the evolving consensus among them is that some service commands are more corrupt than others. Their integrity meter puts the Army on top, followed by General Headquarters, and then the Navy. The Air Force ranks last, they said, for allegedly being the most corrupt. ‘Overpricing’ in the Navy is about 100 to 200 percent”(Mangahas, 2001).


The direct effects of corruption in the Navy on national development are staggering. It affects the economy through the systemic rape of the funds entrusted to it. These include losses from the ghost payroll, ghost repairs, ghost deliveries/conversion, pilferage of fuel, overpriced purchases, etc.

Indirectly, the effects are so much worse. According to Tangco: “Smugglers, poachers and pirates rob the economy of billions in lost revenue and taxes, ultimately sapping the strength of local industries and commerce and often times inflicting serious damage on the natural environment.”(Tangco, 1998: 177)

Then “Senator Orlando Mercado, who chairs the Senate Committee on national defense and security, estimates that around 600,000 metric tons of fish worth an astounding P50 billion are lost annually due to poaching by foreign fishing vessels.” (Tangco, 1998: 177)

Even more alarming is its indirect effect on national security. Thousands of people have already died in the decades-old secessionist war even as the government continue to spend billions trying to contain secessionists and bandits on the ground, when they could have been greatly weakened simply by a sustained naval presence. The existence of the MILF hinges on its unimpeded supply lines from sympathetic countries that pass through sealanes wittingly provided by the Navy primarily because of corruption.

As for the Abu Sayyaf, while it may be true that they have fast kumpits, these boats are still detectable by radar and would not last long in a hot pursuit. Besides, they are not known to go island-hopping if they knew that there were Navy boats patrolling the high seas.


The prospects for the future of the Navy have been defined by two recent events: the success story that happened at the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in 2000 and the PN leadership crisis on February 2001 which involved Rear Admiral Guillermo G. Wong AFP and the Philippine Marines.

The NETC is the training arm of the Navy. It is responsible for the conduct of basic, advanced and specialization courses for officers and enlisted personnel. Since NETC is technically a school, bulk of its purchases are for uniforms and accessories; school/office supplies; and training materials. With an annual budget of P169 million (P121 million for salaries and P48 million for supplies, based on the NETC OPB for CY – 2000), the NETC had become the object of larceny by previous Commanders, which resulted to the corrosion of the whole training system of the Navy.

In December 1999, Commodore Ruben G. Domingo AFP assumed as Commander of NETC. Knowing the dark history of his unit and the tasks at hand, he immediately set into motion a reform program centered at the cleansing of the procurement system. And the result was astounding. In one year, the NETC, not only accomplished its mission of conducting all programmed courses, it had also accumulated P5 million worth of savings. These savings were then used to improve other training facilities and equipment. The complete eradication of corruption was achieved. He did this, first, by removing suspected scalawags from staff positions then replacing them with officers whom he perceived as still unstained by the grime of corruption. Then, Commo. Domingo simply instructed everyone to do things ‘by the book.’ Particularly, the religious and transparent implementation of canvassing and bidding procedures of procurement set forth by existing laws and guidelines. No “conversion” or “substitution” was allowed. As a safety net, he involved the Intelligence division to monitor the process and set up entrapment operations whenever necessary.

Surprisingly, Commo. Domingo’s reform program did not resemble the “radical redesigning” concept of Reengineering (Hammer, 1993), the “entrepreneurial government” spirit espoused by the Reinventing Government (Osborne, 1990) nor was it a form of “Neo-Taylorism” (Reyes 1998, 189). Its only main components were his technical competence, moral integrity and political will as a Commander; specifically, the technical competence to formulate reforms, and the moral integrity and political will to enforce them.

In December 2000, when RAdm. Guillermo G. Wong AFP assumed as Flag- Officer-In-Command (FOIC) of the Philippine Navy everybody in the Navy expected radical changes. RAdm. Wong, who had a reputation of being incorruptible, had envisioned a totally corrupt-free Navy. Upon assumption, he went on a “crusading mode” by “going to several places trying to clean up the Navy” (Pazzibugan, 2001). In February 2001, the Navy (and the AFP) was rocked by a leadership crisis when the Philippine Marines demanded the relief of the RAdm. Wong (Pazzibugan, 2001). The crisis was triggered by the berating of the Marines by RAdm. Wong for alleged irregularities in the procurement of P3.8 million worth of Kevlar Helmets (Pablo, 2001). In the events that followed, President Arroyo left the crisis to be resolved by then AFP Chief of Staff General Angelo Reyes (Pablo, 2001), who offered Wong the command of the newly formed Northern Command as a concession for his being relieved as FOIC. RAdm. Wong, realizing that this was a demotion, opted to resign (Pazzibugan, 2001). Later on President Arroyo was “asked if she was satisfied with the way Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Reyes had handled the conflict between Wong and the Marine Corps, The President said Reyes had done the right thing.” (Pablo, 2001). RAdm. Wong was eventually replaced by Rear Admiral Hingco, whose policy was to disregard all reforms initiated by his predecessor and revert to the previous status quo.

For a President and Commander-in-Chief, whose government was supposed to be founded on such slogans as ‘New Politics,’ moral regeneration and good governance, to say that what General Reyes did was the right thing was truly demoralizing to say the least. This was the first indication of the type of leadership the AFP will expect from its Commander-in-Chief. RAdm. Wong should have been fully backed by his Chief of Staff and his Commander-in-Chief as he was on the right and principled side. More importantly, he was the foremost practitioner of good governance and, certainly, someone who has both the moral ascendancy and political will to effect change in the Navy. Unfortunately, according to the ‘New Politics’ philosophy of President Arroyo, this is not so.

The two events narrated symbolize both hope and despair. Hope in that there is still a chance for the Navy to get out of the hole its officers and former officers had created. And despair at the thought that this chance is reliant on a politics- administration dichotomy (Wilson, 1887), which was best described by Dr. Danilo R. Reyes in one of his lectures as a mere ‘pretender’ paradigm.


The corruption problem in the Philippine Navy is grave. The direct and indirect damages to our economy, national security and peace and order in terms of costs and lives lost had been devastating and continuous; thus, impeding our efforts in national development.

The obsolescence and shortage of operating assets of the Navy’s fleet are not the reasons for its ineffectiveness, but they are the results of years of malversation of funds. But ill-equipped as it is, the Navy is still very capable of ISO and MARLEN operations if only there are COs and officers who have enough moral decency to be faithful to their mandated tasks.

The corruption had become systemic and has eaten through the very core of the organization, and infecting, practically all levels of the bureaucracy and all areas of operation.

The future of the Navy is clouded by mixed insights. On one hand, the success of the NETC model was a ray of light amidst the darkness of moral decadence. It proved that total eradication of corruption in a major unit in the Navy is possible. The next step is magnifying this accomplishment to a higher plane, the Philippine Navy Command itself. More importantly, it showed how it could be done simply through the Commander’s political will with moral integrity and technical competence as primary requisites.

On the other hand, however, this will only be possible if the next crusading Flag- Officer-In-Command would be fully supported by a Commander-in-Chief who possesses strong leadership qualities and who would not allow political concessions and political indebtedness be the bases of his/her decision-making regarding AFP matters. This way, the whole AFP Officer Corps will not get the impression that they are being treated as an organization of untouchables who can get away with anything.


Agudelo, Jose T.

1994 Naval Requirements of an Archipelagic State. Philippine Military Digest Vol 1 Nr 1. (January-March)

Aquino, Ramon C.

1987 The Revised Penal Code Vol I & II. 1987 Edition. Manila: Central Book Supply Inc

Caiden, Gerald and Naomi

1977 Administrative Corruption. As quoted in Carino, Ledivina V. The Politicization of the Philippine Bureaucracy: Corruption or Commitment? International Review of Administrative Sciences: A Journal of Comparative Public Administrations No.1 1985.

Carino, Ledivina V.

1985 The Politicization of the Philippine Bureaucracy: Corruption or Commitment? International Review of Administrative Sciences: A Journal of Comparative Public Administrations No.1 1985.

Giagonia, Regino

1997 The Philippine Navy (1898-1996) 2nd Edition. Manila: Philippine Navy 

Hammer, Michael and James Champy

1993 As printed in Arie Halachmi. Re-engineering and public management: some issues and considerations. London, England: Sage Publications Ltd. 1995

Mahan, Alfred T.

1885 As reprinted in John B Hattendorf ed. Mahan on Naval Strategy: Selections from the writings of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. 1991

Mangahas, Malou C.

2001 Kickbacks and Negotiated Deals Mar AFP Procurement System

(Corruption-free modernization?). A PCIJ Report downloaded from PCIJ website at www. PCIJ. org

Osborne, David and Ted Gaebler

1992 Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector from School House to Statehouse, City Hall to Pentagon. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley

Pazzibugan, Dona

2001 Golez: Military row inevitable given Wong’s ‘crusading mode’.

Philippine Daily Inquirer. Feb 28

Pablo, Carlito and Armando Nocum

2001 AFP turmoil worsens. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Feb 27

2001 Wong links Biazon to mess. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Feb 28

Reyes, Danilo R.

1998 Public Sector Reengineering: Practice, Problems and Prospects. Philippine Journal of Public Administration Vol. XLII, Nos. 3 & 4 (July – October)

Sosmena, Gaudioso

1999 Concept of Bureaucratic Sedition. Vol II No.6. NDCP Occasional paper

Tangco, Ruben and Sev Sarmenta

1998 The Continuing Quest for Relevance in Ruben v. Tangco ,ed. Tides of Change: The Philippine Navy Looks Back A Hundred Years And Peers Into The Next Century. Manila: Philippine Navy through Infinit-I Communication Services

Wilson, Woodrow

1887 as reprinted in Dwight Waldo ed. Ideas and Issues in Public Administration. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc. 1953

Zulueta, Joselito

1999 Archipelagic Riddle. As quoted in Ruben v. Tangco ,ed. Tides of Change:

The Philippine Navy Looks Back A Hundred Years And Peers Into The Next Century. Manila: Philippine Navy through Infinit-I Communication Services

1938 Articles of War as printed in A Manual for Courts-Martial Armed Forces of the Philippines. 1987 Edition

1997 NOQC Naval Orientation Reference Handguide

2000 Gen Appropriations Act. Downloaded from DBM website at www.


2001 Joint Army, Navy, Air Force task force tracking kidnappers. Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 27

2001 Growing Evidence Abu Sayyaf behind Kidnappings: Tiglao. Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 28

2001 No proof of hostages in Sulu, Basilan: military spokesperson. Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 31