HomeCommentaryPMA graduates taking a stand on hot issues

PMA graduates taking a stand on hot issues

Politics hates a vacuum. Most Opposition figures have sold out to the Administration supermajority. Bishops who once chided official excesses have quieted down. A new force is filling the void – the Cavaliers.

“Cavaliers” is what Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates traditionally call themselves. Of late, retirees among them have been speaking out on hot issues. Consider:

In January 2023, about 350 Cavaliers decried the red-tagging of Baguio City Major Benjamin Magalong, a member of PMA Class 1982.

Malacañang had just appointed the ex-police general to a review committee on abusive officers. He had also taken down tarps linking youth activists in his city to the Communist underground.

Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, former anti-insurgency task force spokesperson Lorraine Badoy-Partosa, and ex-rebel Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz labeled him a “traitor” and “unprincipled”. They broadcast those in Sonshine Media Network International.

Cavaliers upheld Magalong’s sterling service record. He was wounded battling rebels in Luzon and Mindanao. As well, head of the Cordillera Peace and Order Council, and vice-head of the task force where Badoy-Partosa used to sit. He urges youth democratic participation.

In March last year, 125 Cavaliers stood up for Col. Leonardo Odoño, PMA 1964. For five months their 82-year-old senior had been requesting Comelec to release transmission logs of Election 2022 precinct results, to no avail.

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Their open letter emphasized Odoño’s constitutional right to information. Comelec Chief George Garcia handed him a pile of papers that turned out to be reception, not transmission, logs. When Odoño cried foul, a Comelec whistleblower uploaded raw files on its website.

Analyzing those, retired Gen. Eliseo Rio discovered fraud. Comelec’s transparency server received Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog precinct results mysteriously from only one server, in breach of the 2008 Election Automation Law.

Rio is not a PMA grad but had taken advanced ROTC with the University of the Philippines Vanguards. When Comelec ignored his findings, fellow Vanguards publicly expressed dismay. Cavaliers co-signed their position paper.

In July 2023, in his PMA Class 1971’s Facebook page, Adm. Ariston delos Reyes blasted Finance Sec. Benjamin Diokno. The latter was blaming military retirement pensions as the main cause of budget deficits, allegedly P848.32 billion a year rising to P9.6 trillion over time.

Delos Reyes reminded Diokno that it was PMA classmate Senator Panfilo Lacson who had asked GSIS to absorb the military pension payments. GSIS estimated P9.6 trillion as borrowed capital, with P848.32-billion yearly repayment, later slashed by 40 percent.

Diokno was tossing figures to scare the public, mathematician Delos Reyes said. The Finance Department website stated only P214 billion as military pensions for 2023. Delos Reyes stuck to Lacson’s info that Congress had allocated only P128.7 billion for that year.

Delos Reyes said the government incurred huge deficits, 59.2 percent of the national budget, when Diokno was its secretary in 2018. Deficits rose 51.8 percent more, P710 billion, during the pandemic. (State auditors recently deemed as overpriced the pandemic supplies purchased by Diokno’s appointees.)

On Dec. 5, 2023, 150 Cavaliers urged the House of Reps to free Badoy-Partosa and Celiz. The chamber had detained the duo for refusing to reveal their source in broadcasting that Speaker Martin Romualdez spent P1.8 billion in foreign travels.

Rep. Romeo Acop, with whom Badoy-Partosa argued, is himself a Cavalier, PMA 1970. A House committee recommended the suspension of SMNI’s franchise, which the Cavaliers criticized.

“We demand immediate, unconditional release of our colleagues,” Cavaliers said. “Their detention is not only illegitimate but also emblematic of a distressing trend of authoritarian overreach. This institution must not be allowed to devolve into an instrument of political suppression. In the face of this affront to our democratic way of life, we stand firm.”

The House released the two on “humanitarian grounds”.

Notably in all those public statements, Cavaliers underscore civil rights, which they swore to uphold. Retirees openly can speak; those on active duty are proscribed from politics.

Cavaliers number 9,297, active duty and retired. They were trained to obey the command chain.

But there was a break in 1986. Some of today’s vocal retirees were members of the Reform-AFP Movement and the Young Officers Union that toppled the Marcos Sr. dictatorship.

The above-cited Cavalier formations are issue-based. There are also formal groupings. One is Advocates for National Interest, which includes four former AFP chiefs and several heads of the Army, Navy, and Air Forces.

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS News.

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