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Son of a carpenter

/ 03:01 AM March 19, 2012

In terms of support from the Filipino taxpayer, no institution in the land comes close to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Everything a cadet needs—uniforms, clothing, food, shelter, transport, books and instructors, training and sports facilities, medical care, including a modest monthly stipend—is provided for by our people. In return, they dedicate the best years of their lives, if not life itself, in the service of country. Through the years, the Academy has been a source of great pride and satisfaction for the nation. At times, it has also been a source of sadness and dismay.

We must know more about the Academy.

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The PMA traces its beginnings to the Academia Militar ng Pilipinas founded on Oct. 25, 1898 in Malolos, Bulacan, pursuant to a decree of the first president of the Philippine Republic, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. The establishment of the school was aimed at providing training for future officers who were to lead the regular army of the Philippines after the Revolution. Because of the Philippine-American War that followed, it ceased operations after a short period.

On Dec. 21, 1935, Commonwealth Act No. 1, known as the National Defense Act, formally created the Philippine Military Academy for the purpose of training “selected candidates for commission to the regular forces.”

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Sunday marked the graduation of Class 2012 from the Academy. The topnotcher of the class, Tom Puertollano of Lipa City, is the son of a carpenter. Other topnotchers in the past were sons of farmers, tricycle drivers, and overseas workers. This gives us an idea of the socioeconomic background of many of the PMA cadets, most of whom are products of provincial high schools.

If we go by post-World War II classes, this would be the 62nd batch of graduates to leave Fort Gregorio H. del Pilar, home of the PMA since 1950. Earlier classes, including those under the three-year program of the Philippine Constabulary Academy, were trained at Teacher’s Camp and Camp Henry T. Allen, both in Baguio City.

From its inception, the Academy has produced military leaders of character, who have distinguished themselves in the service of the Armed Forces and the nation. One could say that the institution has provided the leadership backbone of the AFP and the defense department.

Of the more than 40 officers who reached the pinnacle of their careers as AFP chief of staff, only four were non-PMA graduates. Generals Romeo Espino and Fabian Ver were products of the University of the Philippines ROTC program, while Generals Fidel Ramos and Narciso Abaya both graduated from West Point. The longest serving AFP chief of staff was General Espino who stayed in office from January 1972 to August 1981, a total of 10 years and 7 months. Among the PMA graduates, the longest serving AFP chief was Gen. Manuel Yan, Class of 1941. Yan served from May 1968 to January 1972 and went on to become our ambassador to Thailand, Indonesia and the United Kingdom.

Revisiting the past.

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Last February, during the annual alumni homecoming, the Academy honored three groups of graduates: the Class of 1937, which was the Diamond Jubilee class, the Golden Jubilarians of 1962, and the Silver Jubilarians of 1987.

The members of the Class of 1937 were: Flor M. Acosta, Francisco R. Adriano, Benito M. Ebuen, Bienvenido E. Ferrer, Alfredo E. Gallardo, Melanio E. Gallardo, Ceferino R. Galvez, Nicanor D. Garcia, Juan B. Magluyan, Ernesto S. Mata, Simplicio F. Rivera, Alfonso F. Roberto, and Napoleon N. Valeriano. The topnotcher was Francisco Adriano, while Ernesto Mata was the First Captain or Baron. In February, General Mata was the only known living graduate of the Philippine Constabulary Academy. The latest issue of the Cavalier, a publication of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, touted him as the “last man standing.”

In his military career that started when he entered the Academy in June 1934, Mata served as commanding general of the Philippine Army and later AFP chief of staff, the only officer to be recalled to active duty to occupy this position. He would also serve as defense secretary in the Cabinet of President Ferdinand Marcos. Two weeks ago, General Mata passed away at the age of 96.

The Class of 1962 entered the Academy 142 strong. Only 77 would be at the finish line in March 1962. A class member, Gerardo N. Flores, describes his batch as “the most star-studded class” to come out of the Academy and “worth their weight in gold” in terms of achievements. With two AFP chiefs of staff and a host of other distinguished personalities, the class has much to be proud of.

The Silver Jubilarians of Class 1987 started with 309 members. Only 149 or 50 percent would graduate. A promising future lies ahead for members of the class who now hold senior field grade positions in the AFP.

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Last month, the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association (PMAAA) expelled Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, Class of 1971 and former AFP comptroller, from its rosters. It came after President Aquino confirmed his conviction by a military court in December 2005. It was the first expulsion in the history of the PMAAA.

In taking note of the PMAAA action, the Inquirer in its editorial of Feb. 14, said: “The PMA cavaliers have taken the first step toward the social ostracism of erring officials. We hope this social ostracism movement will catch fire in the country. It is time we stopped idolizing people in the government and private sectors who are corrupt and who have enriched themselves through dubious, illegal and immoral means. They should instead be treated with contempt and obloquy and when the evidence warrants, be haled to court and jailed if found guilty.”

Cavalier Salvador V. Hocson had this to say about the Garcia removal: “I congratulate the Board for finally terminating the membership of Major General Garcia from the Association. I felt though that they should have acted earlier… there has been so much theft of AFP funds in the past yet the Board has been silent on the misdeeds of some of its members. Perhaps this tolerance has in some ways even encouraged the misdeeds. I truly hope the condemnation by the Board and its positive action by the termination of membership of erring members be adopted so that it may serve as a moral deterrent to our membership.”

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TAGS: General Ernesto Mata, General Manuel Yan, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, Philippine Military Academy, Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association (PMAAA), PMA Class of 2012, PMA graduates, social ostracism, Tom Puertollano
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