By Fidel V. Ramos
Former Philippine President
(Last of Two Parts)
“RODY SLAMS ‘BULLY’ WEST
“Duterte said the U.S. asked the Philippines to send troops to Iraq, Vietnam, and South Korea
at different times,
but nothing happened••••”
— Philippine Star,
21 November 2016
THIS WRITER FEELS LET DOWN – BY THE GAFFES, DISINFORMATION, ETC. DISHED OUT BY P.DUTERTE FROM TIME TO TIME. ALTHOUGH THESE MAY BE MOSTLY UNINTENTIONAL, THEY DO CREATE CONFUSION, DISORIENTATION, AND EVEN LOSS OF CREDIBILITY.
The above-cited quote from a prestigious broadsheet reporting on the 2016 APEC Summit Du30–Putin bilateral talks in Peru proves P.Digong’s loose handling of — or carelessness with — facts, figures, and historical events which his vast Malacañang staff and highly educated Cabinet should regularly brief him about. (Please revisit Manila Bulletin, 27 Nov. 2016).
At the outbreak of the Korean War in June, 1950, and soon thereafter, hundreds of AFP officers and soldiers volunteered to carry out the mandate of Philippine Congress and Commander-in-Chief/President Elpidio Quirino to “help defend freedom and democracy” in the Korean peninsula.
DEFINITELY, THE PHILIPPINES (AS SHOWN BELOW) WAS NOT “BULLIED” NEITHER DRAGGED TO JOIN THE WEST IN OUR FOREIGN WARS.
THUS, AFP KOREAN WAR VETERANS FEEL STUNG AND TRIVIALIZED BY P.DU30’S WORDS — AS IF WE WERE MERCENARIES AND NOT LOYAL, COMBAT-TRAINED FILIPINO SOLDIERS WHO HAD VOLUNTEERED “TO HELP DEFEND FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY” IN KOREA AGAINST COMMUNIST NORTH KOREA, WHICH WAS SUPPORTED BY COMMUNIST CHINA AND COMMUNIST SOVIET RUSSIA.
WE WERE, IN FACT, FILIPINO SOLDIERS ALSO “FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY” WHO HAD VOLUNTEERED TO DEFEND OUR HOMELAND AGAINST HUKBALAHAP COMMUNISTS.
THE U.N. CALL TO ACTION
IT WILL BE RECALLED THAT THE U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL (THEN BOYCOTTED BY THE USSR) PASSED A RESOLUTION ON 27 JUNE 1950, ASKING U.N. MEMBERS TO JOIN WHAT WAS WRONGLY CALLED A “POLICE ACTION” IN KOREA.
In response to the UN’s call, the Philippines decided to send troops to the Korean peninsula, despite the fact that contributing a significant part of our AFP to serve abroad was inopportune at that time. In 1950, the Philippines was a new four-year-old republic, having become independent in July 1946 and still recovering from the devastation of WWII. Due to the unfavorable post-war conditions then obtaining, our people were initially not entirely sold to the idea of deploying our troops to fight abroad.
(KINDLY REVISIT THE DND-PVAO CLASSIC “FILIPINOS IN THE KOREAN WAR” BY DR. CESAR POBRE, PMA ‘52).
But what probably made our leaders decide to assist the Republic of Korea was the intercession of General Carlos P. Romulo, then president of the UN General Assembly. In a passionate entreaty, he explained to President Elpidio Quirino and the Philippine Senate that to participate in the Korean War was not only in the Philippines’ national interest but a duty it had to perform as a UN member-nation. Further, Romulo explained that the UNSC resolution did not “tear asunder” the war renunciation provision of the Philippine Constitution — because Philippine participation was not an act of aggression; it was in response to the UN’s call for assistance.
ROMULO’S INTERNATIONAL STATURE, LOGIC, AND ELOQUENCE DID THE TRICK. AND ULTIMATELY, HE SECURED PRESIDENT QUIRINO’S NOD AND CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT TO ACTUALIZE THE FORMATION OF THE “PHILIPPINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE TO KOREA (PEFTOK)”.
PEFTOK AND ITS FIVE BCTS
THE LEGISLATORS ENACTED REPUBLIC ACT 573, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE “PHILIPPINE MILITARY AID TO THE UNITED NATIONS ACT,” ON 07 SEPTEMBER 1950. THE DISPATCH OF MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO KOREA DISTINGUISHED THE PHILIPPINES AS THE FIRST ASIAN COUNTRY TO RESPOND TO THE U.N.S.C. RESOLUTION.
The PEFTOK, which consisted of 5 Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs) deployed over a period of five years, was a component of the U.N. Command (UNC). Throughout its tenure of service, the PEFTOK operated successively with the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, and 45th Infantry Division.
The sixteen Allied nations of the UNC which deployed combat forces, arranged by their number of participants during the entire period, were as follows:
- UNITED STATES – 1,789,000
- SOUTH KOREA – 590,911
- UNITED KINGDOM – 56,000
- CANADA – 25,687
- TURKEY – 14,936
- AUSTRALIA – 8,407
- PHILIPPINES – 7,420
- THAILAND – 6,326
- THE NETHERLANDS – 5,322
- COLOMBIA – 5,100
- GREECE – 4,992
- NEW ZEALAND – 3,794
- ETHIOPIA – 3,518
- FRANCE – 3,421
- SOUTH AFRICA – 826
- LUXEMBURG – 83
The 10th BCT was selected as the initial PEFTOK contingent because it was experienced in mobile/counter-insurgency/counter-guerrilla operations in rugged and forested areas.
THE STRENGTH OF EACH BCT WAS 64 OFFICERS AND 1,303 ENLISTED MEN. BUT THEY WERE ILL-EQUIPPED FOR COMBAT IN FREEZING WINTER.
HIGH MORALE OF FILIPINOS
THE ENTHUSIASTIC PUBLIC SEND-OFF FOR THE 10TH BCT REACHED FEVER-PITCH ON 2 SEPTEMBER 1950, A DAY LIKE NO OTHER IN THE ANNALS OF PHILIPPINE HISTORY. ON THAT DAY, THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE 10TH BCT ASSEMBLED IN THE RIZAL MEMORIAL STADIUM.
In full battle gear, they stood proud before 60,000 exuberant Filipinos who had converged to cheer the troops in the send-off rites.
It was the first rally of its kind ever to applaud an AFP contingent headed for overseas. Prominent personalities, civic groups, and religious leaders attended. Among them were Monsignor Gabriel Reyes, Archbishop of Manila, who showered God’s blessings on our departing soldiers; Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay, who delivered an inspirational speech; General Carlos P. Romulo, president of the UN General Assembly, who handed the UN flag to Colonel Mariano Azurin, 10th BCT commander; and President Elpidio Quirino, who gave the Philippine flag also to Colonel Azurin.
To stress the historical significance of our participation in the Korean conflict, President Quirino affirmed that the battalion’s warriors would be the first to carry the Philippine flag abroad in the defense of freedom. Romulo reinforced President Quirino, saying:
“YOU WILL BE THE FIRST FILIPINOS SINCE THE REVOLUTION TO GO INTO BATTLE AS SOLDIERS OF A FREE REPUBLIC. AND YOU WILL BE FIGHTING IN SUPPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS, THE LAST BEST HOPE OF MANKIND… YOURS IS A HISTORIC MISSION. UNDER THESE TWO FLAGS… YOU CARRY WITH YOU THE HONOR OF OUR COUNTRY AND THE HOPE OF THE WORLD.”
PHILCON AND PHILCAG PERFORMED UNDER FIRE
THE HIGH NATIONAL FERVOR FOR OUR TROOPS DEPLOYED TO SOUTH VIETNAM ALSO HAPPENED. IN THE 1960s AND ‘70s IN THE MIDST OF A RAGING WAR, FILIPINO SOLDIERS — DOCTORS, DENTISTS, NURSES, LABORATORY TECHNICIANS, ENGINEERS, AND SECURITY PERSONNEL — PERFORMED HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE WITHIN VIETCONG STRONGHOLDS IN TAY NINH PROVINCE AND ELSEWHERE.
DURING THEIR SEVEN YEARS OF DUTY — PHILCON, PHILCAG I AND PHILCAG II TREATED MORE THAN A MILLION PATIENTS; BUILT ROADS, BRIDGES, SCHOOLHOUSES, AND MEDICAL CLINICS; AND CONSTRUCTED THE SPRAWLING REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT CENTER IN THANH DIEN FOREST, FORMERLY A VIETCONG STRONGHOLD. PHILCAG TROOPERS WERE REGULARLY HARASSED BY COMMUNIST UNITS BUT THEY DID NOT FLINCH.
When our government supported South Vietnam’s first appeal for help, in 1964, our AFP volunteers trained at Fort Magsaysay in jungle survival, evasion and escape, and other security procedures under the Army’s Special Forces Group (Airborne) then under FVR.
As the head of the advance-planning group of 100 deployed to Tay Ninh Province in mid-August 1966, then PHILCAG G3 (later Chief of Staff), FVR had the main job of insuring the safety of our personnel in three provinces and Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). By September 1966, the PHILCAG’s main force deployed to South Vietnam totalled 182 officers and 1,882 soldiers under Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Tobias (PMA ’41).
The fiercest fighting was still to take place in 1967, as the North Vietnamese Army (VietMinh) and South Vietnamese guerrillas (VietCong) aggressively advanced southward. Those battles climaxed in the bloody Tet offensive in January, 1968, with Tay Ninh and Saigon as main targets. Caught in that giant pincer movement was PHILCAG with the near-killing of Philippine Ambassador Luis Moreno Salcedo and family whose Embassy residence was defended by PHILCAG soldiers.
The remainder of the AFP’s engagement in Vietnam was creditably carried out by PHILCAG-II under Brig. Gen. Ceferino Carreon (PMA ’42).
BEYOND OUR THREE AFP CONTINGENTS WHICH TOTALED MORE THAN 4,000-STRONG OVER THAT 7-YEAR PERIOD, SUBSEQUENT PHILIPPINE INITIATIVES CONTRIBUTED SIGNIFICANTLY TO THE STABILIZATION OF THE REUNITED SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM, AND ITS INCORPORATION INTO MAJOR REGIONAL COOPERATION BLOCS, NOTABLY ASEAN (1995) AND APEC (1998).
THE FIVE PEFTOK BCTS WERE COMMANDED BY OUTSTANDING OFFICERS, NAMELY: COLONEL MARIANO AZURIN THEN COLONEL DIONISIO OJEDA, 10TH BCT; COLONEL SALVADOR ABCEDE, 20TH BCT; COLONEL RAMON AGUIRRE, 19TH BCT; COLONEL NICANOR JIMENEZ, 14TH BCT; AND COLONEL ANTONIO DE VEYRA FOLLOWED BY COLONEL REYNALDO MENDOZA, 2ND BCT.
OF THE 7,420 FILIPINO OFFICERS AND MEN WHO FOUGHT IN KOREA, 114 WERE KILLED IN ACTION, 299 WOUNDED, AND 51 MISSING — 41 OF WHOM WERE REPATRIATED DURING THE EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS-OF-WAR.
IN OUR PARTICIPATION IN THE KOREAN AND VIETNAM WARS, AFP VOLUNTEERS FOUGHT UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF PHILIPPINE CONGRESS, PRESIDENT/COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, AND COMMANDING OFFICERS — WHO WERE ALL FILIPINOS, WITH NO “WESTERN BULLIES.”
WE HOPE PRESIDENT DIGONG INFORMS PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP ACCORDINGLY WHEN THEY MEET THIS WEEK.
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