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Baguio and the PMA


BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—We drove up to this city last Wednesday, which by sheer coincidence was on the eve of the 3-day alumni homecoming activities of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

We were met with banners along the way, mostly from the PMA host classes for this year—Class 1961 (of former AFP chief, ex-senator and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon), Class 1966, Class 1981 (of whistleblower former Army Lt. Col. George Rabusa) and Class 1986 (of Rabusa’s former deputy, Air Force Lt. Col. Antonio “Ramon” Sonny Lim). Hotels were fully booked, restaurants were beginning to burst, but one could sense somehow that this gathering would be different from the rest before it.

Yesterday morning, Friday, as the bulk of the PMA alumni began arriving in the city, the Senate resumed its probe on military corruption. Everything that the soldier was taught at PMA was being torn apart at the Senate: honesty, respect for seniors, putting public interest above all interests.

In that hearing, Rabusa tangled with an officer 2 years his junior, Navy Capt. Kenneth Paglinawan, formerly with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) who passionately denied that he ever asked Rabusa for “for the boys” money and who insisted he returned P1.5M cash to the whistleblower.

President Aquino trooping the line. (Photo by Ces Drilon)

In military circles, Rabusa was known as a trusted officer of the late AFP chief Angelo Reyes. Paglinawan, on the other hand, served as a longtime aide of ex-AFP chief and former defense secretary Renato S. De Villa.

The driver of a shuttle bus we rode in listened intently to the heated exchange between the 2 PMA graduates. A waiter said one of the generals being probed, former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, is a provincemate from Pangasinan, and that it was a shock for him to absorb all the charges being leveled against his fellow Pangasinense.

Journalists based here note there’s less excitement this year. In past homecomings, the city would be abuzz days before. The atmosphere is more subdued now, they say.

At a forum with masscom students of UP-Baguio, I reminded the students that nearly all the officers now involved in the corruption scandal spent the best years of their lives here—full of idealism and consumed by one dream of fighting for one’s country.

Each day they were served a mantra: do not lie or cheat or tolerate those who do.

I asked some graduates what this alumni homecoming meant to them. A former Army colonel who quit the service several years ago did not mince words: “Lost PMA pride.” As such, he was skipping this year’s activities.

The mistahs of Gen. Carlos Garcia, members of Class 71 (Photo by Ces Drilon)

Another Army colonel, a graduate in the late 1980s, believes otherwise. For today’s alumni parade, he said, he’s going to wear a shirt that screams this headline: “Arrogance is not part of my discipline.” It’s an obvious dig at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, which is understandable since this colonel says he is more idealistic than the senator. I try to fight for my idealism every day at work, he tells me. It’s not mere lip service.

So, yes, this intelligence officer is at Fort del Pilar now, mingling with his classmates. He attends the PMA homecoming every year with no miss. “To get what I would call idealism reload,” he quips. He takes this chance to do his own character check on PMA graduates—who drives the latest SUVs, who gets billeted in the most costly hotels, who brings wives flashing their diamonds. He gets a high doing this, because at least he knows he’s not like them. Not yet anyway.

To Amy Col. Danilo Servando, a member of the host class 1981, this is the time “when cavaliers should close ranks and show solidarity.” It’s the PMA alumni who have been the “unifying forces” at crucial times in the country’s history, he says.

Another PMA graduate, this time from 1986, says his visit to the PMA grounds today shows his support for the institution “at a time when it is beleaguered.”

A retired police general says he was not going due to work and lack of budget. But he explains he has no reason to be ashamed of as a PMA graduate. “I did not steal a single cent so why should I be embarrassed about being a PMA alumnus?” Besides, he adds, politicians are more corrupt. And then he takes this line, that there is a Left agenda to divide the Armed Forces and that this current scandal is part of it.

And so it is that after President Aquino speaks today before the alumni, they will stay a bit longer in the academy that molded them and exchange frank exchanges about what they had become as individuals and as an organization.

Some won’t hold back in saying hurtful words to each other. “It’s an open ground…pwedeng magsigawan doon,” says a PMA graduate.

Others however will blame other forces for what the military is suffering now—the Left, the media, the politicians.

If this mindset prevails, then the homecoming will just be like the rest before it: a mere ritual that reminds them of a once-idealistic past and a once-revered vow to not lie, not cheat, and not tolerate those who do. Newsbreak, independent journalism from the Philippines

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  1. disappointed2011 says:

    Nakakahiya sila!!! The prime defender of the state, sila din pala ang sisira sa bansa. This country needs an overhaul. Elimination of Supreme Court (but must be replaced with one with genuine fear of GOD) and also of the PMA. We need more than just institutions speaking of HISTORY, if it’s going to be one of corruption and meanness. As a student, are they the ones I am going to look up for good examples.

  2. You know the solution to all the problems to our country?

    The top corporations in Makati and Pasig should hire these graduates from PMA. They certainly know a thing or two about making money. No wonder AIM is losing its premier standing as the producers of top MBA’s. You don’t need an education from either Ateneo or La Salle.

    PMA actually stands for “Philippine Millionaires Academy”!

  3. the irony is trillanes, with his overspending senate office and lame excuses for it, IS exactly like the worst of their lot. none of them should ever merit sympathy or praise.

  4. Alam din natin na ang mga pumapasok sa PMA ay hindi naman mga mayayaman. Karamihan ay galing sa middle class at mahiharap na buhay. Pagkalipas ng ma-ikling panahon ay iba ba ang angat ng pamumuhay. Sa mga naririnig kung mga kwento yong CO (tenyente hanggang kapitan) tuwing aalis sa sinasakupang rehiyon ay truct, truck ang dalang mga regalo. Meron din akong nada-anang kampo ng sundalo ang nasa harap ay maraming pansabong na mga manok. Sa umpisa palang andyan na ang corruption sa tabi tabi nila. Asan ang sinasabing honesty at idealism dyan? Siguro kung i-life style check ang mga iyon ay baka mabilang lang sa daliri ang honest kaya lang ang honest maghihirap talaga. Kaya ang masabi ko lang na toto-o aring “Philippine Millionaires Academy”. Ang idealism ay madaling sabihin dapat ginagawa. Oo nga araw araw nga tinuturo ang “do not lie or cheat or tolerate those who do” pero hindi naman gingawa pagdating sa actual. Nasisilaw pa rin sa kuarta. Gustong short cut ang pagpayaman.

  5. jose rizal alih says:

    PMA= Phil Magnanakaw Academy

    di naman nakikigiyera mga yan pa cute lang sa uniporme

  6. military wife says:

    I don’t think it is LOGICAL to demerit, much more abolish the Philippine Military Academy because “some” of its graduates are involve in the latest anomalies/scandals rocking the nation.

    It’s like saying we should demerit schools like UP, La Salle and Ateneo for producing POLITICIANS who also steal, cheat and tolerate those who do in the government.


  8. Mon Saheregullo says:

    What is happening within PMA is but a reflection of the whole Filipino society. From the “religious” to business sector – palaging may rationalization sa ginagawang hindi tama.

    I personally believe that it is pointless to look up to our “leaders” for the “righteous virtues” if we ourselves are not willing to take the road less-travelled.

    The easiest thing to do is to look out for others misgivings and failings. There is an imperative for everyone to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask, “how do I live each day of my life in pursuit of what I believe is the right and honest thing to do?”

    If we are to take the “logic” of abolishing the PMA for the failures of her graduates to uphold the ideals inculcated in them, then we’ll end up abolishing the whole “Iniibig kong Pilipinas,” for there is not a single institution in this country that is not infected with rationalizing for the smallest act of dishonesty.

  9. Showboating of wealth at PMA’s alumni rites
    by Mortz C. Ortigoza

    My wife and kid attended recently the two-day alumni homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City – complement of a high ranking police relative.
    They were billeted at the expensive plush two-bedroom suite in the Camp John Hay Manor Hotel.
    “Grabe, it’s all expenses paid for the PMAyers. Even the gas of their vehicles was shouldered by their organizations,” she exclaimed to me through phone.
    She told me that “palakihan pa sila ng sasakyan (they brought big cars)” that were gas guzzling multi-million of pesos worth Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) to show boat” their wealth to their classmates.
    Many of them were from the Philippine National Police.
    I could not agree more.
    When I was working at the public information office of the PMA in the early 1990s, I was an avid listener of the morning radio program in Manila of humorous commentator (and also villain-actor) Rod Navarro.

    Navarro, a retired Philippine Constabulary CIS (now called as Criminal Investigation Detection Group) operative, emphatically challenged his listeners to show him four (4) army one-star general against his PC colonel who was the Provincial Director (PD) of Pangasinan.
    “Bigyan ninyo ako ng apat na one-star general at bibigyan ko kayo ng Colonel X ng Pangasinan (Give me four one-star generals, and I’ll give you one Colonel X),” he thundered at the airwaves (that probably shook the radio frequency of rival commentator Louie Beltran at DZRH) as he compared the access to wealth by a police officer against those in the military.
    Over bottles of beers, veteran media men collaborated what I heard from Navarro.
    They told me their experiences with that colonel when he was at the helm of the provincial police of one of the biggest provinces in the country.
    “Grabe, nuung pumunta kaming tatlo sa opisina niya inutusan niya iyung police. Nuung bumalik mi dala ng isang supot ng pandesal na puno ng tig-bibiente at tig-si-singkuenta na galing pa sa jueteng (My God, when we dropped by at his office, he asked his subordinate to get something. When the policeman returned he was carrying one bag for a pandesal (famous bread in the Philippines) that was full of bills of P20 and P50 in denominations),” the media man enthused.
    One of them said the generous colonel was apologetic by telling them to just divide among themselves the money that ran up to thousands of pesos.
    When Victor Agbayani was the governor of Pangasinan in the early 2000s, a high ranking police officer told me that a PD received P1.5 million to P2 million a month in jueteng revenues.
    A son of a former city mayor also told me that during the stint of his father, a chief of police then received P400 thousand a month, while his father received three times (P1.2 million of what the chief received a month). But a jueteng operator in a town in Central Pangasinan disagreed about this. He said the “ingresso (gross three –times a day remittances)” of the illegal number game is bigger in that city than what I was told. After computing mentally the ingresso, he told me the former mayor there should be receiving P53, 333 a day or P1.6 million a month.
    Forgive me if I made you dear readers inebriated about these “tales”, but susmariosep here is another one that would conclude my narration that I could not be telling you here if I stayed at the academe doing the redundant work of teaching political science to uninteresting college students.
    Over a bottle of whisky, a retired police general snapped to the information relayed to him by fellow PMAyer about the monthly pay of a “corporation” of P700,000 for a retired star ranked like him incase he wants to work again.
    “Maliit iyan! Nuung ako ay RD (Regional Director of the national police), P5 million a month na ako sa jueteng (That’s a pittance! When I was the Regional Director of the national police, I received P5 million a month from the operator of illegal number game).
    With all these chutzpah from police officials, those in the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air force could only cry with their hearts out with envy every time they saw their “mistah” (terminology a PMA graduate used to address a classmate) in a social gathering like the PMA Alumni Homecoming.
    But the public and their unfortunate mistahs should not felt so bad about their fate. With retired and active generals and colonels being grilled and humiliated publicly by our grandstanding senators particularly, every body knows now the source of these ostentatious displays of wealth.
    (Send comments to

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