The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines ushered in a paradigm shift by introducing civilian control over the military
The National Security Policy constitutes a fundamental set of principles meticulously crafted to steer decision-making processes with a singular aim: the safeguarding and enhancement of a nation’s interests, well-being, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
It is a guiding compass that aids in the establishment of priorities, particularly when it comes to allocating finite resources and striking a delicate balance between fortifying defenses against external threats and fortifying defenses against internal challenges.
This framework is all-encompassing, delving into a multitude of issues connected to national security. Moreover, it serves as an overarching blueprint, offering invaluable direction for the assessment, enhancement, and formulation of various policies relating to national security.
At the heart of this crucial policy framework is the President, entrusted with the profound responsibility of conceiving and overseeing the National Security Policy.
The President’s pivotal role stems from the multifaceted positions as the Head-of-State, Head-of-Government, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, making the person uniquely positioned to shape and manage the nation’s security policy.
In practice, the implementation of the NSP is orchestrated by the National Security Council, a body that emerges as the principal advisory entity to the President concerning the seamless coordination and integration of plans and policies that bear on national security.
The NSC, with the President at its helm, brings together a diverse array of Cabinet members and other officials whose collective expertise and insights contribute to the formulation of cogent national security strategies.
In the context of the Philippines, the National Security Council (known as Sanggunian sa Pambansang Seguridad in Filipino) plays an indispensable role.
It stands as the preeminent decision-making hub for the President, carrying the weighty responsibility of addressing matters of paramount significance linked to national security and foreign policy.
Within its ranks, senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials engage in exhaustive and comprehensive deliberations, marked by precision and care, as they navigate the intricate terrain of the nation’s security concerns.
The NSC is divided into two integral components: the Council Proper, presided over by the President, and the National Security Council Secretariat, which offers essential technical support to the Council. The Council Proper comprises distinguished officials from both the Cabinet and Congress.
Notably, the President holds the authority to extend invitations to government representatives and private individuals, ensuring a well-rounded and inclusive forum for tackling the complex tapestry of national security matters.
The roots of the National Security Council in the Philippines can be traced back to the Quirino Administration, when it was officially established through Executive Order 330 in 1950. Acknowledging the imperative need to adapt to the evolving national security and foreign policy landscapes, the NSC underwent significant reorganization under EO 115 in 1986, a move aimed at ensuring its continued relevance and efficacy in modern times.
The historical backdrop reveals the genesis of the Philippines’ national security program. Commonwealth Act 1 set in motion the creation of a Council of National Defense, tasked with offering guidance to the President on matters of national defense policy.
This council embodied a comprehensive and knowledgeable advisory body, a precursor to the NSC.
Following World War II and the Philippines’ ascent to sovereignty, President Elpidio Quirino bestowed official recognition upon this advisory body, naming it the National Security Council.
The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines ushered in a paradigm shift by introducing civilian control over the military, designating the President as the Commander-in-Chief, and positioning the President at the helm of the National Security Council as the primary policy-making and advisory authority for national defense.
(Editor’s Note: Article II, Sec 8 of the 1973 Constitution, says “Civilian authority is at all times supreme over the military.” And the 1935 Constitution also provides, under Section 3, Article I1: “Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.”)
In 1986, during the tenure of President Corazon Aquino, critical changes were instituted, which included the establishment of the National Security Council director and the Secretariat, enhancing the NSC’s organizational structure and functionality.
However, in the early 1990s, the NSC convened on a limited basis, holding only two meetings during that period, while the Department of National Defense assumed primary responsibility for national security, with a civilian Secretary of National Defense advising the President on defense matters.
In 2002, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reconvened the NSC to address a pressing issue—the deployment of U.S. soldiers in the Philippines as part of the global war on terrorism.
This decision underscored the Philippines’ commitment to supporting the United States in combating terrorism, aligning with a UN Security Council resolution, and upholding the strategic alliance between the Philippines and the United States.
In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte breathed new life into the NSC, convening it to deliberate on key initiatives, including the war on illegal drugs, peace negotiations with rebel groups, and territorial disputes with China.
The composition of the National Security Council is delineated in the Administrative Code of 1987.
It encompasses the President as chairman, the Vice President, Secretaries of Foreign Affairs, Executive Secretary, National Defense, Justice, Labor and Employment, Local Governments, the National Security Director, and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The President is also vested with the authority to appoint additional government officials and private individuals to the Council, thereby ensuring flexibility in its structure and harnessing diverse expertise.
In 1992, President Fidel Ramos expanded the Council’s membership to include additional Secretaries and government officials.
However, in 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reverted the Council to its current composition.
The core mission of the NSC is to provide counsel and guidance to the President, forging alignment among domestic, foreign, and military policies in the realm of national security.
It stands as the central instrument for orchestrating and harmonizing these policies across government departments and agencies, fostering a cohesive and united approach to national security matters.
All told, the National Security Council occupies a pivotal and indispensable position in the Philippines. It functions as the guardian of the nation’s security interests, safeguarding them with unwavering commitment and ensuring a meticulously coordinated response to both domestic and international security challenges.
In the next two columns, I will provide a critique of the most recent iteration of our national security policy.