"Anything You Say Sir!"
|Chapter I Introduction||Chapter
CLARK AIR BASE is located in the province of Pampanga, 55 miles north of Manila, on the island of Luzon -- the largest of the islands in the Republic of the Philippines (which consists of something better than 7,000 islands). The area is known as the plains of Pampanga that extend from Manila in the south to the city of Dagupan in the north and is interrupted only by the presence of Mt. Arayat, directly opposite the runway of Clark Air Base. The base is backed by the Zambales mountains, some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. These facts have very little meaning to most people who have been assigned at Clark Air Base, but I must start someplace.
The base is located on property that is leased to the United States through an agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States which will shortly be terminated by another agreement. At the end of World War II, a 99 year lease was granted which has been negotiated continuously ever since. A 99 year lease was tantamount to possession, however it has been reduced to a tenure of 25 years and the lease will soon expire, giving our friends another opportunity to get into the knickers of Uncle Sam.
The fenced area of Clark Air Base is within a 26 mile circumference, some of which is guarded by air policeman and local national guards.
Clark Air Base was originally established by the Army and was designated Fort Stotsenburg in the year 1902. Rumor has it that the only reason the United States Army Calvary unit came to Pampanga was because of the strategic location. The strategy probably amounted to the availability of grass that agreed with the horses and the location was far enough away from Army Headquarters to minimize helpful suggestions. Eventually the cavalry left and the air base was established. Fort Stotsenburg had been considered a vacation assignment for the Army, where the Air Corps assumed a secondary role of flying. There is a strong indication that this non flying tradition of long standing still governs the activities of the base.
Within the base proper is a huge parade ground approximately one and a half miles long and a half mile wide. At the south end are some imposing structures which house the Thirteenth Air Force Headquarters, which today is commanded by a three star general of the Air Force. At the north end are six quonset huts which have been glued together behind an old brass cannon of the Spanish Occupation era of the Philippines. This cannon is directly pointed at the headquarters of the Thirteenth Air Force. The fact that it cannot be fired is a source of comfort to the Thirteenth Air Force staff officers. The building behind the cannon is affectionately referred to as the "Little Pentagon" at Clark Air Base and is occupied by the Base Commander.
To the casual viewer the parade ground looks relatively level; however, from the vantage point of the Clark Air Base Commander it slopes approximately 30 degrees toward his office. This observation is reinforced daily when things fall from desks at Thirteenth Air Force Headquarters and wind up in the Base Commanders office.
Not-so-routine activities of the Clark Air Base Commander involve dealing with politicians, criminals, pimps, businessmen, and people of all walks of life, including 6800 lovely girls --most of whom are registered with the Social Hygiene Clinic and for lack of better terms have been referred to as "hostitutes", bar girls, and dear friends.
The city immediately adjacent to the base proper is called Angeles City. It originally was a barrio or village of the provincial capitol of San Fernando and had a population of about 1500 people until Clark Air Base was established and began to grow. Today, the population amounts to over 200,000 people. The major enterprises of the City of Angeles are the personal services of the hostesses and a place of refuge for those in need of refuge. Additionally, San Miguel Brewery has a distribution point and it does provide the base sufficient beer for the consumption of our forces. The quality control function of San Miguel has been subjected to some criticism. The same could be said of the other enterprises.
Legitimate business exists in the area but that makes dull reading. Wood carvings, wicker furniture, and capiz shell lamps will not be mentioned again, nor will the climate be a subject of discussion, it being either hot and dry, or hot and wet. I prefer to tell what it was like to sit in a position where victory was impossible, the challenges were many, and the offers were unreal.
ASSIGNMENT TO CLARK
I was serving as Commander of Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, when I was notified of my selection to go to Clark Air Base in the Philippines as Vice Commander of the air base wing. I had been at Vance for two years and was quite contented with the assignment since I was permitted to fly with students and I had some rapport with the local citizens.
My memories of the Philippines concerned a short temporary duty tour of Clark Air Base and Nichols Field near Manila in 1946. I remember that there appeared to be no hot water in the entire country at that time and when I recalled the stimulating procedure of soaking sheets in the shower and throwing them on the bed where evaporation would cool me off enough to fall asleep, my eagerness to go was less than enthusiastic.
I called the Colonels Assignment Office in Washington and told them that they probably should select someone else since I was happy where I was at. The person who answered the phone was obviously a below-the-zone Major who had a greater knowledge of assignment procedures than I could hope to acquire. (A below-the-zone promotee is one who has needlessly been advanced ahead of his/her contemporaries). I had been an assignment officer when I was a major and I know how brilliant assignment officers were. I had the strong feeling he would ignore my suggestion. Ten days after our conversation, I received a letter from the Pentagon, officially notifying me of my assignment to Clark Air Base in paragraph one. The remaining five paragraphs of the communication pointed out the various ways in which I could submit an immediate request for retirement in the event I challenged the wisdom of the personnel weenies in Washington. I had a whole seven days to make up my mind and since I did not have any particular civilian employment in mind, chose to take up this new and challenging assignment.
While my household goods were being packed I received another phone call -- this time from Clark Air Base. The Base Commander, who had been in the chair for about six months, had suddenly died of a heart attack -- apparently from dealing with the interesting and challenging tasks that he faced on a daily basis. This confirmed my suspicion that base commanders at Clark were about as expendable as Kleenex. Clark had run through five of them in 24 months.
Although selection for assignment as commander at Clark Air Base may in some circles be considered a compliment, I have concluded that those who have served in this position and still state that they welcome the challenge were either masochists or had an ego of such size that it would challenge the paranoia of Adolf Hitler.
I don't believe that it is necessary to identify all the functions of the Base Commander; they are spelled out in Air Force directives. Probably less than one per cent of the total Air Force population is even aware of, much less has ever read these publications. Most people don't believe what the base commander does anyway, but for the benefit of those who may have some interest he is responsible for the morale, welfare, and discipline of the station. Included in his functional responsibility are things like transportation, housing, food services, the commissary, recreational services, civil engineering, clubs, base operations, and he is the convening authority for special court martial. Usually, the base commander gets credit for things which he has nothing to do with and the bulk of his time is spent dealing with one to two per cent of the base population who are either in some kind of trouble or are asking for special consideration.
I don't intend to relate all of my experiences in the job for two reasons; (1) I can't remember them, and (2) if I did, I would probably be open to civil and criminal charges from most people with whom I have had contact.
When I arrived at Clark Air Base in September 1971, I was greeted on the ramp by my new boss, who immediately led me to believe that there was no way that I could ever reach his august position since he had obviously taken up the job in perpetuity. Four months later, the base was reorganized into a standard Air Force Base structure somewhat like the rest of the Air Force. My job was Commander of the Combat Support Group which, according the Air Force directives, is designated the Base Commander. Although I officially held the position, I was not allowed to say I was Base Commander except in secret conversations because my boss tenaciously held the title, even though he could only fool a few of the troops, until his departure from Clark.
In the more than 18 months I was responsible for running Clark Air Base, several interesting incidents occurred. We had a typhoon, a small earthquake, the biggest flood in the history of the Philippines, and a magnificent jet fuel fire which ran through the housing area. These events made life interesting and sometimes caused me to toss and turn at night for at least ten seconds before I fell into an uninterrupted sleep broken only by calls from the command post, security police, and an occasional drunk. The natural disasters at Clark Air Base pale in the light of other activities which involve people on and off base.
The remainder of this book concerns itself with activities and events which I hope will give the reader some insight into the Philippines from the standpoint of the man who is alternately blamed and commended for things which he may, from time to time, have some control over.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT
Before the great flood of 1972, the US Forces had begun negotiations with the Federation of Labor Unions in the Philippines, and by July of 1972 had reached an impasse as far as consummation of a new agreement was concerned.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the labor unions representing employees at all US bases in the Philippines expired in 1972. The US Navy, which is lead agency in the Pacific, had the responsibility of negotiating the new agreement. They managed to discuss everything except the economic issues -- which incidentally was the only thing the Filipinos were interested in. When the Navy captain in charge of negotiations was reassigned to the United States, the Thirteenth Air Force Commander, who lived at the top of the inclined plane above my office suggested that I assume the responsibility of negotiating with the Filipinos. I was already vice chairman of the US panel so I had a few clues.
The US Navy had begun negotiations in March. Prior to formal talks we conducted some training sessions to learn about the Base Labor Agreement and to attempt to understand the Filipino attitude. During one training session, a Filipino sociologist related a story which probably is typical of the mental attitude of many workers. It seems there was a Filipino farmer watching his carabao graze when he was approached by an American priest. The Filipino began to tell the priest about his plans for the following day. He had been saving his money all year to go to the barrio fiesta, and he said, "Tomorrow is the most important day of my life. I am going to get up early catch the first bus to the fiesta, and spend the day visiting the cantina, going to the cockfights, drinking beer, and maybe see some of the local hostesses. I will catch the last bus back to my farm and if I am lucky, my wife will nag me; I will hit her in the mouth, and it will be a perfect day." After he had related his plans to the priest est, a neighboring farmer came by and said: "Tomorrow the men from the Department of Agriculture are coming by to inoculate my carabao. I can't do it by myself, will you help me?" So the farmer said: "Of course, I will help you, my friend, I will be there at 9 o'clock." "What a kind and generous man you are to give up this long anticipated day to help your friend," the priest said. And the farmer replied: "I am going to the barrio fiesta tomorrow." The priest then said: "Well, why did you tell your friend that you would help him?" "Because he is my friend", he answered, "and I want him to like me. You see, if I tell him that I will not help him, he will stop being my friend right now, but he will continue being my friend longer if I tell him what he wants to hear."
This pretty much summarizes the attitude of many Filipinos and is one of the primary thoughts I kept in mind when I went to Manila to serve as chairman of the US panel. The negotiations had dragged out for five months, probably because we were trying to remain friends as long as we could.
Although the original collective bargaining agreement had expired in July, both sides had agreed to continue to use the old agreement until a new one could be signed. I had never tried to be a labor expert, and the chief negotiator for the Philippine side was one of the foremost labor experts in Manila, and president of the Federation -- and also one of the most articulate debaters I had ever heard. I knew that there was no way I could maintain the US position by arguing law or attempting to restructure his thinking. We had an American labor advisor; a retired US Army colonel who had stayed on in the Philippines as a consultant for American oil companies. He was more knowledgeable of Philippine labor law than anyone in the area -- and we were indeed fortunate to have him on our side. He made one suggestion which later proved to be the key to the entire negotiation procedure. His idea was to provide a signing grant to each employee when the Collective Bargaining Agreement was concluded. Three members rs of the US panel and I went to Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii, where I presented a request for authority to obligate 100 pesos per employee in the event they decided to agree with the US position. At the exchange rate at that time the bonus was $15 per employee. The American Labor panel had never heard of a signing grant, and I finally had to tell them that it simply was a bribe - with class.
Since I had no labor negotiating skills, I began to have breakfast with the chairman of the Philippine panel to find out what he intended to demand during the day. I offered him 100 pesos per employee bonus if he would agree to the US position on the major economic issues. I was really surprised when he said that he would accept the money and stop arguing about many of their demands, most of which were ridiculous anyway. In the 71 years that the Americans had been in the Philippines, we had given away so much that it is no longer a point of personal pride to ask for things. Had we agreed to the labor unions' demands, the cost of the contract would have increased by $14 million annually. The general attitude in this country appears to be that the Americans are rich and have an unlimited store of funds to give away. The only argument that I could support was that we are really not all that wealthy and I asked their chairman what he really wanted -- a few overpaid employees, or to maintain the work force which already overpaid.
I never offered a signing grant at the bargaining table, and I told the chairman of the Philippine panel that it would only be offered after all of the articles of the agreement had been signed. I told him this confidentially, knowing full well that he would tell the remaining members of his panel -- even though he promised me that it was a matter between himself and me. After two more weeks of negotiations, I learned that every employee in the Philippines was aware of the possibility of a bonus. This put me in a position to be able to lean on the Philippine negotiator. I simply told him: "If you don't agree to the US position on the economic items, I will never offer the bonus at the table, and your problem may be solved the Filipino way." This did hasten the final agreement but March to September is a long time to talk, even in the Philippines.
Several incidents occurred during the negotiations which I thought were funny, including the support of my advisors. Usually their advice amounted to notes saying: "Tell him to go to hell," or "Is he out of his mind?" One day I asked for a recess because I had listened to and read all of the words I could handle. I went back to the hotel where the US panel was quartered and had been in the room about ten minutes when the telephone rang. A girl's voice said: "Good afternoon; this is Teresita Santiago." To this I replied, "Why did you call this number?" She said a friend of hers told her to call me, or something like that. I said, "Where do you work, Teresita?" And she said she worked for a public relations firm in Manila. I then asked her what she looked like and she told me she looked like many Filipino women. I said, "No, that's not what I meant. What do you really look like?" Her reply to this was; "32-22-34." I didn't think that was too bad. I said, "What do you do, Teresita?" "Anything you say, sir.", she said.
When I went back to the negotiation table that afternoon, I said to the Philippine chairman; "Ask her to call me after you sign the agreement." He denied all, and I never heard from Teresita again.
Since most of my negotiations with the Philippine panel were done in private sessions, the activity at the bargaining table was mostly play-acting on both sides. At one point in the negotiations the Philippine chairman privately told me that he agreed with the US position on one phase but he had to put on a show for one member of his panel but not to worry about it because the man would only be there one day. If I could give an Academy Award for convincing argument, he certainly would have won. He spoke for about three hours, with the use of a blackboard and much arm waving, and gave an impassioned presentation. If I hadn't known what his real purpose was I would have signed off on his position. He is one of the most practical men I have ever met. He knew as much about our budget system and personnel policies as any of the labor advisors appointed to assist me.
On 27 September 1972, we signed the final Collective Bargaining Agreement, and it is relatively free of ambiguity -- although I am convinced that vague, obtuse statements make Filipinos more comfortable than any direct references.
The ceremony was appropriately dull and everyone had an opportunity to make a speech commending those that he had been deadlocked with. I think we won a little, and I think we lost a little. We did get a three year agreement, however. this may not be a testimony to industrial peace, but more than a year has expired after its publication and we have yet to be threatened.
Labor negotiations by their very nature are tense and both sides are naturally suspicious. I know nothing of labor negotiations in the United States, but I am convinced that the Collective Bargaining Agreement achieved between the United States and Philippine employees probably is as straightforward a document as this kind of relationship will permit. I don't mean to imply we trust each other entirely, but at least we have a dialogue where the little brown brother and the ugly American can talk to each other with reasonable hope of solving mutual problems. There are some people who still think we should raise wages, hire more people and close the base. This kind of logic will bend the mind but is absolutely reasonable if you are fuzzy headed enough.
Just before the final ceremony to conclude the Collective Bargaining Agreement at Subic Bay Naval Base, the President of the Philippines declared martial law in the entire country. I had been in Greece when martial law was declared there and sort of expected a similar kind of regime to move into power. All that really happened, as far as Americans were concerned was, a curfew was established from midnight to four in the morning and many flowery pronouncements were issued. Most of the same people remained in office and some of the news media were shut off. There has been a great effort toward cleaning of public areas, which was desperately needed and national discipline has been strongly emphasized.
Probably the greatest effect martial law has had on the operation of Clark Air Base has been the curfew. When it became evident that many of the Clark personnel had to travel between midnight and four in the morning, we made application for curfew passes and four to five hundred were issued to individuals who were shift workers or worked in clubs that closed after 12 o'clock. The first passes were issued for 90 days.
I think the total impact of martial law in the Philippines, at least for the last seven or eight months, has been progressive. The people do not appear to complain about it, and since it has not been oppressive, it has apparently given the whole country a new sense of direction. There is plenty of evidence of a new interest in public areas and the road building program -- which was needed more than any other public works project -- appeared to be quite successful.
The Filipinos had endured 400 years of Spanish rule, about 40 years of American stewardship, and four years of Japanese occupation; therefore acceptance of an administration operated by the Armed Forces did not seem to cause as great an impact on the social structure as it could have in other countries. Of course, this may relate to the nature of Filipinos in general, who are considerate people and not given to arrogance as a national trait.
THE COMMUNITY COUNCIL
The Angeles City - Clark Air Base Community Council is probably the only truly unique committee established between the local populace and the base itself. It meets once a month, alternating between a restaurant in downtown Angeles, and the Officers' Club at Clark.
Angeles City depends on Clark Air Base as its major source of income and most citizens are acutely aware of the fact that close cooperation between the base and the city is necessary to keep the business establishments in operation. The relationship between Angeles City and Clark has varied from outright hostility to close cooperation over the years of the existence of the base.
Some commanders had concluded that they could put pressure on Angeles City by putting the city off limits if things didn't go right. This is a ridiculous position for a commander to take; there are too many ways to get off the sprawling air base, and it is virtually impossible to police the fence post.
The main subjects discussed at the Clark- Angeles City Council involve base-community relations. During the entire time I was commander, the principal subjects were venereal disease and rabies. Given a choice, I suppose I would rather have VD, since it can be cured with massive doses of penicillin and once a person is infected with rabies, it is always fatal. Besides, catching rabies is no fun at all.
The Council is made up of the city council and the Vice Mayor of the city, who is also the presiding officer over the municipal board. The Clark Air Base side is chaired by the Base Commander, with membership made up of the legal officer, the civil engineer, chief of security police, the chief of civic actions, and the base information officer. As guests or advisors we generally had the city health officer, the city engineer, and usually two doctors from Clark Air Base Hospital.
Some of the conversation during the Base Community Council meetings was interesting indeed. I recall one meeting where a long discussion of the rabies problem was addressed. The main concern on the part of the Philippine side was whether or not rabies inoculations would affect the flesh of the vaccinated dogs. During the discussion it was brought out that dog meat is considered a delicacy in Pampanga and the Council members were concerned that this vaccination would ruin the taste of the dog meat. There is a slaughter house in Angeles which butchers dogs and the meat is considered to be one of the better culinary delights of the Angelenos. Whether or not I ate any dog meat is open to question because many of the dishes served at luncheons were unidentifiable.
Discussions regarding the Social Hygiene Clinic were always interesting because of the serious manner in which we talked about the charm of the city. We organized a series of lectures for bar owners and hostesses with the hope that the girls would become aware of the complications that would result from untreated VD. The City Health Officer was afraid that there would be some reaction from injectable penicillin but didn't have any qualms about giving oral penicillin to the girls. The fact that the anti-phylactic reaction would show up from oral as well as injectable penicillin, didn't seem to be of great concern possibly because the pills are easy to sell.
This committee was the basis for the establishment of the Social Hygiene Clinic and has reduced the rate of VD at Clark Air Base, although a few active, careless men and women can run the rate as high as Mt. Arayat. The bar owners were supposed to pay the inspection fees and bear the cost of treatment of those who failed the test. Cooperation was best achieved by threats of placing sources of VD off limits. The program had some success.
Nearly every meeting brought up the subject of robberies, particularly just prior to Christmas. I had to admit that burglaries and robberies are an economical way to procure Christmas presents.
At one meeting I even threatened to tranquilize a carabao that had been wandering around the base, paint them international orange and release them in downtown Angeles. The threat was rather hollow, because we had no way to transport a 2800 pound unconscious carabao.