Aquino urges PMA graduates to also join corruption fight
President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday told the new graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) that they would have to fight not only the enemies of the state but also the “temptation of corruption.”
Speaking at the graduation rites of PMA Bagwis Class of 2012, Mr. Aquino told the new second lieutenants that their four years “of vacation” at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City was over and that it was time to face reality.
“You will now start facing the true problems of your choice field: Responding to the true problems of society,” he said in a speech delivered in Filipino.
The President said the new military officers would not only have to deal with armed groups in the mountains and lawless elements in the cities but would also have to deal with the “temptation of corruption.”
“For instance, if you are detailed in a remote area and truckloads of logs pass by, what will you do? Will you accept an envelope and look far away as they slip the logs toward the river?” he said.
Noting that they were aware of the danger and the devastation brought about by illegal logging, Mr. Aquino asked the graduates whether they could resist the temptation of accepting the money knowing “their temporary benefits will bring long-term damage to your fellow men.”
“Always remember this: As the protector of the state, you should be the first ones the people should turn to (as) their defenders. If they feel they cannot run to you and cannot get help from you, they will turn to those pretending to be their saviors,” he said.
“But if you will do your duty, the people will be your most loyal ally.”
The ceremonies were also attended by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa and Maj. Gen. Nonato Alfredo Peralta Jr., PMA superintendent.
Mr. Aquino almost forgot a time-honored tradition when he ended his 15-minute speech. He had to return to the podium to announce pardon for the cadets over infractions they had committed at the academy.
Instead of riding on a military jeep, called the “White Carabao,” the President marched on the Borromeo Field when he trooped the line.
In his speech, the President recalled that once, he asked his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino: “What can those taking advantage of and stealing from the people get out from it?”
“If you steal, you will still have to think where you would hide your stash,” he said, adding these people would also not be able to rest for fear their stash would also be stolen from them.
He said he also asked why people should allow their names to be tarnished if they could not enjoy the money they stole.
“To this long line of questioning, my mother had a simple reply: “We can never understand them, because they think differently.”
He said his mother asked him not to waste any more time in “understanding what cannot be understood.”
Mr. Aquino reiterated the efforts his administration had taken to improve the capabilities of both soldiers and the police, including putting up 21,800 housing units for them in Luzon and planning on building 31,200 more in the next 15 months.
He said his administration had also allotted P28 billion for 18 projects under the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program—compared to the P33 billion spent in 15 years by previous administrations.
And to also help the military and the police track down lawless elements, the government has brought electric power to 1,520 sitios in a period of just 19 days last year on a budget of just P1.3 billion, the President said.
Where before, the authorities would spend P1 million for each sitio, “we were able to do so only for P700,000 per sitio. This is proof that when one is on the straight path, we can respond to the needs of Filipinos, not in due time, but immediately,” he said.
Mr. Aquino urged the new graduates to join him in restoring the people’s faith in government.
“There are times that temptation knocks to take advantage of the people and to divert (you) from the straight path. But it’s necessary to (keep) in your mind that every time you take advantage (of people), there are Juan and Juana dela Cruzes that you torment,” he said.
The President asked the new graduates “not to forget this day” and to recall this day when they face the people “to remind you the true reason why you chose to be part of this institution …” in order that in the next decades they can tell the new PMA cadets that because of their efforts, people look up to the soldiers.
One of the graduates whom Mr. Aquino commissioned as new officers was the class valedictorian, now Army 2nd Lt. Tom Puertollano, a carpenter’s son, who described the class as “more formidable … than any barrier that poses a challenge to us.”
“Let us take a solemn oath among ourselves to stand committed to serve the Filipino people and live by the principles and virtues that our alma mater has instilled in each of us,” Puertollano said.
“Now is the time to give back and return the favor that we have been so honored to have received from the people and the country.”
The graduate who drew the biggest cheer was 2nd Lt. Jerwin Serrano of Lanao del Sur, who ranked last, or the class goat. Serrano waved at the crowd when he received his diploma.
More military rites
Mr. Aquino arrived 30 minutes late for the graduation rites.
Unlike in the ceremonies from 2005 to 2011, when the cadets sat alongside their parents during the rites, the PMA decided to return to “a more military” ceremony, which meant that the cadets stood in formation on the parade ground for two hours.
They also performed the traditional “Long Gray Line,” which required the class to face a building where the PMA motto, “Courage, Integrity, Loyalty,” is emblazoned.
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