Monday, May 13, 2013
PHILIPPINE ARMY’S ‘WANTED GENERAL’ GETS LEGION OF HONOR, HANGS THE UNIFORM
Maj. Gen. Cesar Badong Yano was the country’s defense attaché since 2011 and is credited with working with the Pentagon for the procurement and delivery of two badly-needed high-endurance patrol ships for the Philippine Navy as the Philippine military shifted focus on external defense and the country’s vast maritime borders.
He officially ended that stint and retired from military service – after 34 years, 4 months and 9 days – on his birthday last May 10.
The citation for the Philippine Legion of Honor Award extolled his “eminently meritorious and valuable services” enhancing diplomatic and security relations with the United States as well as Canada.
The citation said Yano provided the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines “vital information that served as basis in the decision making of government policy makers…relentlessly engaged Washington DC-based security experts and think-tanks to discuss security implications to the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region and submitted numerous reports very relevant to the present security dynamics in the regional and global arena…”
Under his watch, the Philippine Navy procured two Hamilton-class weather high-endurance cutters (WHECs) that were re-christened the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (currently the PN flagship) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz. A Philippine Air Force C-130 “Hercules” cargo plane was also successfully overhauled in Mojave, Ca. and the AFP itself got $2.8 million-worth of new weapons and various military supplies.
But Yano already had a distinguished career even before he arrived in Washington DC. A native of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte, he received his commission from the Philippine Military Academy in 1980.
He is the flipside of a deeply respected tandem in the Philippine Army – his elder brother Alexander (PMA Class ‘76) was a former Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces (2008-09). When we first interviewed him after taking over the Washington DC post, the younger Yano said he decided to join the military so he could watch his brother’s back. And in a Facebook post of his awarding and retirement ceremonies at the Philippine Embassy last week, his “Kuya” was among the first to greet him, welcoming him to the “retired ranks”. It would appear the siblings still keep an eye out for each other.
The younger Yano cut his proverbial teeth leading a reconnaissance platoon with the 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division in Sulu.
He was a team leader at the Presidential Security Command – which strongman Ferdinand Marcos transformed into his Praetorian Guards – during the People Power uprising that eventually led to his ouster and midnight-hour escape to Hawaii in 1986. Though the popular revolt was relatively peaceful, it severely tested the Filipino soldiers’ professionalism and patriotism; Yano stressed that to this day, he is proud he never disobeyed orders yet upheld civilian supremacy and democracy.
He led an army intelligence team in Southern Luzon, served as assistant chief of staff for civil military operations and spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division in Northern Mindanao. He got his first command, the 29th Infantry Battalion, in 1999.
His field assignments were book-ended by a detail as military aide to then Senate President Ernesto Maceda in 1997 and headquarters duties at General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo and the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio from 2000 to 2004 and later as the military’s chief liaison with Congress in 2010.
By 2005, Yano was back in the field, serving as chief of staff of the 7th Infantry Division and later the Northern Luzon Command, both based at Fort Magsaysay in Cabanatuan City.
Two years later he was given command of the 302nd Brigade which had combat battalions operating in the islands of Cebu, Bohol and eastern half of Negros, and appeared to have done such a good job against the New People’s Army (NPA) that they issued a “warrant of arrest” against him and six other army field commanders.
And as he swaps dress suit and combat fatigues with more lively civilian attire, another facet of the man has emerged. It turns out he’s also a “sorbetes magnate” of sorts – he owns a large fleet of ice cream carts – those innocuous, colorful, street-bound push carts that are as much as part of most Filipinos’ childhood as bubblegum or “patintero”.
Nothing perhaps conjures up happy childhood memories faster than “dirty ice cream”, slowly dripping down a sugar cone under the summer sun. They’re refreshing and cheap, but the income Yano made from his “sorbetes” carts helped send his children to Ateneo and LaSalle which he couldn’t have afforded on an honest general’s pay.
If there were qualities that I thought would explain his life’s many successes, it would be his sincerity, humility and keen eye for opportunities. The first piece I posted about him on the internet in 2011 received so many hits I was sure he had a fan’s club back home. I realized then Cesar Yano leaves lasting friendships because he never gets tired of creating new ones and this has made him a “wanted man” wherever he goes and in whatever endeavor he decides to do.