“AT the age of 4, with paper hats and wooden swords, we’re all generals,” actor Peter Ustinov once said. “But some of us never outgrow it.” Neither did the four “Euro generals.”

Moscow International Airport customs nabbed Gens. Silverio Alarcio, Jaime Caringal, Ismael Rafanan and Eliseo de la Paz for stashing P6.9 million worth of euros. Now they’re gunning for 2010 elective posts.

Former general Panfilo Lacson’s photo is on International Police’s “Red Notice” list of fugitives on the lam. And Gen. Victor Ibrado pinned Bronze

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Cross Medals on two Southern Luzon Command officers-–for what?

After arresting 43 health workers in a Morong seminar, the Bronze Cross medalists delayed response to a Supreme Court habeas corpus order. “Inexcusable,” snapped presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro. It “set dangerous precedents” for future habeas corpus orders.”

The Court is still to issue its resolution on charges of sabotaging the writ of illegal arrest and detention. Courtesy and common sense dictated that Ibrado could have waited until after the Courts handed down its decision.

Civilian supremacy over the military is a keystone of democratic government. Was Ibrado less than brilliant?

“Half of the generals are dumb,” US President Harry Truman snapped in the debate over nuking Chinese troops in North Korea. “But that’s not a crime. Otherwise, half of them would be in jail.”

Or was this reappearance of the atrophied constitutional reflexes that we saw under Marcos? Distorted mindsets, on Military Commission No. 2, sentenced former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. to death by musketry.

Look at Burma’s brutal junta. In Thailand, liberties took a beating after Prapahullajom Khao (Bangkok’s version of the PMA) officers beat down dissenters.

President Manuel Quezon was “wary of military involvement in politics,” says the Yale University study, “Closer Than Brothers.” ”He modeled Philippine Military after US West Point and Britain’s Sandhurst.

PMA’s professionals would “deny control over the nation’s arsenals to political elites, whether nationalist attorneys from UP or corporate executives from Ateneo.”

What does the track record show? PMA’s first graduates fought in World War II and hewed to the constitutional chain of command. But Marcos uncorked the genie’s bottle.

No PMA class was more brutalized than Class ’71 (to which Lacson and Gringo Honasan belong). Among (its) 85 graduates…at least five practiced torture, six were murdered…They were the ultimate creatures of martial law.”

In the “Rolex 12,” 10 generals and two civilians--Juan Ponce Enrile and Eduardo Cojuangco--helped Ferdinand Marcos clamp on martial law. Do they burnish their Rolexes today, given their collaboration’s results?

“Creeping militarization” of the bureaucracy accelerated during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s watch.

Weakened by the “Hello Garci” scandal, she owes her political survival to the military,” Agence France Presse says. “She knows it. The military knows it. And there is little she can do about it.”

This presidential diminution underpins the Southern Luzon command medal ceremonies. Are the generals signaling us, yet again: Democracy grows from the barrel of a gun?

This creed bastardizes Mao Zedong’s axiom. Now, more than ever, the democratic institutions that People Power restored must hold. The alternative is starker than just “paper hats and wooden swords.”

(juanlmercado@gmail.com)