Cadet Cudia’s fate in Aquino’s hands
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City—Only the President as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines can reverse the fate of dismissed cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia.
The Philippine Military Academy had dug in, dismissing the cadet’s last appeal to reconsider his dismissal after a committee of fellow cadets found him “guilty” last month of lying about why he was late for class by two minutes—supposedly a fatal violation of the academy’s Honor Code.
President Benigno Aquino III, according to Inquirer sources, met with Cudia and his parents at the presidential Mansion on Saturday after the academy announced its final decision not to let the cadet march at the academy’s commencement rites Sunday.
Family and supporters of Cudia, who would have graduated among the top 10 of Siklab Diwa Class of 2014, have brought his case to the public and have threatened legal action.
Earlier Saturday, Col. Rozzano Briguez, PMA commandant of cadets told reporters: “Cadet Cudia will not march tomorrow, (he) will not graduate tomorrow.”
The PMA has also recommended perjury charges against an academy official who sided with Cudia, alleging that the Navy official lied to boost Cudia’s case, Briguez said in a talk with reporters following Recognition Day ceremonies here for this year’s top cadets. The event was attended by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
The President is Sunday’s commencement speaker and will assign ranks and military service units to the graduates in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the AFP.
Malacañang earlier announced the President would wait for the PMA’s review before acting on Cudia’s case.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the Inquirer’s sources could not give details on what the President and Cudia had discussed regarding his dismissal.
Cudia refused to leave the PMA as he waged a last-ditch battle through his family, friends and supporters to overturn his conviction, which they felt was unjust and heartless.
Cadets, PMA officials stressed, are required to follow an Honor Code, which condemns lying, cheating, stealing and from condoning people who commit these infractions.
The Inquirer learned that Cudia and his parents were escorted yesterday afternoon from the PMA to the Mansion, with the understanding that he could return to his quarters at the academy.
It was also learned that the dismissed cadet was moved to a new officer’s housing area from a detention facility.
Cudia’s separation was affirmed on Tuesday by the PMA Cadet Review and Appeals Board (CRAB) following a review of the honor committee hearings on Cudia’s case.
But on March 12, Cudia’s lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) presented a new witness, Commander Junjie Tabuada, head of the PMA Department of Naval Warfare, who agreed that the honor committee process had been anomalous. His testimony prompted the CRAB to reconvene on March 13.
The review board concluded on March 14 that Tabuada perjured himself when the PMA official testified that one of the cadets in the honor committee changed a “not guilty” vote that favored Cudia because of pressure from the committee members.
A cadet prosecuted for breaking the Honor Code may only be dismissed if a guilty verdict is rendered unanimously by nine cadets in the honor committee, who form an honor court.
Cudia protested that the honor court had voted twice when it could not achieve a unanimous guilty verdict.
“Tabuada’s [testimony] … was proven false by [the cadet he cited] … because according to the cadet, it was on his volition to change his vote from ‘not guilty’ to ‘guilty’ after hearing the explanations of the other voting members of the honor committee,” Briguez said.
He said the system allows the honor committee and the voting members that make up an honor court to reconsider their votes, when only a vote or two prevents a unanimous decree regarding an honor report (a complaint filed against a cadet for violating the Honor Code).
The Commission on Human Rights, however, concluded that the first vote was the “genuine” vote.
Lawyer Harold Kub-aron, CHR Cordillera regional director, said Cudia’s dismissal was erroneous because the first honor court ruling was not unanimous so he remains a member of the cadet corps and must be allowed to graduate. Kub-aron took part in the CHR’s investigations this week.
Cudia also accused the honor committee of ignoring the testimony of Monica Costales, the operational research instructor, who supposedly kept Cudia in class, which led to his demerits for being tardy.
Briguez said Costales gave three accounts of the incident and later admitted that she could no longer remember the exact details of the incident. CRAB adopted her first testimony to the honor committee where she indicated that she had dismissed her class on time.
Briguez said the CRAB recommended that Tabuada be charged for making false testimony.
Asked if Tabuada was being punished for simply supporting Cudia, Briguez said the PMA official would be “investigated because he lied to the CRAB.” With a report from Nikko Dizon