‘Grapes of Wrath’ at PMAAAII

August 11, 2020

THE case of a Philippine Military Academy 4th Class Cadet who allegedly stole five pieces of grapes from a refrigerator being used by her upperclassmen have literally turned into ‘grapes of wrath’ at the highly-venerated institution with its graduates composed of active and retired police and military officials airing different views on how the incident should be handled.

Some Peemayers have told me that the recent PMA Alumni Association, Inc. or PMAAAI meeting via zoom have turned into clashes of ideas between active and long retired Cavaliers, some of them former members of PMA Honor Committees, with many opposing the views of their retired upperclassmen that it’s now high time for the academic hierarchy to intervene with their long cherished  and much sacred honor system.

Many have confided to me that a ‘crisis’ really has hit the PMAAAI amid calls to allow cadets to handle the investigation of their fellows by themselves using their code, “a cadet does not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do so’ and for the academy officials not to intervene with their ‘Honor Code.’

A PMA graduate told me that the said honor system starts from Day 1 of their Beast Barracks in which cadets are subjected to bone-crushing physical activities including ‘bugbugan’ for three months.

“Pag nagkamali ka, me warning ka. That’s part of our honor code. But why change the system now? Bakit bigla eh wala nang karapatan ang kadete na magdetermine ng punishment sa ibang kadete na nag-violate ng honor code,” he asked me.

The official told me that their honor code actually separates them from the rest of higher learning institutions in the country and other parts of the world, thus changing their honor system is like removing Michael Jordan or Lebron James from the hardcourt when the game is on the line.

The same honor code has been in practice at the Academy since it was created in December 1936 producing thousands of cadets who rose to become generals or PNP or AFP chiefs. These officials, past and present know the language being spoken by current PMA cadets—say off-limits, take life, quibbling, can take, etc.

All of a sudden, some officials are protesting moves to virtually strip cadets of their power over their ‘lying, cheating and stealing’ fellows amid the recent PMA leadership’s decision over the ‘grape stealing’ incident.

“If that would be the case, we would also recommend that the PMA be renamed as Philippine Military College, not Philippine Military Academy,” another Cavalier told me. He said that many people who are supporting the latest PMA leadership’s decision does not know what it means to Cavaliers like them.

“Why fix it when it ain’t broke.? Ang sinasabi ng marami, the only permanent thing here is change but it’s not the situation in the PMA. What should be done is to see to it that cadets will really be disciplined, that they won’t be very lax, that all of them would turn out to be snappy cadets,” the official told me.

There have been calls for the PMAAAI leadership not to intervene with the current PMA controversy and let the cadets do their thing. “Please don’t intervene in the affairs of the cadets who, just like us before have their own gentlemen’s agreement. Pag sinabing dismiss, dismiss. That’s all,” he said. The PMAAAI has remained silent on the issue and has to issue an official statement regarding the controversy however.

Another official told me that although many are saying that their honor code is already considered old and should be subject to change, the issue here is the need for PMA cadets to grow us responsible Cavaliers. There is also the need to stick with the time-honored principle which makes them very much different from other institutions.

The subject of the controversy here is an unnamed PMA cadette who submitted her resignation from the PMA after admitting her guilt.  The unnamed third class cadet, who committed the violation “last year” when she was still a plebe, underwent a trial initiated by the PMA Honor Committee for “several months.” The committee is composed of select 1st to 4th Year cadets  tasked to resolve issues among themselves as part of the academy’s tradition.

However, reports which quoted an alumnus accused PMA Superintendent, Vice Admiral Allan Ferdinand Cusi of upsetting tradition by convening a board of seniors to review the case, thus ignoring the Honor Code Committee’s recommendation.

As a result, the PMA board decision’s shocked Cavaliers specifically the Cadet Corps as it was decided that instead of resignation or dismissal, the Cadette was only meted “51 demerits, 180 hours punishment tours and 180 confinement days inside barracks.” The decision reportedly has demoralized cadets and the PMA Officers’ Corps and triggered fears it would open a wide door for more honor violations.

The PMA Public Affairs Office however said that  although their honor code remains “highly sacred,” it should be “formative and developmental, rather than punitive and preventive of growth and edification or improvement” since after all, all cadets  are still under training. PMA spokesperson Major Cheryl Tindog added that a revised honor system in place in PMA since 2007 provided the necessary intervention for remediation and determination of an accused’s guilt by a majority, rather than a unanimous vote.