The Philippine Army (PA), (Filipino: Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas; Spanish: Ejercito Filipino), is the main branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responsible for ground warfare. Commanding General, Lieutenant General Eduardo Año, former Chief of Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), assumed office on 15 July 2015, replacing Lieutenant General Hernando DCA Iriberri, the new Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The Philippine Army, as the ground forces branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), traces its roots to the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897, from the days of the Philippine Revolution in Cavite, which among its resolutions, ordered to raise a standing army for the revolutionary forces. The Philippine Revolutionary Army, led by its first commanding general, Captain General Artemio Ricarte, was the result of that convention's decision. The new army fought the battles of the revolution until the Pact of Biak-na-Bato in the same year of its creation; and then again from 1898 until the collapse of the First Republic in 1901. Henceforth, March 22 is commemorated as Army Day to honor its inception.
During the final years of the Philippine-American War, with the notable successes of the all-Filipino Macabebe Scouts cavalry squadron (raised in 1899) under U.S. command, the American President Theodore Roosevelt officially sanctioned the raising of the Philippine Scouts (PS) as part of the United States Army, with full effect starting from October 1901. Earlier, in August that same year, came the colonial civil government's decision to found the Philippine Constabulary (PC) as the national gendarmerie force for law enforcement. Both of these organizations and their victories over the Filipino rebel troops contributed to the official end of the conflict in 1902, even as resistance continued (inclusive of the Muslims of the south, resulting in the Moro Rebellion) through 1914.
Starting in 1910, Filipino personnel in the Philippine Scouts were sent to the United States Military Academy with one PS soldier being sent per year. Several of these graduates who served with the Scouts, plus PC officers, both formed part of the first officer corps of the revitalized Philippine Army in 1935.
The Philippine Army of today was initially organized under the National Defense Act of 1935 (Commonwealth Act No. 1) that formally created the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The act specified that in so far as may be practicable, original appointments by the President in grades above third lieutenant should be made from among former holders of reserve commissions in the United States Army, from among former officers of the Philippine Scouts and Constabulary.
After the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth on November 15, 1935, President Manuel L. Quezon sought the services of General Douglas MacArthur to evolve a national defense plan. The official rebirth of the Philippine Army occurred with the passage of Commonwealth Act No. 1, approved on December 21, 1935, which effected the organization of a Council of National Defense and of the Army of the Philippines. The act set forth the organizational structure of the army in some detail, set forth enlistment procedures, and established mobilization procedures.With this act, the AFP was officially established.
The development of the new Philippine Army was slow. The year 1936 was devoted to the building of camps, organization of cadres, and the special training of instructors, drawn largely from the Constabulary, which joined the new force as the Constabulary Division. The commander of the Philippine Department provided Philippine Scouts as instructors and detailed U.S. Army officers to assist in the inspection, instruction, and administration of the program. By the end of the year instructors had been trained and camps established.
The first group of 20,000 men was called up on January 1, 1937; and by the end of 1939 there were 4,800 officers and 104,000 men in the reserves. Infantry training was given at camps scattered throughout the Philippines; field artillery training was concentrated in the vicinity of the U.S. Army's Fort Stotsenburg near Angeles, about fifty miles north of Manila, and specialized training was given at Fort William McKinley just south of Manila. Coast artillery instruction was carried on at Fort Stotsenburg and at Grande Island in Subic Bay by personnel supplied largely by the American commander at Corregidor.
A decade later, with the threat of war with Japan becoming imminent, on July 26, 1941 a new U.S. command in the Far East was created, known as the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. On the same date, U.S. PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt, issued a Presidential Order (6 Fed. Reg. 3825) which called the Philippine Army into the service of the Armed Forces of the United States. The Presidential Order did not order all the military forces of the Philippine government into the service of the United States Armed Forces. Only those units and personnel indicated in orders issued by a general officer of the United States Army were mobilized and made an integral part of the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE), and only those members of a unit who physically reported for duty were inducted. With an annual appropriation of 16 million pesos, the mobilized units trained new Filipino members in defending the nation and protecting its people.
Japanese forces invaded the Philippines after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu on 7 December 1941. At this time, two regular and ten reserve divisions of the Philippine Army undertook the defense of the Philippines. This included North Luzon Force (under then Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright), South Luzon Force activated 13 December 1941 under Brig. Gen. George M. Parker Jr., the Visayan-Mindanao Force under Colonel W.F. Sharp in the southern islands (61st, 81st, and 101st Divisions plus three other regiments), and the Reserve Force. North Luzon Force included the 11th, 21st, and 31st Divisions, all reserve. South Luzon Force include the 1st (regular) Division, and the 41st, 51st, and 71st (reserve) Divisions. These divisions were incorporated into the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). The equipment of these units included: Canon de 155mm GPF; 75 mm Gun M1917; 2.95 inch QF Mountain gun; Stokes Mortar; Brandt mle 27/31;Canon d'Infanterie de 37 modèle 1916 TRP; M2 Browning machine gun; M1917 Browning machine gun; M1919 Browning machine gun; M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle; M1917 Enfield rifle; M1903 Springfield rifle; Thompson submachine gun; and the M1911 pistol.
After the surrender of the Filipino and American forces in the Philippines in May 1942, independent guerrilla groups, composed of both civilian and military personnel, began to form throughout the Islands. Many of these groups worked under the control of General Douglas MacArthur's General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area.
Service of the Philippine Army as part of the United States Armed Forces terminated as of midnight, June 30, 1947, by authority of General Order #168, Army Forces Western Pacific. The next day, on July 1, President Manuel Roxas issued Executive Order No. 94 s. 1947 which, among other things, reorganized the Philippine Army into a service branch of what was now called the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This resulted in the formation of the Philippine Air Force and reformation of the Philippine Navy as separate organizations after long years as part of the Philippine Army.
1950 would see the new army not just fighting Communist groups in Luzon but from August of that year, even the Korean People's Army and their allies in the People's Liberation Army in the Korean War as PA Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs) forming the bulk of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea formed part of the UN forces, led by the US, that fought in the conflict. The decade saw the raising of the first active division of the Army, the 1st Infantry Division. With the victory over the Huks later in the 50s, the BCTs became active duty infantry battalions. Formed in the same time was the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, and in 1962 the PA raised its airborne and special forces formation, the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) following the traditions of the US Army Special Forces (the Green Berets) and the 11th Airborne Division that helped liberate Southern Luzon and Manila at the closing stages of the Japanese occupation of the country.
It would only take until the 1970s and the Communist and Muslim rebellions that would force the PA into the establishment of its 2nd Infantry Division, which led to the raising of more infantry divisions all over the country, as well as the formal raising of the Army's Special Operations Command and what is now today the Mechanized Infantry Division.