Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
The National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) or the Dalubhasaan ng Tanggulang Pamabansa ng Pilipinas was founded on 12th August 1963 as the highest educational institution in the country dedicated to the conduct of advanced studies in national security administration.
The College is also known for its reputation of “where admission is an honor.”
Executive Order No. 44, signed by President Diosdado Macapagal in Malacañan Palace on 12th August 1963, by virtue of the powers vested in him by the Constitution (1935 Constitution as amended in 1940) and by the National Defense Act, established the National Defense College of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (NDCAFP). By 9th September of the same year, the College was activated as a unit of the AFP and placed administratively under the Chief of Staff.
The said law explicitly stipulated that “the mission of the National Defense College shall be to prepare potential defense leaders to assume and discharge the responsibilities of high command, staff, and policy – formulating functions within the National Government and the national and international security structure.”
Looking at the historical and legal contexts, one of the rationales of NDCAFP’s creation, primarily because after its almost two decades of political independence from the United States, the Philippines does not have yet an educational institution dedicated to the specific mission of training military leaders and civilian executives for top positions of leadership in the Department of National Defense, the National Security Council, and other Executive Departments of the Government, which they may be called upon to fill in case of national emergency. This background is expressly written in E.O. No. 44 and subsequently supported by five objectives.
A decade later, President Ferdinand Marcos promulgated Presidential Decree No. 190. The law was signed in Malacañan Palace on 11th May 1973. Circulated by virtue of the powers vested on him by the Constitution (1973 Constitution as amended in 1976) as Commander-in-Chief of all Armed Forces of the Philippines, and pursuant to Proclamation No. 1081, dated 21st September 1972, and General Order No. 1, dated 22nd September 1972, as amended. It has had integrated and modified bills of House No. 1447 and Senate No. 597, which thereby renamed NDCAFP as the National Defense College of the Philippines.
Thusly, the NDCP has been highlighted as an educational institution of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as explicitly stipulated in Section 1 of the said presidential decree.
P.D. No. 190 superseded E.O. No. 44 on the creation of NDCP. The new law also provides the formation of the College’s Academic Board. In Section 4 of P.D. No. 190, it states that the Academic Board of NDCP shall assist the President of the College in the discharge of the following functions, such that they shall supervise the academic affairs of the College; recommend academic consultants, lecturers, professors, and instructors of the College; and, recommend the course of study which shall include, but not necessarily to, all facets and elements of national power.
This new law also fostered the institutionalization of NDCP to basically provide for continuing and intensive studies of the diversified problems relative to national defense and security that has long been felt in the DND.
Secondly, the government is strongly committed to the proposition that the defense of the State is the prime duty of every citizen such that the preparation, mobilization, and execution of plans which involve the financial, industrial, economic, social and moral forces and resources of the nation are responsibilities which should be borne not only by the DND but also by the other branches of the Government as well as the private sector.
And lastly, there is an urgent need for a highly reputable educational and doctrinal center to turn out needed qualified military leaders and civilian executives.
The original architects of the NDCP intended it to be directly under the Secretary of National Defense, primarily in order to attract the best candidates from the military, civilian government, and private sectors. Subsequently, Presidential Decree No. 452 dated 13th May 1974 placed the College under the supervision, direction, and control of the Secretary of the DND as one of its five bureaus. It was then Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile who pushed for this effort and to upgrade the academic standards of the College.
The limited legal basis and political turn of events paved the way for the duality of personality of NDCP as a bureau of DND as well as a reputable academic institution. However, NDCP was transformed into a civilian organization only in 1988, two years after the EDSA People Power I.
The NDCP is one of the oldest defense colleges in Southeast Asia. Its foundation originally concocted when an ambitious project designed to establish a Regional War College for member-countries of Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) began.
Brigadier General Jose Syjuco deems that the project was proposed by the Philippines during the SEATO Military Adviser’s Meeting in Canberra, Australia in March 1957. However, the proposed project failed to progress. Two SEATO members, the Philippines and the United States, announced instead of a creation of SEATO War College and sponsored it through bilateral basis, renaming it as a Pacific War College. The joint project also failed due to lack of funding.
The pioneer class of NDCP’s National Security Course eventually became the Master in National Security Administration (MNSA) Program which opened on 15th February 1966 in a temporary building at Fort Bonifacio. Regular Class (RC) 1 was composed of 20 military officers and nine civilian government scholars. On 14th December 1966, the graduation of the College’s pioneer class was graced by President Ferdinand Marcos.
RC 1 to RC 5 excluded students from private sectors. And for approximately eight years, the NDCP was placed under the administration of the AFP’s Chief of Staff. This historical context has placed NDCP’s MNSA program as a military course and misconstrued as a civilian course. Whereas, in today’s MNSA curricula, it is conceived as a civilian course; and that the highest military course for military officers to become full colonels can be obtained from the Command and General Staff College (CGSC).
The NDCP played host to the first visiting students of the US War College, Thailand National Defense College, and the National Defense College of Korea since its inception. The NDCP has also been sending its MNSA students to other countries since 1996, which is now the equivalent of the Regional Security and Development Studies (RSDS) imbedded in the MNSA course as one of the culminating activities of the one-year government scholarship.
The said academic foreign travel is an opportunity for the College’s faculty and students to observe the political, economic, socio-cultural, military, environmental, and technological dynamics of host countries, and in the process, to draw insights into how these will impact on our own national security situation.
The very first countries NDCP visited include Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, and Northeast Asia’s Hong Kong. In the entire history of the College, faculty and students through the annual RSDS have had visited notable countries, chosen due to their key strategic values, such as, Australia, China, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Russia, Germany, and the United States.
The NDCP as a duly recognized premier education and training institute in the defense and security establishment and as AFP’s think tank continuously produce colorful College Presidents and “who’s who” or illustrious alumni in the realm of politics, public service, military, academe, and the private sector.
Brigadier General Roman Gavino, being the first NDCP President, played a very crucial role in the formative phase of the College. President Florencio Magsino became the first civilian President of the College who transformed NDCP into a civilian organization. Dr Clarita Carlos was appointed as the first woman President of the College under DND.
His Excellency Fidel V Ramos from MNSA RC 3 is the first NDCP alumnus to be elected as President of the Republic of the Philippines. The incumbent Vice President Jejomar C Binay is also a proud alumnus and currently the President of the NDCP Alumni Association. Other notable and successful personalities who obtained their MNSA degrees from the College are Supreme Court Justice Alicia Austria-Martinez, Senator Loren Legarda, former Senator Teresa Aquino-Oreta, Mayor Herbert Bautista, MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino, former National Security Adviser Alexander Aguirre, AFP Chiefs of Staff Arnulfo Acedera Jr and Genoroso Senga.
To sum it up, distinguished list of alumni is led by no less than the 12th Philippine President Ramos, 15th Philippine Vice President Binay, three Chiefs of Staff of the AFP, five Cabinet Secretaries, four Senators, twelve House of Representatives, two Supreme Court Justices, and twenty four dignitaries from Allied countries.
The College also salutes women in the sphere on national security. NDCP takes pride in being one of the first agencies in the defense establishments to implement gender sensitive policies. In the early 1970s, a time when Gender and Development (GAD) was still at the process of conception, the College already admitted its first female scholar, in the name of Attorney Leticia Celove. In due recognition, Lieutenant Colonel Evangeline Cruzado of MNSA RC 18 became the first female awardee of Academic Excellence or Class Valedictorian from the civilian sector.
The NDCP has also graduated 24 foreign students including five more in the current MNSA class. They are military officers with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or full Colonel from their respective armed forces in countries like Australia, Malaysia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
In 1997, the NDCP relocated to Camp Aguinaldo which was inaugurated by then President Fidel Ramos during the incumbency of Brigadier General Eduardo Cabanlig. A marbled marker was also unveiled last 12th August 2003 for the 40th founding anniversary of NDCP. This event was commemorated by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the incumbency of NDCP President Commodore Carlos Agustin in recognition of her father's signing of E.O. No. 44 by President Diosdado Macapagal which created the NDCAFP.
In 1999, by virtue of a Department Order, four institutes were created in NDCP which became the education, training and research arms of the College. These include the Institute for National Security Studies, Institute for Foreign Languages, Institute of Extramural and Continuing Studies which later became Defense Management Institute, and Emergency Management Institute of the Philippines which later renamed as Crisis Management Institute. However in 2010, all of the four institutes were abolished due to the implemented Rationalization Plan.
Last year, in the current administration of Brigadier General Fermin de Leon Jr., a new hotel-class Students’ Dormitory was finally brought into completion with Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay himself led the inauguration of the new dormitory. In 11th February 2013, the NDCP Marker by the National Historical Institute was installed.
The Way Forward
In 2012, the College together with the Office of the Vice President, NDCP Alumni Association, Incorporated, and Career Executive Service Board formalized a Memorandum of Understanding which granted MNSA students an opportunity to obtain a Career Executive Service Officer (CESO) rank while taking the MNSA program. This additional hard-earned perks given to the regular milieu for civilian graduates increased the interests of applicants to take the course aside from being commissioned as Lieutenant Colonels or Commanders in the AFP Reserve Force.
Obtaining an MNSA degree from the pressure-cooker course consists of 39 units received through various forms of lectures, thesis writing, sub-national and regional security and development studies, debates, conferences, dialogues, and study tours with a curriculum that encompasses different dimension of national security administration which include politico-legal, economic, socio-cultural, techno-scientific, environmental, policy studies, research methods, and military.
Today there are almost 2,000 graduates of the MNSA program since its first class that opened in 1966. It has also a wide network graduating thousands of distinguished participants from the various short courses offered by NDCP including the popular Executive Course on National Security and Disaster Management Course.
As the College reaches its Golden Anniversary on 12th August 2013, it is planning to evolve as a defense university to compete with its counterparts in the region and the world. The P.D. No. 190 gave the NDCP the power to confer MNSA degree upon its graduates who rigidly pass a very scholastic and intellectual academic executive program.
Today, the MNSA program has been required as a mandatory graduate course for military officers who are earmarked for positions of higher responsibility before they be appointed for one-star general.
If the College has to evolve as a defense university, later on the National Defense University of the Philippines must confer doctorate degrees in national security administration or strategic or peace studies. That means to say, the organizational structure of the College from its administrators, faculty, and down to the staff must be re-organized and the curriculum must be further upgraded to meet higher and global standards to supply the demands of the country as a whole which can only be realized through legislative Acts of Congress.
The reality in today’s educational landscape proves that the College must really evolve and open its field into a wider spectrum of candidates or applicants since many young military officers, young professionals in the private sector, and getting younger career government officers are aggressive in obtaining graduate degrees. This is only an affirmation that the playing field has been leveled off for younger managers and captains of the industries.
Furthermore, the dual personality of NDCP as civilian academic institution and bureau of DND must be conscientiously defined.
More power to the National Defense College of the Philippines! Continue in shaping the mind of your bright people!
Sources: Military Education in the Philippines (2001) by Jose Syjuco, NDCP website, and Lawphil.net for some legal basis. Special thanks to Segfrey Gonzales and Geelyn Magante from NDCP research division for their initial research and substantive data.