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Making history, PMA Class of 1983

/ 12:09 AM December 12, 2016

In 2015, Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Class 1983, was appointed AFP chief of staff by President Benigno Aquino III. Iriberri was followed by his classmate Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, who served as acting chief for two months. When President Duterte assumed office last June 30, he chose Gen. Ricardo Visaya, also of Class 1983, to head the AFP.

Last Wednesday, President Duterte installed another “Matikas” class member, Gen. Eduardo M. Año, as the new AFP chief of staff, succeeding Gen. Ricardo Visaya who retired from the military service. For the first time in the history of the AFP, four members of the same PMA class have been appointed to serve in the AFP’s highest position.

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That is not all.

The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines is under the control of members of Class 1983. The Philippine Army is now headed by Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, who moved from AFP vice chief of staff (his position under General Visaya), to commanding general, Philippine Army. The Philippine Air Force is led by Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina while the Philippine Navy is under Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado. The Philippine Marine Corps is commanded by Maj. Gen. Andre Costales. Every single individual I have mentioned here with the exception of the two presidents, belongs to Class 1983. For good measure, let me add that the Philippine Coast Guard which is a bureau under the Department of Transportation, is headed by Vice Admiral William Melad. Retired Maj. Gen. Alexander Balutan is the general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office under the Office of the President. Both are also members of the class.

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Numbering close to 200, the Class of 1983 is one of the largest to graduate from the Philippine Military Academy. The class valedictorian was PNP Chief Supt. Ervin Gumban, while the first captain, or baron, was Clemente Enrique Jr., who retired early from the service.

Never has one PMA class held so many key positions in the government.

Just a few personal notes on the AFP change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo.

President Duterte, the commander in chief, arrived in a small vehicle that reminded me of the papal vehicle used in a Washington, DC visit. He emerged from his car in a barong with the usual sleeves slightly rolled up. Underneath the barong were suspenders similar to those worn by some members of his security force. At his age, a belt is no guarantee against the force of gravity. In such a situation, prudence dictates the use of suspenders.

There were four presidents on stage: Erap Estrada and Gloria Arroyo were seated next to each other on one end, while Fidel Ramos was at the other end, with President Duterte in the middle. Someone asked, “What do Erap and GMA have in common?” Both were billeted at the presidential suite of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City for similar reasons. Both continue to hold public office with Erap as Manila mayor, and GMA as Pampanga representative. Incidentally, the presidential suite recently underwent slight renovations in anticipation of the next occupant. Before you jump to any hasty conclusions, let me say that the suite is available for the use of other VIPs, subject to the approval of the defense secretary. The VMMC is one of the units under the jurisdiction of the defense department.

The President was extra-brief in his acknowledgments before speaking. I have often mentioned that many of our officials spend too much time acknowledging the presence of so many individuals in a gathering. The practice appears to be part of our culture. We do not wish to offend by failing to publicly recognize some people. Perhaps we should take our cue from the President. The phrase “distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen” should suffice to cover all but the most important in the audience.

It is only fitting that Gen. Eduardo Año has assumed the post of AFP chief of staff. As head of the Philippine Army, he devoted time and effort to instill in his officers and men a reverence for the memory of its founding fathers, Generals Artemio Ricarte and Antonio Luna. They were the first and second commanders of the Filipino army during the revolution against Spain, and the war that followed against the United States. Año was aware of the importance of keeping alive the mental image of our heroes and their love for the motherland. He has his share of critics, but I know him to be a professional soldier who will remain true to his oath of office and serve his country well.

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After spending a number of cold, wintry days in Moscow laying the groundwork for the forthcoming presidential visit next year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was guest of honor at several ceremonies involving the three major services of the Armed Forces.

At Villamor Air Base, Pasay City, along with Korean Ambassador Kim Jae-shin, he presided over the turnover of two additional FA-50 fighter jets from Seoul. We now have four of the 12 that were purchased sometime last year. The remaining eight are scheduled for delivery by September of next year. What we have are merely the platforms. The weapons systems are still to be delivered before the aircraft can be considered fully operational.

At Pier 13, Port of Manila, Lorenzana along with another Ambassador Kim, this one a Korean-American who happens to be the new US ambassador to Manila, witnessed the turnover of the third Coast Guard cutter to the Philippine Navy. Almost 50 years old, the vessel was christened the BRP “Andres Bonifacio” in honor of the founder and Supremo of the Katipunan, the secret society that led the revolt against Spain. Her voyage from Alameda, California, to the Philippines was under the command of Capt. Brendo J. Casaclan. Incidentally, Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronnie Mercado is the youngest member of PMA Class 1983.

Secretary Lorenzana also presided over the change of command ceremonies involving the leadership of the Philippine Army. At the Fort Bonifacio parade grounds, Gen. Eduardo Año relinquished command of the 85,000-strong army to Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda.

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TAGS: AFP, chief, Eduardo M. Año, Hernando Iriberri, opinion, PMA, Ricardo Visaya
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