25% of 247 new PNPA graduates elect to join SAF
MANILA, Philippines–Despite the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, last month, one-fourth of the graduating class of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) want to serve in the elite police counterterrorism unit.
Cadet 1st Class Dennis Yuson, president and valedictorian of the PNPA Class of 2015, said the tragedy that befell the commandos would inspire the graduates as they joined the Philippine National Police.
Yuson vowed that he and his classmates would be the “new breed of public safety officers who will regain the trust and confidence of the public.”
“No matter what happened to our upperclassmen in Mamasapano, this will serve as an inspiration to live up to the ideals of honor and duty. It never gave us discouragement, though of course we had low morale at first,” Yuson said in a news conference at PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The 44 SAF commandos who died in a daylong clash with Moro rebels in Mamasapano on Jan. 25 were heroes “worth emulating” by this year’s graduating class, Yuson said.
Seven of the slain commandos were graduates of the PNPA.
New police officers
The PNPA trains cadets to become officers in the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
It is the civilian counterpart of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), which trains officers for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Yuson and 13 of his classmates were in Camp Crame on Thursday to speak to reporters.
Among the cadets were the top 10 of the Class of 2015, while four were awardees.
Their class name, “Lakandula,” means “Lahing kayumanggi na handang ialay sa bayan ang dugo at lakas” (Filipinos ready to serve and die for their country).
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., spokesman for the PNP, said the PNPA Class of 2015 had 247 members.
“They will be graduating on March 26. In our talks, they are very eager to graduate and join the PNP,” Cerbo said.
He said 226 cadets were joining the PNP, while 11 expressed interest in joining the BFP. Ten want to serve in the BJMP, he said.
Cadet 1st Class Julie Anne Aguilar, the top student among the jail cadets, is the first female PNPA honor committee chair.
She said there were 20 female cadets in her class.
Cadet 1st Class Alexis Aberion, the class baron, said at least 25 percent of his class wanted to join the SAF.
A native of Abra province, Aberion is the current regimental commander of the PNPA Corps of Cadets.
“As early as my first year in the academy, I already decided to join the SAF. It is because of my passion to serve, particularly in the operations aspect of public service,” he said.
Like Yuson, Aberion was inspired by the bravery of the SAF commandos who perished in Mamasapano.
“There’s no particular order because it will be determined upon our graduation. The moment we report, it will be on a voluntary basis and it depends upon the call given by SAF,” Aberion said.
Chief Insp. Richie Yatar, spokesman for the PNPA, said the academy officials talked to the cadets after the Mamasapano incident.
Yatar is a former SAF trooper and most of the battalion commanders come from his class, the PNPA Class of 2002, and their underclassmen, the PNPA Class of 2003.
“I told them that as people, it’s natural to feel emotions but they shouldn’t be carried away and let it affect our duties to the people,” Yatar said.
He added that it is also normal for police officers’ careers to have its ups and downs, and that one of life’s lessons for police officers is dealing with their emotions and putting their duty first.
Yatar said this year’s class knew some of the fallen PNPA graduates who died in Mamasapano, as they were all cadets at the PNPA at that time.
Police operational procedures, he said, are evolving and changing like the training at the PNPA, which evolves depending on the needs of the community.
Children of policemen
Yuson said he drew inspiration from his father, a police official who rose from the ranks to become chief inspector and now serving in Sultan Kudarat province in Mindanao. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in education, majoring in mathematics, in General Santos City.
“[My father] introduced me to the PNPA so I’m very happy to grab the opportunity to enter the PNPA, where I saw a vast opportunity to serve the country and the people,” Yuson said.
Five of this year’s awardees are also children of police officers.
Yuson, as class valedictorian, will receive the Presidential Kampilan Award.
Graduating in second place is Cadet 1st Class Rod Kevin Talplacido from Nueva Ecija, who will receive the Vice President Kampital Award and a plaque of merit.
Third is Cadet 1st Class Marlon Landong of Negros Occidental province, who will receive the SILG Kampilan Award and a plaque of merit.
The rest of the top 10 are Cadets 1st Class Raymund Caguioa, Michael Giner, Nathaniel Faulve, Kenneth Lumbre, Roel Bata, Mark Jonathan Avillano and Aguilar.
Traditionally, graduates of the PMA, the PNPA and other academies compete with each other for the top positions in the services.
But Yatar said the academies should train cadets to cooperate and coordinate with each other.
The lack of coordination between the police and the military has been blamed for the tragedy in Mamasapano.
Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked commander of the SAF, has admitted not coordinating with the military before the launch of the police operation to take down terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Basit Usman because previous missions to get the two were compromised after the military had been informed.
Napeñas said he informed the military about the operation only after the commandos had killed Marwan and were already taking fire from Moro rebels.
The result was delayed response from the military, which led to the SAF’s biggest single-day loss.
Training for cooperation
Yatar said the PNPA was trying to establish cooperation with other academies to make its cadets familiar with their counterparts in the other schools.
Last week, cadets from the PNPA and the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific went to the PMA in Baguio City for sports competitions.
“Each team of cadets had representatives from the three academies. Although they were from different academies, they established good teamwork and competed with their fellow cadets,” Yatar said.
He said the academies should not be biased against each other. They should understand that they are not competitors, and should learn to complement each other, he said.
“It’s wrong to compete with each other. We have to promote coordination, integration and complement each other, like pieces of a puzzle,” he said.
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