U.S. and Philippine soldiers during Balikatan 23 | Photo by Spc. Brennick Stevens via Wikimedia Commons
It’s good to know our country’s defense establishment is in good hands under Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, whom I’ve known for a long time. Undoubtedly, he is more than qualified to serve as our country’s defense secretary after being confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.
Gibo is certainly no greenhorn, a lawyer by profession who topped the Bar exams in 1989. He was first appointed defense secretary when he was only 43 – the second youngest ever to hold the position after Ramon Magsaysay. He has proven himself a capable public servant during his three terms as Tarlac congressman. He was “batchmates” with Senate President Migz Zubiri when the latter was a congressman of Bukidnon during the 11th, 12th, and 13th Congress.
When his appointment by President Marcos was announced in June, the defense establishment and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were happy, expressing their strong support for Gibo, whom they described as a decisive leader whose professional competence and wealth of experience can “help build upon our gains in the defense and security of our country.”
It’s not really surprising that members of the military have such high respect for “SND” (Secretary of National Defense), who, aside from being a licensed commercial pilot, attended the Command and Staff Course at the Philippine Air Force in 2001 and the Joint Command and Staff College in 2003 where he was a Leadership Awardee.
These military courses have certainly provided him with an understanding of military doctrine. On top of that, his prior stint as defense secretary gives him valuable insights into how much the military has transformed in terms of force structure and the changes needed to enhance the defense capabilities of the AFP, especially at this time.
The job of the secretary of National Defense is first and foremost building up our credible deterrence,” Gibo said shortly after Malacañang announced his appointment.
“The way that we build up our credible deterrence is our business and nobody else’s business,” and “whether we partner with country X or Y in order to build up our own core strength is a question for the Philippines,” he emphasized, knowing fully well the need “to be ready as much as possible to foresee, predict and to react to defend the Philippines from any geopolitical happening.”
He is intelligent and articulate and can drive home a point with logic, common sense, grit, and spirit regarding geopolitical issues. “Just like we do not question the buildup of not even defensive capabilities but offensive capabilities of other countries, they should not question ours,” Gibo told those who question the right of the Philippines to build its defense and offensive capabilities.
As SP Migz correctly put it, Gibo’s appointment “came at a very opportune time, not only in addressing the issues of internal security threats, but also, above all, the external threats with the heightening tensions in the West Philippine Sea.”
Everyone knows the kind of aggression that China has been displaying in the West Philippine Sea, with Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels bullying Filipino fishermen and preventing them from fishing in traditional fishing grounds, shadowing and harassing Philippine Coast Guard vessels escorting boats conducting resupply missions for the troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.
If China wants to earn the trust of Filipinos, it must conform its activities to recognized norms of international law, including the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Defense Secretary said early in his tenure. But the Chinese Coast Guard has continued with its “irresponsible behavior,” as correctly described by Secretary Gibo, who also called out the CCG’s “egregious violation” of maritime safety rules.
Many agree with Secretary Teodoro that such actions by the Chinese necessitate an honest-to-goodness modernization of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard, along with upskilling and retraining civilian and military personnel to speed up the transition to territorial defense.
Filipinos also support forging alliances with like-minded nations that want to ensure freedom of navigation and maintain peace and stability in the region. Aside from the United States, Japan and Australia, Germany, Canada, and France are also keen on conducting joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
The United States has been very supportive of our modernization efforts, evidenced once again in the donation of two refurbished Cyclone-class patrol vessels renamed BRP Valentin Diaz and BRP Ladislao Diwa, commissioned by the Philippine Navy last Monday.
Critics of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement say that allowing additional bases to be used by the US could drag us into a war. EDCA is an agreement with mutual consent between the Philippines and the United States. Those who question EDCA should ask themselves – what about Scarborough Shoal and the other maritime territories where China has built military bases inside our territory – did they ask our permission or forge an agreement? Absolutely not.
So to those who continue to gripe about EDCA and our US alliance, Secretary Teodoro has this to say: “This is Philippine territory, and it is our business what we do here just as long as it is for our interest… it is not any other countries’ business to question what we do here.”
With this unequivocal pronouncement, 90 percent of Filipinos feel reassured that our Armed Forces are in good hands with Secretary Gibo Teodoro at the helm.