Uniformed personnel must follow orders.
Let’s study that statement, especially in lieu of the increasing discussions on the role of security forces – both police, military, and even to a lesser extent Rela.
The chain of command analysis. My mate was quite adamant that you cannot fault Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) teams for spraying chemical lace water jets on women and children participating in peaceful assemblies.
Their hands are tied, they just follow orders was the argument.
Tempting to abrogate them, if you don’t consider the burning eyes of citizens, seeking water to clear their eyes while their nerves struggle with the tear gas.
Is a man free from his actions, if the action is not his decision? This whole idea of those with weapons are only the extensions of their political masters is terrifying. If that is the paradigm then we are verging on denouncing free will. That there is a point in time where we are not responsible for our actions.
I live adjacent to the FRU base. I see them daily and they move about – just as regular people do.
It is because I see them as people that I fail to see the argument that they cease to be the father, mother, daughter, son or neighbour – just because they have put on their uniforms. That would be akin to making them like storm-troopers and less human. The humaneness that makes them human remains in them, even while in uniform.
When ordered to act they can choose to consider the order before acting upon it – because inasmuch as they can pass the blame mostly to those who ordered them, they still don’t get to wash their own hands from the act.
It was not Stalin who went about personally ending the lives of 50 million people in his 25 years in charge. Nor did Hitler man all the gas chambers himself.
The Burmese junta is cruel, but foot-soldiers are the ones executing the orders.
The hand that strikes, cannot ignore the blood that ends up on their uniform and disclaim it.
There is the counter-argument, that they may have options, but those are dead options.
The job is lost and a career ended if an order is ignored.
In 1986 when the election results in the Philippines resulted in both Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos having separate inauguration and continuation ceremonies, the military, police and all security forces were stuck.
They had to pick someone. Both chiefs of the police and military went with the Opposition. It would have been hard for Ponce Enrile as leader of the police, but would have been even harder for Fidel Ramos from the military since he was a cousin of Marcos. But the rebel leaders holed up in Camp Aguinaldo in Edsa.
The rest is history.
The point is not that our police or military can make similar choices, but that they can choose and the options are not dead – if their conscience matters.
We don’t have a history of violence, and no one should promote violence. The security forces in this country should be fair referees and ensure the stability of the nation according to democratic principles which are the basic dictates of the country.
The uniform is a responsibility, and their allegiance is to the flag.