Ricky Razon, Diokno and the PMA
Did you know that Enrique K. Razon Jr., chairman of the board and president of International Container Terminals Services Inc. has poured more than half-a-billion pesos for cadet facilities at the Philippine Military Academy? The barracks complex is home to 1,085 cadets of whom 861 are men and 224, women with bedrooms that accommodate four cadets per room.
In 2016, Razon was honored with a parade and review by the corps of cadets, making him one of the few in the Philippine business community who has been given this rare privilege.
In his remarks before the corps, Razon, the third-richest Filipino with a net worth of $4.9 billion as of January 2018, said: “In my mind, there is no institution in our country that is held in higher esteem than the Philippine Military Academy. You honor us today for constructing the new cadet barracks, but believe me when I say, the honor is all yours. For those of us in society that are in a position to do so, it is our duty to contribute and do our part, however small, to improve the lives of the men and women of the AFP and PNP who sacrifice so much for our country.”
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Last Saturday, the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association led by its chairman Gen. Melchor Rosales, and president Deputy Inspector General Police Director Leo Angelo Leuterio, held its annual general meeting at the beautiful Solaire resort by the bay in Parañaque City.
The guest of honor and speaker was Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who came well-prepared and spoke with openness, candor and sincerity. He was brief and went straight to the point. It was the kind of talk soldiers understand and appreciate—no fancy words, no legal gobbledygook.
First, he announced that effective January 2018, President Duterte has doubled the compensation package of soldiers and policemen. It was the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by the President during the last elections.
Second, the pension of retired officers and men of the security forces will be adjusted according to the rates called for by law, starting in 2019.
Third, Diokno stressed that the present pension system of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is unsustainable, and the administration is determined to come up with a new one that will be sustainable and fair to all. Past administrations simply swept the problem under the rug and did nothing. President Duterte has ordered the Department of Budget and Management to come up with a new pension system that will address the needs of three groups: retired personnel, active service members, and those entering the system when the new program is in place. Diokno laid down the hard facts of life. There is no perfect system and we all must be ready to sacrifice for the common good.
Among the awardees for “outstanding achievement” was the widow of the late Capt. Rommel Sandoval, Class of 2005, a recipient of the Medal for Valor for gallantry in action during the battle to liberate Marawi City last September. Mrs. Ma. Ana Sandoval received a prolonged standing ovation from the audience of close to a thousand PMAyers who gathered at the Solaire Theater. It was their way of paying tribute to their latest hero who fell in close combat with the enemy while attempting to save a wounded comrade.
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When I entered the Philippine Military Academy in 1952, there was only one all-purpose building. It was named Melchor Hall, after Col. Alejandro Melchor. The entire third floor served as the cadet barracks; the second floor was for classrooms ; and the first floor served as offices for administrative purposes. Several Quonset huts around Melchor Hall served as the mess hall, the station hospital, and housing for other units of the Academy.
Let me digress a bit. Alejandro Melchor graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in civil engineering with highest honors. He is credited with designing pontoon bridges used by the US Army during World War II, and his work “contributed significantly in winning the war for the allied forces.” He served as secretary of national defense in President Manuel Quezon’s Cabinet, and later as military adviser under President Sergio Osmeña in the Philippine government in exile. He is the father of Alex Melchor, who also served in the defense department and later became executive secretary under President Ferdinand Marcos during the martial law years.
In 1952, the Academy had only some 300 cadets, all male. We were distributed in four companies — Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta — with each company made up of two platoons. In my senior year, I led the last marching unit of the corps, the second platoon of Delta Company. My company commander was Cadet Romeo Soliman David of Pampanga. Romy retired from the service as Philippine Air Force 5th Fighter Wing Commander in 1986.
Today the PMA cadet corps has over a thousand cadets, one-fourth of whom are females. They come from all parts of the country, from Batanes in the north to Tawi-Tawi in the south. Most are from the middle class, and many are products of provincial high schools. All are chosen on the basis of competitive exams held nationwide.
In keeping with the K-12 program of the Department of Education, the new cadets will be received at Fort del Pilar on the first of June instead of the traditional April 1 arrival. This means they will have two months of beast barracks (a breaking-in period for the newcomers) before the start of academics in August. This also means that in 2019, graduation exercises will most likely be held in May instead of the usual March week activities.
In the administration of President Duterte, the PMA, more than any other institution in the land, has contributed the most number of key officials in the executive branch of government. The Duterte Cabinet has Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior and Local Government Secretary-designate Eduardo Año, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. Other officials are National Irrigation Administrator Ricardo Visaya, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, Dangerous Drugs Board chief Catalino Cuy, Land Transportation Office chief Edgar Galvante, National Food Authority head Jason Aquino, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chief Alexander Balutan, and a host of others holding positions as department undersecretaries and assistant secretaries. The AFP, Philippine National Police, and Coast Guard, are also headed by PMA graduates.
Of course, we also have our share of big-time operators who milked the system for their own personal benefit. They are a disgrace to the Academy, and they have been stricken off the PMA alumni roster.
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