MANILA, FEBRUARY 19, 2011 (STAR) By Alexis Romero – Amid allegations of corruption in the military and calls to review the academy’s core values, President Aquino, also commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), will attend today’s Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni homecoming.

The homecoming, to be held at Fort del Pilar, Baguio City, is the first under the Aquino administration.

The President will serve as speaker and guest of honor during the event, which starts at 8:30 a.m.

Active and retired officers, all products of the country’s premier military school, are attending the event, in an unprecedented show of force amid proposals for the abolition of the academy.

Defense department spokesman Eduardo Batac said cavaliers will be attending the occasion with concern given the recent controversies that hounded the military.

“It’s (homecoming) still a celebration but there are serious developments that the alumni cannot fail to be concerned about. Definitely these will bring serious discussions... in the whole alumni organization,” Batac, a graduate of PMA Class ’68, said.

“The only thing different with what has recently happened is it was publicized very openly. It is not the first time the alumni formally or informally have taken action or commented about certain misbehaviors or misconduct,” he added.

Batac was referring to accusations that millions of military funds were diverted to allow key officials to get hefty cash incentives.

The AFP’s financial system was placed under scrutiny after retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa told a Senate hearing last Jan. 27 that former military chiefs were given millions in “pabaon” or sendoff money upon retirement.

The “sendoff money” reportedly came from the provisions for command directed activities (PCDA), which is available to the chief of staff.

Rabusa claimed that former AFP chief Angelo Reyes received P50 million in sendoff money while former military chiefs Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu received P160 million and P80 million, respectively.

Rabusa said the Air Force, Army, Navy and various AFP offices were used as “clearinghouses” to allow key officers to get huge bonuses.

The accusations prodded Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño to call for the abolition of the PMA, which serves as breeding ground of AFP officers.

Casiño said the core of the PMA should be revisited as top military officials are graduates of the academy. – Jaime Laude

The AFP has claimed that the malpractices revealed by Rabusa are no longer happening and that reforms have been introduced in its system. The military also rejected calls to abolish the PMA, saying the institution should not be blamed for the misdeeds of some of its graduates.

Although some of the alumni believe that the PMA would not be abolished just because of the wrongdoings of some of it graduates, they said they are all going up to Baguio, in solidarity, to attend the homecoming.

“Most of the Bogo-Bogos will attend today’s homecoming. Who knows, this would be our last homecoming,” said a retired military officer whose class is among the sponsors in today’s PMA annual event.

Bogo-Bogos refers to all PMA graduates whether active or retired, either from the AFP or the Philippine National Police.

Batac said individual classes usually conduct their respective activities the night before the actual homecoming rites.

Exclusive for ‘graduates’ only

He said the homecoming rites will feature the traditional alumni parade and the “alumni trooping the line,” where graduates march together as a class.

Batac said PMA classes are expected to comply with regulations on the “trooping the line” activity, which is one of the highlights of the event. This, amid reports that some celebrities and “guest” class members joined the activity in the past even if it was exclusive to graduates.

“A few years back, it was noticed that there were too many politicians, celebrities, and movie personalities who were attending alumni affairs,” he said.

Batac said the PMA alumni board has barred the adoption of honorary members by individual classes to prevent politicians from encroaching into their activities.

“What will be acceptable is the adoption of honorary members to the alumni association itself,” he said.

Batac said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin even discouraged the President from giving in to the request of classes who wanted to adopt him when he was running for president.

A Newsbreak report last year showed that at least 25 politically influential persons adopted by different PMA classes are not recognized as honorary members by the PMA Alumni Association.

Batac said the homecoming will include awarding ceremonies in honor of graduates who excelled in their respective fields.

For this year, the cavalier awardees are Marcelo Navarro Jr. of Class ’72 (public administration), Cornelio de la Cruz of Class ’78 (special affairs), Restituto Aguilar of Class ’78 (alumni affairs), Alexander Pama of Class ’79 (command and administration), Alex DC Luna of class ’89 (army operations), Nichols Driz of Class ’89 (naval operations), Leo Francisco of Class ’92 (police operations); and Justino Ramolete of Class ’99 (air force operations).

Special ceremonies will also be held to recognize this year’s jubilarians namely Class ’51 (diamond), Class ’61 (gold), and Class ’86 (silver).

Expected to be the hot topic among gathered graduates are the controversies involving former AFP comptroller and discharged Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia as well as other officers linked to the financial scam in the military and suicide of former defense and AFP chief, retired Gen. Angelo Reyes.

Bogo-Bogos who were already in Baguio were all glued yesterday to televisions to monitor the Senate hearing involving Garcia’s plea bargain agreement with the Sandiganbayan that resulted to a blown-up inquiry into alleged corruption in the AFP.

Defense Secretary Gazmin, as a tradition, would be guest of honor in the PMA homecoming ceremonies, except that President Aquino has also confirmed his attendance in today’s event. - Jaime Laude

Sick P-Noy takes a rest By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated February 19, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – An ill President Aquino took a much-needed rest yesterday after feeling unwell on Thursday, and canceled all his engagements in Malacañang, a Palace spokesperson disclosed.

“I think he is still under the weather. (I know he also canceled) engagements today. (It is also presently) Flu season… but I’m told that he still does not feel all too well,” Undersecretary Abigail Valte told newsmen.

Although he didn’t feel well Thursday, Aquino still administered the induction of AdBoard officers and directors at Malacañang, and even attended the Knights of Columbus event at the Manila Hotel in the early evening.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Valte said that nevertheless, the President dropped by his office and took home several documents, which he later brought to Bahay Pangarap, across the Palace over the Pasig River.

“So (it looks like it won’t be a full rest as he brought home) the papers that he has to attend to,” she said. The scheduled meeting on Thursday (4 p.m.) with members of the economic cluster was canceled, however.

Aquino met with 17 mayors of Metro Manila last Thursday, which was presided by Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino. On the other hand, a courtesy call was canceled, along with another meeting, but despite this, the President decided to attend the AdBoard event at 2:30 pm.

So, Mr. Aquino took a rest yesterday. His appointments office advised that he has to rest, “he has to recover from this,” Valte said.

Valte said Aquino’s visit to Jolo, Sulu last week may have contributed to his sickness, since he insisted on finishing his meeting with soldiers although the rain continued to pour.

“He was speaking to the soldiers in the rain. So baka po nakapag-contribute din iyung naging activity na iyon dahil nakita niyo rin naman po also in the photos, talagang tinuloy po niya iyung kanyang pakikipag-usap doon sa mga sundalo,” she said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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