FORT DEL PILAR, BAGUIO CITY, February 15, 2004
(STAR) (Photo courtesy of OPS) President Arroyo conferred awards yesterday on Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni who have made a name for themselves in various fields.

The President, who was the guest of honor at the PMA’s 99th alumni homecoming yesterday, conferred awards on re-electionist Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Narciso Abaya, Philippine National Police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., retired Philippine Army chief Gregorio Camiling, Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Nestor Santillan, and Philippine Navy commander Rear Admiral Ernesto de Leon.

Mrs. Arroyo, who is an honorary "mistah" of PMA Class ’78, trooped the line of cadets together with former President Fidel Ramos, PMA superintendent Maj. Gen. Edilberto Adan, PMA Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAAI) chairman Cavalier Carlos Agustin and Abaya, among other people.

Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the guest speaker for this year’s alumni homecoming, swore in the newly elected members of the PMAAAI board of directors.

Ermita said in his speech that the Filipino soldier can help bring about a Philippine society at peace, wherein every citizen can sleep well every night knowing that the next morning, he will enjoy "greater and brighter opportunities for growth not only for himself but also for the next generation."

He also said the May elections is an "acid test" for Filipinos. "As the election nears, our job in the Armed Forces is to safeguard the electoral process and to ensure the stability of our country," he said, adding that it is the duty of the military to defend and keep "this republic together.

Ermita also reminded the PMA alumni gathered here not to forget to vote, and to "vote wisely."

At the homecoming, Mrs. Arroyo did not cross paths with her "Valentine date," administration nemesis Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who also attended the homecoming.

Lacson earlier told reporters in jest that he will be seeing Mrs. Arroyo at the homecoming and that she will be his date. He added that should he actually bump into her, he will greet her "Happy Valentine’s Day," and show her his campaign hand signal, a raised clenched fist.

Ermita, to drum up support for Mrs. Arroyo, told her that "the prestige you brought the PMA cannot be overemphasized. You honor us with your presence."

Lacson, who belongs to PMA Class ’71, said Mrs. Arroyo was only an honorary — not an actual — alumna of the PMA.

Biazon, a member of PMA Class ‘61, said he does not want to go down to the level of presidential candidate Raul Roco, who earlier alleged that he was offered a P30 million bribe to join the administration ticket.

He added that his award as an outstanding PMA alumnus can readily refute Roco’s claims that he was a "factory defect" of the PMA. — Artemio Dumlao

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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