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Absent Trillanes is hot topic at PMA rites

By Dona Pazzibugan, Vincent Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:09:00 02/20/2011

Filed Under: Schools, Military, Antonio Trillanes IV, Graft & Corruption

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines?It seemed to be bash-Trillanes day at the Philippine Military Academy?s alumni homecoming, at least for members of the PMA Makatao Class of 1989.

Despite calls by organizers and PMA officials to steer clear of statements unrelated to the homecoming, the Makatao alumni showed up at the parade grounds in identical black shirts printed with a loaded message: ?Arrogance is not part of my discipline.?

It appeared to be a broadside at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV (Class of 1995), who has been under fire for his ?uncavalier? treatment of the late Angelo Reyes (Class of 1966), a former Armed Forces chief, at a Senate hearing on alleged corruption in the military.

But during the traditional parade, where all 1,838 alumni who attended the homecoming trooped the line to inspect the assembled PMA cadets, the Makatao Class members wore black jackets over their shirts.

They said they were not referring to Trillanes when asked by reporters before the start of the parade. But they did not say who they were alluding to in their statement.

As he had earlier told the Inquirer, Trillanes did not show up at the annual alumni homecoming.

Trillanes is the subject of text messages chastising him for purportedly humiliating Reyes at the January 27 hearing. Reyes? shock suicide 12 days after the hearing added to the heat on the senator.

All in a family

Manuel Espejo, the president of Class of 1966 and Reyes? mistah (classmate), said there was actually no ?anti-Trillanes? mood among the alumni.

Espejo said all PMA graduates now belonged to a family, which was why the alumni present at the homecoming did not bear a grudge against the senator for being overbearing at the Senate hearing.

?We police our own ranks. If you are doing something wrong, we tell you. [The alumni?s chastisement of Trillanes] is being delivered through the media this time. Even his classmates told him [off]. If he shows up and he comes over, we will greet him. We will talk to him,? Espejo said.

Some of Trillanes? mistahs attended the homecoming.

Eight of Reyes? mistahs took part in the parade. They wore identical coats in somber gray, apparently in deference to Reyes? death.

Jacinto Ligot (Class of 1970) and Carlos Garcia (Class of 1971), both former military comptrollers and both on the carpet for unexplained wealth, were not around. But some of their classmates were present.

And in keeping with the homecoming organizers? request, the welcome streamers leading to the PMA bore simple messages and greetings for every class.

There were no banners alluding to the corruption scandal or Reyes? suicide.

Except for one: a tarpaulin put up by the ?Marine Group 1992? that read: ?Let us pay our debt to the Filipino people. Let us not lie, steal and cheat, or tolerate any of them.?

Suspended membership

Garcia?s membership in the PMA Alumni Association (PMAAA) was suspended after he was convicted by a general court-martial in 2005 for not declaring his assets and for being a US green-card holder.

PMAAA officials said Garcia was not dropped from the roster?which is considered a disgrace for a PMA graduate?because then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not approve his conviction.

President Aquino has to uphold Garcia?s court-martial conviction for it to be considered final.

Espejo said Class of 1966 was not against the congressional inquiries into the alleged corruption in the military.

He said Reyes? classmates were glad that senators were now conducting their inquiry with less arrogance. ?They should maintain being statesmen,? he said.

Former military budget officer George Rabusa, who blew the whistle on the alleged slush fund in the military, did not attend the homecoming despite the fact that his class, the Dimasupil Class of 1981, was this year?s host.

But his mistah, Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, the chief of the AFP Finance Management Office who has accused him of lying to the Senate, was around.

?Apolitical? event

Rex Robles (Class of 1965), one of the founders of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement and a confidant of Reyes, declined to answer questions about the latter or the circumstances that led to his suicide.

Robles said the alumni wanted to keep the homecoming apolitical and had decided to show little of their grieving in public.

Indeed, high-profile alumni and their adopted mistahs, mostly politicians, did not show up.

Also gone was the informal competition for the Best-Dressed Class and the Best-Dressed Wives, which used to entertain the alumni and their families.

The scandal involving the purported corruption in the military was the homecoming?s biggest story. It was the subject of conversations among both active and retired members of the police and military.

In a speech, the PMA superintendent, Vice Adm. Leonardo Calderon Jr., called for sobriety even as he admitted that the entire PMA and its alumni association were ?being challenged and criticized? in light of the corruption exposé.

?I urge all alumni not to condemn or prejudge anyone until rulings and decisions are reached by the judicial authorities,? Calderon said.

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