FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines—The graduating “Bagwis” Class of the Philippine Military Academy will be joining a “cleaner” Armed Forces of the Philippines, which has undergone reforms and modernization, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said here on Saturday.
“Our young officers are the fresh wellspring of new knowledge and high principles in public service. Your entry comes at an ideal time, as you are now entering the professional armed forces. Gone are the discarded malpractices of the past that had cast doubts on the professionalism of our armed forces,” Gazmin told 187 members of the graduating class.
“Ours now is the true exercise of the genuine ideals of public service, good governance, transparency and accountability,” he said.
Later he told reporters, “I am saying that with full confidence because we have instituted several reforms and the reforms have been appreciated by all sectors, to include the cadets, and we make sure that the malpractices that have been committed before will not be committed again.”
He said the Aquino administration has embarked on a military logistical upgrade to improve the skills, capacity and benefits of the soldiers.
In his speech to the cadets, Gazmin said: “Today we have a commander-in-chief who really cares for the needs of our soldiers, so that they can undertake the discharge of their constitutional duty.
“Realizing the needs of our soldiers into high state of morale, we have implemented an amount of P260 per month as combat allowance for our soldiers who are engaged in combat duties. This is in addition to P240 per month that they have been receiving as combat pay.”
He said the government has been building more than 10,000 houses for the families of soldiers in central and southern Luzon. Similar housing facilities will be made available in the Visayas and Mindanao, he said.
“The implementation of our modernization program is currently on full swing. Notwithstanding the acquisition of military platforms and equipment, our defense department and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are working on the approval of contracts [for] the 138 modernization projects that will be implemented in the next five years,” he said.
The government has set a July 31 deadline to process these contracts.
Gazmin said the government has acquired naval vessels, including the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the Navy’s first battleship.
He also said the Navy intended to acquire one more ship this year.
Last week, the Philippine Air Force received four W-3A Sokol helicopters manufactured by Poland-based PZL-Swidnik SA.
Gazmin also congratulated the top 10 members of the Bagwis Class. The class members will receive their formal assignments as officers from President Aquino on Sunday.
On Saturday, they underwent their traditional “dunking” from underclassmen. They were hurled into the academy’s twin fountain pools as a rite of transition.
Among the Bagwis members who were dunked was the topnotcher, Cadet First Class Tom Puertollano of Batangas City. His father, Mario, and some relatives witnessed the event.
A carpenter, Mario said he was overwhelmed by the media attention because of his son’s achievements.
“Nahihiya nga ako kasi ang dami-daming lumalapit. Oo parang celebrity agad (I was embarrassed because so many people had approached me. Suddenly I am a celebrity),” he said.
But he said he was proud of his son. He admitted that he was only 80 percent certain his son would top the class, “kasi magagaling yung mga kalaban nya (because his rivals were very good).”