(STAR) By Artemio Dumlao [Photo is loading... The graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy Class 2011 swear allegiance to the Armed Forces during the commencement exercises at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City yesterday. Inset photo shows President Aquino presenting the Presidential Saber Award and diploma to Cadet First Class Angelo Parras for topping the Laon Alab Class 2011. Andy Zapata Jr./Artemio Dumlao]

Mincing no words against corruption in the military, President Aquino yesterday urged the graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to turn away from “gold’s temptations” and become saviors of the poor from the quagmire of poverty.

Aquino addressed the 196 graduates of PMA Class 2011 “Laon-Alab,” enjoining them to resist temptations of wealth and live up to the ideals of the academy and the military as an institution.

“I hope you can say ‘no’ when somebody dumps a truckload of money in front of you. Live up to the ideals of the PMA. You are not here to get rich,” Aquino told the newly commissioned officers in Filipino.

Aquino also assured the graduates that the government is looking at the welfare of the troops while being tough against corruption in the military and those responsible.

Alluding to two former military budget comptrollers accused of massive corruption, Aquino said some officers openly enjoyed lavish lifestyles, splurging on foreign trips with their wives.

“We’ll have these robbers and their cohorts pay for their crimes. Wala tayong sasantuhin (Nobody will be spared),” he said.

Class valedictorian Navy Ensign Angelo Parras said he could not promise his “mistahs” (classmates) will tread the ideal path.

“I wish those ideals would be with us when we leave Borromeo Field and the PMA. Everyone (of us) has his (or her) own thinking... though we will try our best to attain the ideals of P-Noy (Aquino),” Parras said.

Amid the “pabaon” scandals rocking the military organization, Parras expressed his support for the AFP and the PMA.

“We should not destroy the (military) institution because of one man. There are thousands of heroes graduating from the PMA,” Parras said.

Parras led the graduates in promising to serve and protect the people amid the controversies in the military.

Aquino told the graduates that they would be walking into the “realities of poverty and injustice (in the country).”

“As you walk out from the PMA, you will face a different kind of war. The measure of your heroism will not be on how you will fire your guns but how you measure up to your oath and conduct to the people. Your power comes from the Filipino people,” Aquino said.

Aquino handed over to Parras the Presidential Saber for topping the Laon Alab (Lakas Tipon Alagad ng Bayan) Class 2011.

The town of Apalit in Pampanga has already prepared a welcome for Parras, according to town Mayor Jun Tetangco.

“Apalit has many PMA graduates, but it’s the first time that one topped the class and outdoing 195 others in his graduating class,” Tetangco said.

Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda said the provincial government is also set to cite Parras for topping the PMA class.

Aquino led the commissioning of the 196 graduates as second lieutenants and ensigns of the AFP. Parras, for his part, has opted to join the Philippine Navy.

Cadets 1st Class John Gregor Guiang, 21, of Zamboanga del Norte, and Jason Cortes Luna, 23, of Enrile, Cagayan, ranked second and third, respectively.

Of the 196 graduates, 22 are female. Of the number, 105 will join the Army, 51 will go to the Navy and 40 will join the Air Force.

The other top graduates were Aljan Cabriga Dino of Naic, Cavite; Rigor Narag Pamittan of Tuguegarao City, Cagayan; Janice Baniaga Matbagan of Baguio City; Bobby Gabayno of Cainta, Rizal; Ramon Kristofer Ganab Engay of Tuao, Cagayan; Norman Avila Carual of Tabaco City, Albay, and Jason Fabros Parinas of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

This year’s graduating class is the youngest in the last five years with their median ages between 20 and 22.

At least 10 from the class were aged 20 and would need to sign a waiver to serve as officers in the military because AFP requires its members to be at least 21 years old. -With Delon Porcalla, Ding Cervantes

Noy names Oban 42nd Armed Forces chief By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated March 07, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday named Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. as the new chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), after Gen. Ricardo David Jr. who is set to retire tomorrow.

Aquino made the announcement during graduation ceremonies of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City.

Oban will take over as the 42nd AFP chief in turnover ceremonies today at Camp Aguinaldo before Aquino flies to Indonesia for a state visit.

Aquino appointed Oban with marching orders to continue implementing the reforms in the AFP.

“May he (Oban) serve as an inspiration to the (PMA) Class ‘Laon Alab’ so that we could immediately reach our goal for the country,” Aquino said in his keynote address to the PMA graduating class of 2011.

Oban is the fifth AFP chief that came from the Philippine Air Force.

Other airmen who became AFP chief were Pelagio Cruz (Dec. 31, 1961 to Aug. 31, 1962), Victor Osias (Jan. 21, 1967 to Aug. 15, 1967), Arnulfo Acedera Jr. (Nov. 28. 1996 to Dec. 31, 1997), and Benjamin Defensor Jr. (Sept. 10, 2002 to Nov. 28, 2002).

Oban will serve as military chief for nine months before his retirement on Dec. 13.

A member of PMA Class of 1979, Oban served as vice commander of the Air Force before moving up as PAF chief.

Oban held the third highest post in the AFP, being the deputy chief of staff responsible for the administration and supervision of the joint coordinating, technical and special staffs of the military headquarters.

Aquino named Oban, a three-star air force general without extensive combat experience but whose name has not been tainted by graft scandals.

He ordered Oban to press on with reforms aimed at curbing graft, promoting human rights and bolstering talks with insurgents.

“I have no doubt that he can continue the reforms that General David started,” Aquino said.

Secretary Ricky Carandang defended the President’s decision to appoint Oban who may only be serving for a very short period of time, contrary to his avowed policy not to follow the “revolving-door” policy of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“The President made the choice. There was a series of interviews with the generals. The decision of the President was based on the merits, on the interviews. I think he (Oban) will move forward with the meaningful reforms within the eight or nine months,” Carandang said.

Oban, according to Carandang, had “a very good career” at the Air Force.

“I think no one will question General Oban’s qualifications,” Carandang said.

He said the incoming AFP chief has been tasked to coordinate with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on proper disbursements of funds in the light of the corruption scandals that rocked the military organization.

Oban’s appointment comes amid the Senate inquiry that had exposed scandals involving the misuse of millions of funds by top generals.

‘Critical time’

Sen. Francis Escudero welcomed the appointment of Oban as he urged the incoming military chief to take the initiative in ensuring that the AFP under his leadership will be true to its commitment to the Filipino people.

“I welcome the appointment of Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. as the new Armed Forces chief of staff. I do not personally know Lt. Gen. Oban, but his appointment from among equally deserving list of men is a well needed transfusion to the country’s armed troops whose morale dropped given previous allegations and exposes in the military by certain officers,” Escudero said.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, challenged Oban to bring back the integrity and respect the AFP deserves but may have been diminished during recent scandals brought about by some of its own men.

Escudero was referring to the accusations hurled by former budget officer Col. George Rabusa that former AFP chiefs had received millions of “pabaon” or sendoff money from AFP budget as had been the “tradition” in the military.

One of the accused, former defense chief Angelo Reyes, denied the allegation but committed suicide at his mother’s grave last month as the Senate investigation continued.

“Lt. Gen. Oban comes at a critical time in the history of our Armed Forces. We want to see our new chief of staff rally the troops and raise their morale and standard once again as the country’s guardians of democracy and Constitution,” Escudero said.

“With all these scandals rocking the Armed Forces, I hope Lt. Gen. Oban would be able to insulate the institution from these few rotten officers who do not represent the entirety of the military,” Escudero stressed.

David, the outgoing AFP chief, said Oban’s extensive military experience makes him qualified to lead the 120,000-strong military.

“Oban’s stint as deputy chief of staff along with his extensive assignments in various staff, directorial and command positions at different levels… has definitely prepared him for the job of a chief of staff,” David said.

David is confident that Oban would continue programs that will modernize the armed forces and enhance the troops’ efficiency against threat groups.

“A well-educated military officer, his (Oban) appointment as AFP chief is a validation of the AFP leadership’s trust in his capability,” David said.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. described Oban as a “mild mannered strategic thinker, strategic planner, true blue air force officer and fighter.”

Before entering the PMA, Oban graduated from the University of Santo Tomas. He also obtained a master’s degree in business economics from the University of Asia and the Pacific, and was one of the top graduates of his PMA class.

He bested at least eight other contenders, including the most senior of them, Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz (PMA 1979), who is retiring in November, and the youngest, AFP operations chief of staff Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista (PMA 1981), who is retiring in 2014.

Oban helped negotiate for the surrender of Oakwood mutineers in 2003 when he was a colonel.

He was among those chosen by the mutinous Magdalo rebel soldiers to be part of the government panel that negotiated with them for their return to barracks.

A former instructor pilot, Oban hails from Sorsogon. He once served as special assistant to former Marcos trade minister Roberto Ongpin and former defense minister now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Oban is a recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including four Distinguished Service Stars, a number of Military Merit Medals, a Golden Aviator Award, two Group Commander of the Year awards, PAF Group Commander of the Year Award and various military commendation medals. –With Artemio Dumlao, Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved