All these military equipment bought thus far or are planning to be bought by President Benigno Aquino Jr. got me into thinking as to how his Administration compares with the other past Presidents of the Philippines in terms of military arms procurement, and it just so happens that an excellent tool to do the comparison is available in the form of the Arms Procurement Database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).1
SIPRI describes itself as “… an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.” This to me means that they are gathering these data in order to find ways to be able to push thru their agenda for arms control and disarmament. That’s not exactly very promising if you don’t favor total arms control or total disarmament, but nevertheless their database is the best available out there right now if you want to research about arms transfers per country. You won’t be able to find a database as comprehensive as what they have now that is available or open to the public.
Their database is not perfect, though, as first there are arms transfers that they were not able to cover which I was able to find from other single sources. I have noted these arms transfers not on their database but which I have added in the summaries below with an asterisk () next to them. Despite these omissions, at this point *let us just work with what we know rather than what we don’t know. We don’t know what other arms transfers they missed, and until we do then let’s just ignore them at the moment until we get better data.
Second is that their database only goes all the way back to 1950, and since we were granted independence from the United States in 1946, that means four years of arms procurement data are missing. Also, their database is only up to 2013, hence procurements made during the months of 2014 are not included yet. Last is that they only monitor transfers of major military equipment but not small arms transfers (i.e., Rifles, Grenade Launchers, etc.).
What I’ve done with their database is first download an Excel file of all arms procurement from all foreign sources for all military equipment from 1950 to 2013. From there, I then sorted them out based on “Year of Order”. This is important because the time the equipment was ordered shows under which Administration it was really bought. Equipment takes time to be delivered, usually one to two years, maybe more for some equipment, hence one Administration might buy it but it arrives at the time of the next Administration.
I then color-coded the rows covering each Administration based on the “Year of Order” so we can see what Administration bought which equipment. So, here is the resulting file:
Below are the summaries of what I think are the major or most notable purchases made by each President:
Elpidio Quirino (1948-1953, five year term)
– 40 second-hand P-51D Mustang Fighter Aircraft
The list of equipment bought under President Quirino’s term is incomplete as SIPRI’s record goes only as far as 1950, but the available record does cover more than half of Quirino’s term already. The more than 3 squadrons of Mustang aircraft was a pretty good purchase in my book, we have not bought that many fighter aircraft since.
Ramon Magsaysay (1953-1957, four year term)
– Ten second-hand P-51D Mustangs
– 38 second-hand T-6 Texan Propeller Trainer Aircraft
– Thirteen second-hand T-33A Shooting Star Jet Trainer Aircraft
– 15 second-hand M3/M5 Half Tracks
– 25 second-hand Sherman Tanks
– 36 second-hand F-86F Sabre Aircraft
– 150 second-hand M101 Artillery
– Two brand-new Adjutant-class Minesweepers
President Magsaysay had a good number of purchases, but majority of them though were second-hand equipment. The most notable purchases for me are the more than 2 dozen tanks, 150 cannons, our first Jet Trainers in the T-33A, and our first Jet Fighter Aircraft in the F-86F Sabres.
Carlos Garcia (1957-1961, four year term)
– 25 second-hand M-24 Chafee Light Tanks
– 20 second-hand T-28A Trojan Propeller Trainer Aircraft
– 18 second-hand F-86D Sabre Jet Fighter Aircraft
– One second-hand Buckley-class Frigate
– 36 brand-new T-34 Mentor Propeller Trainer Aircraft
President Garcia followed up Magsaysay’s good military procurement record with another good arms procurement record, buying more tanks and buying more jet and propeller driven aircraft. The most important purchase for me would be the F-86D Sabres, which would be the first all-weather, day/night Jet Fighter-Interceptor Aircraft in our inventory. The previous F-86F Sabres we bought under Magsaysay only had ranging radars that help them improve their gun’s accuracy, but the “D” Sabre had a sophisticated radar that could be used also the same way and at the same time detect enemy aircraft over longer distances. They were also more heavily armed with 4 20 mm cannons instead of just Machine Guns.
Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965, four year term)
– Two second-hand Auk-class Frigates
– 190 brand-new AIM-9B Sidewinder Missiles
– 22 brand-new F-5A Jet Fighter Aircraft
– 25 brand-new Mk44 Torpedoes
President Macapagal managed to buy a lot of brand-new modern equipment which further modernized our armed forces. He bought our first Multi-Role Light Combat Aircraft in the F-5A. The Sabres that were bought before were mainly Fighter or Interceptor aircraft, but the F-5A was designed to be able to do different roles as Fighter, Interceptor and Attack aircraft. He also bought the first GUIDED missile in the armed forces inventory in the Sidewinder missiles, and probably the first Torpedoes in our inventory also.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (1966-1986, 20 year term)
– 26 second-hand LST/LCL/LSM Ships
– 24 second-hand T-28D Nomad Propeller Trainer Aircraft
– Two second-hand Aggressive-class Minesweepers
– Eleven second-hand AC-47 Dragon Propeller Gunship
– Ten second-hand C-123 Propeller Transport Aircraft
– 70 second-hand M107 Mortar
– 17 second-hand LVTP-5 Amphibious Carriers
– Three second-hand PCE-class Corvettes
– Four second-hand Cannon-class Frigates
– Foursecond-hand Barnegat-class Frigates
– 25 second-hand F-8 Crusader Fighter-Interceptor Aircraft
– 24 second-hand M102 Artillery
– 104 brand-new UH-1H Transport Helicopters
– 80 brand-new M113 Armored Troop Carriers
– 36 brand-new SF-260 Propeller Trainer Aircraft
– Eleven brand-new Nomad Propeller Transport Aircraft
– 19 brand-new BO-105C Helicopters
– 31 brand-new BN-2 Islander Propeller Multi-purpose Aircraft
– 130 brand-new V-150 Armored Troop Carriers
– 51 brand-new Armored Infantry Vehicles
– 41 brand-new FV101 Scorpion Light Tanks
– 20 brand-new Chamite Armored Personnel Carriers
– 120 brand-new M56 Artillery
– 14 brand-new S-76 Transport Helicopters
– Eight brand-new C-130 Large Propeller Transport Aircraft
President Marcos is our longest-serving President, and in fairness to him he did use that time to buy a lot of military equipment. Among his most important purchases for me would be:
– Our first military transport helicopters in the UH-1H
– Our first armored personnel carriers in the V-150/M113/Chamite/AIFVs
– He bought a lot of large naval vessels, eight Frigates, three Corvettes and over two dozen Landing Vessels
– The only fixed-wing aircraft gunship in the history of our air force
– The most capable aircraft in Philippine Air Force inventory in the F-8 Crusaders, surpassed only recently with President Benigno Aquino’s purchase of the FA-50 Advanced Jet Trainer
– Our first large transport aircraft in the C-130
Cory Aquino (1986-1992, six year term)
– Ten second-hand UH-1H Helicopters
– 24 second-hand OV-10 Bronco Aircraft
– 18 brand-new SF-260TP Aircraft
– 24 brand-new S-211 Aircraft
– 150 brand-new Simba Infantry Fighting Vehicles
– 25 brand-new V-150 Infantry Fighting Vehicles
– Ten brand-new UH-1H Helicopters
– 28 brand-new MD500E Helicopters
– Nine brand-new Mistral missiles2
I actually found President Cory Aquino’s purchases to be quite surprising because she did buy a lot of military equipment, and note that most of them were brand-new. It’s not something you’d expect from a former Housewife. Most of her purchases were for use in internal conflict, though, like more Helicopters, Troop Carriers, etc. although she did buy our first new type of Jet Trainers (the S-211) since the T-33 Shooting Stars that were bought before Marcos’ time.
Fidel Ramos (1992-1998, six year term)
– Three second-hand Peacock-class Corvettes
– 15 second-hand F-5A Freedom Fighters
– 24 brand-new V300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles
– Twelve brand-new M101 Artillery
President Ramos’ term was quite a disappointment for me as being a decorated military man himself, you’d think that he would go out and buy a lot more equipment for our armed forces, but as far as the record shows, he didn’t. In fact, President Cory Aquino, who was just a Housewife prior to her Presidency, ended up buying much more important military purchases than he did.
Gloria Arroyo (2000-2010, ten year term)
– 59 second-hand UH-1H Helicopters
– 48 second-hand M113 Armored Troop Carriers
– Eight second-hand OV-10 Aircraft
– 18 brand-new SF-260 Aircraft
– Eight brand-new W-3 Sokol Helicopters
After the disappointment of the Ramos’ Presidency, we end up with another disappointment in Gloria Arroyo’s Presidency. The next longest serving Presidency after Marcos, and what did President Arroyo bought? Just a lot of Helicopters and Troop Carriers, in TEN full years as President. While his father, President Diosdado Macapagal modernized our armed forces, his daughter did very little to do the same. In fact, almost NONE. She did buy our first Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), but these were in very low quantities, not enough to make much of a difference in our military forces.
Benigno Aquino Jr. (2010-2013)
– 25 second-hand Humvee Troop Carriers
– Two second-hand Hamilton-class Frigates
– 114 second-hand M113A2 Armored Troop Carriers3
– 14 second-hand M113A2 with Scorpion Turrets3
– Ten second-hand M113A2 with .50 cal and 25 mm gun Remote Weapon System turrets3
– 22 brand-new JDAM Bombs
– Thirteen brand-new AW-109 Multi-Purpose Helicopters4
– Twelve brand-new FA-50PH Fighting Eagle Advanced Jet Trainers5
– Two brand-new Strategic Sea Lift Vessels (SSV)6
– Eight brand-new Bell 412 Helicopters7
– Twelve brand-new Soltham Athos 155 mm Artillery8
– Three brand-new C-295 Medium Propeller Transport Aircraft9
(For a more comprehensive list of the procurement of military equipment under PNoy, see my new blog about it here: Military Equipment Acquisitions Under the PNoy Administration.)
After the three disappointing Presidential terms under the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo Presidencies, we finally saw the light under the Benigno Aquino Presidency. He has already bought a lot of stuff, and with two years still to go in his term, more are still in the process of being bought.
‘Judging the Presidents’
So the big question now is, which Philippine President is the “best” or “worst” in terms of arms procurement? I think that judging the value of each President’s purchase will be a bit subjective since each person will tend to have their own opinion based on what criteria they value more. For me, I base my judgement on the following criteria:
– Actual NUMBER of line items of arms procured;
– The QUALITY of the arms procured (i.e., were they new or used, how sophisticated are they, etc.);
– The length of TIME a President was in office.
For the “best” President in terms of arms procurement, as of NOW, grudgingly I will have to say it is President Marcos. He stayed for a very long time in power, and he did end up buying a lot of military equipment. One main reason for that is probably due to self-preservation. By buying a lot of military equipment, he made the military “happy” and thus is probably one reason why he got to stay so long in power despite being a dictator. At the time of the purchase, equipment like the UH-1H Huey helicopters and M113 troop carriers were state-of-the-art, it was like buying UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters or M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles now.
Tied for second place for me would be President Macapagal and President Benigno Aquino (or PNoy). Macapagal because despite staying for only four years in office, he modernized our air force with the F-5A combat aircraft with air to air missiles, plus he managed to add two second-hand Frigates to the mix. PNoy to me has the potential to EQUAL or even SURPASS Marcos’ procurements not in terms of number of line items bought, but the QUALITY of the items he bought and is buying.
For example, despite his long stay in office, Marcos never bought any brand-new aircraft or large ship, or never bought any major missile system. You will notice that the brand-new items he bought were geared more for INTERNAL conflict (i.e., Helicopters, Troop Carriers, etc.) than for dealing with external threats. Aside from keeping the military happy, he also made sure that most of the equipment he bought could be used to preserve his power against uprisings from the populace and/or some sectors of the military itself (not that it helped him much in the end).
P-Noy on the other hand, has bought a lot of brand-new equipment geared for dealing with external threats, like the FA-50 Advanced Jet Trainers, Multi-role AW109 Helicopters and advanced munitions like the JDAMs. The problem though is that as of this writing, the other high-end items he is planning on buying like the Frigates, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters, Medium-range Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) and/or Shore-based Anti-Ship Missiles (AshM), Sidewinders, Mavericks, etc. have not yet been finalized. If they ALL push thru, then personally for me it means his purchases will be as good or maybe EVEN BETTER as that of the late dictator. Remember that PNoy’s terms is only a THIRD as long as that of Marcos, six years versus 20 years, and within that time if he can pull in all these modern equipment then in my book he would be the best.
As for the worst President in terms of arms procurement, a case could be said for President Joseph Estrada who never bought anything while he was in office, but then again he only stayed in power for two years, hence he has a good excuse. The worst President would have to be no less than President Gloria Arroyo. She stayed in office for a full decade, and in terms of length of service she is second only to Marcos. You expect that she would’ve at least bought half of what Marcos bought, but NO. For ten years she bought only very few stuff in terms of line items for the Philippine Armed Forces.
In second place would probably be President Fidel Ramos, who just didn’t buy as much during his term in office, which is very ironic considering his military background. People could argue that the terms of Arroyo and Ramos were wracked by global economic downturns, during Ramos’ time there was the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 while during Arroyo’s term there were some global financial crisis also, but I don’t really agree with this. In Ramos’ case, the crisis occurred only near the end of his term, and the same thing could be said of Arroyo in that most of her years in office were not covered by any crisis.
Starting from President Quirino’s term up to President Diosdado Macapagal’s term, from 1950 to 1965, or a period of 15 years, we were modernizing our armed forces at an EXCELLENT clip. Within that fairly short period of time, for example, we went from P-51D Mustangs to F-86F Sabres to F-86D Sabres and then to F-5A Freedom Fighters in only one and a half decade. I would call this as the “Golden Age” of Philippine arms procurement. President Marcos in his 20 year term bought a lot of stuff, but the equipment he bought were mainly for dealing with internal threats, not for external threats.
President Cory Aquino surprisingly also bought a good number of equipment, but her Administration was followed by three mediocre Presidents in terms of arms procurement covering 18 years, from President Ramos to President Estrada and to President Arroyo. I would call this period to be the “Dark Age” of Philippine arms procurement. It is only now that we are experiencing a RENAISSANCE of sorts in terms of arms procurement under the PNoy Administration. With only two years or 24 months to go under PNoy, we need to see if all of his planned procurements push thru, and it is important that they do due to the uncertainties of how the next President’s arms procurement policies will be. Will the next Administration be as good as Pnoy’s in terms of buying military equipment, or will it be back again to the “Dark Ages” for us? That is the big question which only our ‘masa‘ voters will be able to answer …
* May 20, 2014: Originally posted.
* June 7, 2014: Added more arms procurement in the summary for the PNoy Administration.
* November 22, 2016: Moved the purchase of the W-3 Helicopters to under GMA’s time; removed references to the Blowpipe Missiles; added link to PNoy Acquisitions blog.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer Database,
The Phoenix Journal, Doris’ Corner – The Roving Eye on Malacanang’s Mistral Missiles p. 18,
ACDO’s CORNER: Material Development: Additional 142 Armored Vehicles for the Mech Division,
(https://web.archive.org/web/20161122081037/http://www.mechdiv.net.ph/armor%20Journal/2013/2nd%20n%203rd%20qtr%202013.pdf) ↩ ↩ ↩
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