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No PMA clique in AFP, says chief of staff

/ 09:31 AM February 23, 2014

AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista. Photo from AFP Public Affairs Office

MANILA, Philippines—Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Saturday belied the claim of retired Air Force chief Antonio Sotelo that a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) clique controlled the military leadership.

“That’s a misconception,” Bautista told the Inquirer in a text message. “The source of [one’s] commission is not among the criteria for [the] selection of officers to key positions.”

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The source of commission refers to the school or training facility through which the officers passed. These include the PMA, which offers a four-year course; the Officer Candidate School (OCS), which offers a one-year course that requires applicants to have a baccalaureate degree; foreign service academies and reserve officer pools.

The 81-year-old former Air Force chief, one of the heroes of the Edsa I People Power revolution, lamented in a recent interview the “elitism of the PMA” in the armed forces. Sotelo, who is not a product of the PMA, pointed out that the AFP chief of staff and the service commanders of the Air Force, Navy and Army were all PMA graduates.

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There has been palpable rivalry between PMA and OCS graduates over the past decades.

Bautista is a member of PMA Class ’81.

AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the military “respects General Sotelo’s views as a senior leader.”

Sotelo was an Air Force colonel when he defected on Feb. 23, 1986, defying the orders of then President Ferdinand Marcos to disable the helicopters under the control of the military rebels led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Constabulary chief Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos. His move was a turning point in the four-day revolt. Sotelo eventually rose to become chief of the Air Force.

But he agreed with Bautista that an officer’s service record rather than the school or source of one’s commission was the key qualification for a leadership position.

“The AFP—whatever source of commission you are, whether PMA, OCS local and abroad, foreign service academies, and reserve officers who underwent direct commission—provides a level-playing field that is performance-based,” Zagala said.

Zagala is a member of OCS ‘94.

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He described the AFP as a “tough organization” where officers and men should “prove themselves constantly.”

“The career path of an officer is always guided by the respective major service. However, an individual officer will be the one to track his or her own career (whether or not the officer makes it to a position of leadership). On his own, he or she must have a service reputation, and a service reputation is the most important part of any officer’s career. If it is good, he or she will be trusted with sensitive positions. One’s service reputation is what molds an officer, not the source of commission,” Zagala said.

Critics of the AFP system, however, have also decried the inroads of politics and personal connections in the promotion process. Nikko Dizon

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TAGS: AFP, AFP chief of staff, Antonio Sotelo, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Emmanuel Bautista, Philippine Military Academy
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