‘Citizen guard’

Published April 4, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Erik Espina
Erik Espina

By Erik Espina


The seminal instinct of a people defending their families, communities, and way of life dates back to the Lapu-Lapu victory over a Spanish ‘conquista’ recollected every April. The history of various tribes resisting foreign domination (100-plus uprisings from 1521 to 1907) graduating to the Philippine Revolution in 1896, was central to achieving liberation against a better armed foreign opponent. Such strategy has served our popular and libertarian causes when we fight in a battle for self-respect and preservation, even as under-dogs.

On October 31, 1896, revolutionary President Emilio Aguinaldo issued two decrees in Kawit, Cavite.  In one paragraph, the organization of what we today recognize as the Philippine Army was established “an army of 30,000 men, with guns and cannon for the defense of the towns and provinces under the Revolutionary Government.” In the next paragraph, Army structure was defined: “The Revolutionary Army shall be composed of 3 corps of ten thousand men under the command of 3 generals and a commanding general.” The 10th paragraph provides for the institutionalization of what some historians recognize as the Reserve Force: “Each Municipal Committee, as soon as organized, shall appoint a captain who shall in turn, organize a ‘Citizens’ Guard’ which all citizens are compelled to join. This corps, in conjunction with a detachment which the Commanding General will designate, shall constitute the defense of the town.” Other historians interpret this provision rather as a Citizens Army, given the absence of any pay, uniforms, etc. The 2nd Decree of Aguinaldo called  “on all Filipino citizens, lovers of their native land, to rise up in arms to proclaim the liberty and independence of the Philippines.”

The Palace,  Congress, and AFP must now produce a national defense strategy, amending Reservist Act RA 7077’s error defining reservists as citizen soldiers. The former is a “force multiplier” for the regular army. Citizen soldiers are the “whole nation defense,” submerged into the population as an asymmetrical and “invisible army” in guerrilla tradition. That is the conceptual framework.