Last March 16, at Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City, 222 Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets received their graduation diplomas in a somber atmosphere heightened by the academy’s Code of Honor, engendered by separate speeches by Commander-in-Chief Benigno S. Aquino lll, PMA Superintendent Maj. Gen. Oscar Lopez, and newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Jheorge Llona, the class valedictorian. All three spoke about the glowingly sterling asset the academy holds dearest to its heart: The PMA Code of Honor.Although in the three speeches his name was not mentioned, it was clear that the embattled PMA Cadet 1st Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia had failed in his bid for the President’s grant of a “second chance”, after he had been dismissed from the service for lying when he tried to explain why he entered a class late by two minutes. He would have been the 223rd cadet to graduate.
PMA, a Public School
It would later be reported that Aldrin was tentatively allowed to pursue his OJT (which had been aborted by the investigation) in order to qualify for next year’s graduation, pending a review of his case by the AFP Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Baltazar, as ordered by Pres. Noynoy.However, should all “become well and end well” with Aldrin graduating next year, the citizens’ anxieties over the PMA’s worthiness as the country’s prime military training institution would still linger unabated, without a review of the Code of Honor, and of all the curricula and administrative matters that are subject to the powers of the State or, in the ultimate sense: to the authority of the sovereign people of the Republic.It was absolutely wrong for the academy’s authorities and their trainees to pronounce that the Cudia case was an internal matter over which Pres. Noynoy had the last say. The PMA is a chartered institution, meaning: Filipino taxpayers, being its stakeholders, may advance their interests before the proverbial court of last resort in a textbook move, short of resorting to any of a number of drastic sovereign options.
Fight For Justice
As Aldrin’s fate hangs in the balance, social media and the public, those whom PMA authorities and their cadets ignored when they sympathized with the entreaties of Aldrin’s sister, can only disconcertedly speculate: what if a dejected Aldrin had joined rebel forces up in the hills to fight for justice, not for himself, but for the citizenry for whose sake he had precisely enrolled in the PMA, the institution that now appears in his tortured mind to have lost its raison d’ être, or reason for being the people’s sentinel!? His life might have been ruined, indeed, and this might well be his way of rebuilding it.To be sure, Aldrin, born of poor parents who had themselves served the military in their prime, had chosen to pursue the family tradition of serving his country with a commitment to safeguard its interests, including defending it against aggression with his own life. And now he’s told that he has been tentatively expelled for having breached the Code of Honor with a lie, and that any lie of whatever size, “big or small”, would suffice to cause dismissal. Huh? It is bothersome that the PMA does not teach the principle of punishment’s “commensurate-ness” to the offense; a postulate practiced in all religions and legal systems the world over.Appropriately, Aldrin has gone the course of “exhausting administrative remedies”, an avenue where some theorists see Pres. Noynoy as having the final say. But I differ. It is the Supreme Court that will decide with finality if Aldrin’s human rights have been violated in the premises, guided as it essentially is by the interests of the sovereign Filipino people.
The Foible of Narcissism
I was once an ROTC cadet officer of the Model Battalion. DMST was grooming me for Corps Commander, but after the basic two years, I stopped. Reason: I wasn’t really serious in becoming a soldier. I joined the Model Battalion because, with highly specialized training, I would also look smart in a gala uniform, an elitist cut above the field of ornery mortals. That was how most of my fellow Model Battalion cadets likewise narcissistically felt. That is how most PMA-ers likewise narcissistically feel, hence, the urgent need for a re-orientation on PMA’s core values.Transcending the Cudia case is the bigger picture necessitating the academy’s re-examination of its vision and mission, and a determination of how well life has been breathed into them. But this task would be an exercise in futility if there were no clear understanding of the academy’s core values among its authorities and cadets.At this point, the core value of leadership comes to the fore as a timely reminder that: he who leads must be last, and he cannot lead who cannot follow. Valor also comes to mind, as exemplified by the bolo-wielding and barefooted Andres Bonifacio who wore no gala uniform.