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My Mistah

By Raphael Martin

PMA graduate adopt politicians as honorary member of an associate members of their classes. Who says politics and soldiery don’t mix?

Late last year, Senator Francisco Pangilinan was invited to dinner by
Itos Carag, a former classmate of his at De La Salle University and an
ex-cadet of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sandiwa Class of
1985. Unknown to Pangilinan, the occasion was his entry to the PMA. The
neophyte senator was “adopted” by the Sandiwa Class, whose members are
now majors and lieutenant colonels in the military and police forces.

Pangilinan was apprehensive when he was nominated as an honorary
member, but he did not decline for fear of offending Carag, a long-time
friend. “He was uncomfortable because deep inside, he felt that his
position might be used someday,” a source privy to the occasion told
NEWSBREAK.

This same class once considered adopting former Cavite governor Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., now chief of the Videogram Regulatory Board. An Army officer who was a class member said Revilla’s adoption was proposed by policemen-members but was rejected by the majority of the class.

In another case, Dimalupig Class of 1981 thought of asking Richard Gomez, of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) party-list group, to be an honorary member but eventually dropped the plan. “We decided that we should not get politicians or actors into our class,” said an Army officer. At present, Class 1981 has for associate member Iloilo Representative Rolex Suplico, their former classmate at the academy. Suplico did not graduate at the PMA and later went into politics.

Deposed president Joseph Estrada was once considered for adoption by Matatag Class of 1971. This did not push through. Admittedly the most famous PMA class, its members include Senators Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and Panfilo Lacson. Former Bulacan governor and now Agrarian Reform Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan is an adopted member of Class 1971.

A most recent controversy surrounding the choice of honorary members concerns former representative Mark Jimenez.

The adoption of Jimenez was pushed by the wife of a member of Bigkislahi Class of 1990 who was then on Jimenez’s staff. Money and promises of trips abroad were said to have put a cloud on the adoption plan, forcing the class to abandon it. “Our class got divided [on the matter] and it’s only now that our relationship is starting to normalize,” said an Army officer.

 

Unique Practice

The stories behind the nominations of Pangilinan, Revilla, Gomez, Estrada, Jimenez, and Suplico are but a few examples of how politicians and prominent personalities have been adopted or rejected by various PMA classes as honorary or as associate members.

Having a prominent civilian adopted by a PMA class is common practice, apparently unique to the Philippines. The civilian so honored gets to be considered a "mistah," or classmate of those who adopted him or her. Politicians are able to do favors for the class members; in return, the politicians expect support from their adopted classmates during elections.

A list of associate and honorary members from the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAAI) shows three presidents among them: the late president Ferdinand Marcos, former president Fidel Ramos, and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The late strongman was nominated by the association itself. Ramos was adopted by Class 1951, having been a product of the United States Military Academy that same year. President Macapagal-Arroyo was nominated by Class 1978.

Other adopted members of Class 1951 are defeated 1992 presidential candidate and currently San Miguel Chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.; the late general Fabian Ver, and Philippine Star publisher Max Soliven.

Members of Class 1978, which adopted President Macapagal-Arroyo, include Presidential Security Group commander Colonel Delfin Bangit; Senior Superintendent Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza, police chief of Pampanga; Army Colonel Mario Chan; Colonel Pompeo Limbo; retired Army Major Abraham Puruganan; and Colonel Danilo Lim, a West Point graduate who now heads the First Scout Ranger Regiment.

Lim and Puruganan were participants in failed coups against the Aquino administration while Limbo has been linked with the mutiny at Oakwood. Mendoza and Chan headed the joint military and police intelligence team that in 2001, tracked down the alleged bank accounts of Lacson in the US, Canada, and Hong Kong.

Under the guidelines issued by the PMAAAI, those being nominated for adoption by a particular class could be either a Filipino or a foreign national who has an exemplary and distinguished professional standing; whose membership can bring honor and prestige to the association; and who has contributed to the attainment of the association’s objectives.

A nominee is endorsed by a member of a PMA class, after which the nomination is decided upon by a vote among the regular class members. If approved, a resolution is issued and is subsequently submitted to the PMAAAI for consideration by the “mother board.”

Should the adoption be accepted by the mother board, the honorary member theoretically ceases to belong to the PMA class that nominated him although he can still join the class during the annual PMA alumni parade in Baguio City. A class-adopted member who is not accepted as a member of the PMAAAI cannot enjoy the rights and privileges of an association member.

Several PMA alumni interviewed by NEWSBREAK said that the process of adopting an honorary member became rigid after the controversy generated by the Jimenez issue.

 

Mike and Luli, too

First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo and First Daughter Lourdes “Luli” Arroyo are adopted members of Class 1974 and 1991, respectively.

Prominent members of Marangal Class 1974 are Armed Forces deputy chief for operations Major General Hermogenes Esperon; Director Avelino Razon, chief of the Philippine National Police Human Resource and Doctrine Development; and Brigadier General Pedro Ramboanga, commander of the Philippine humanitarian contingent to Iraq.

Also an adopted member of Class 1974 is businessman Kim Wong, whom Brigadier General Victor Corpus, then Armed Forces intelligence chief, had linked to alleged drug trafficking activities.

A class member who requested anonymity said that the inclusion of the First Gentleman was due to Mr. Arroyo’s charitable works since the late 1990s while that of Wong was pushed by other class members from the police ranks. “He is a good man and a legitimate businessman,” a class member said.

Estrada’s three sons—former San Juan Mayor Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Jude Estrada, and San Juan Mayor Joseph Victor Ejercito—are all adopted members of various PMA classes.

Jinggoy is an adopted member of Class 1972, together with actor and defeated Quezon City mayoral candidate Rudy Fernandez and former executive secretary Oscar Orbos, and Jude, PMA Matikas Class of 1983, along with former Tarlac governor Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco. JV Ejercito is with Maringal Class of 1988, which also adopted journalist Raymond Burgos, now with Lacson’s camp, and John Tan, son of controversial business tycoon Lucio Tan.

JV, Burgos, and Tan were adopted by Class 1988 when its president was Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino, a protege’ of Lacson who went into hiding abroad after being implicated in several high-profile crimes.

Who says politics and soldiery don’t mix?

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