FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines – President Aquino yesterday called on the 187 graduates of Class 2012 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to shun the temptations of corruption as they face the challenges of their chosen field.
Aquino reminded the graduates that their four-year “vacation” at the PMA had ended and they would face the real challenges of their profession.
“Now is the start of real woes you will face in your chosen field,” Aquino said in Filipino as he challenged the topnotcher, Tom Puertollano, and his 186 classmates of “Bagwis” (Bagong Kawal na may Iisang Lakas) that they now start to face the real problems of society.
“Now is the time to prove what it takes to be a soldier and to be a true Filipino,” Aquino said.
Apart from their mission of facing armed groups in the mountains and lawless elements, Aquino said, the temptation of corruption is more challenging.
Aquino cited instances wherein they could be assigned to check on illegal loggers.
“If you are assigned to a remote area and let’s say you chanced upon trucks full of illegally cut logs, what would you do?” he asked the graduates. “It is clear to you that they are illegal. Will you accept an envelope and look away while they are rolling the logs down to the river?”
He said people are aware of the damage that can be caused by giant logs rampaging downstream, hitting bridges and homes and causing death.
“Can you say, ‘I will not accept that (bribe), because my brief profit will mean long-term damage to others’?” Aquino asked.
As the backbone of the state, Aquino reiterated that the Armed Forces is the first to be depended upon by the people.
“If the people lose their trust in you, then they have no alternative but to seek refuge and redress from other forces claiming to liberate us,” he said.
“If you do your job well,” the President went on, “the people will take on your side and will be a trusted ally.”
He instilled in the cadets the important virtues of honesty, integrity and compassion for others, noting that all of these will be tested in their battle in the outside world.
“Don’t forget that in any battle or war, those who succeed are those who wield the support of the people,” he said.
Class topnotcher Puertollano, a 22-year-old from Batangas, accepted the challenge from their commander-in-chief on behalf of Class 2012.
Puertollano said the President and the Filipino people can depend on Class Bagwis. “We are united in fulfilling our jobs,” he said.
“I am sure they are a new breed of officers who gives prime on ethics, nationalism and patriotism and shun corruption,” said PMA Superintendent Maj. Gen. Nonato Peralta.
Aquino urged the graduates to walk with him along the path of good governance as he enumerated a number of good strides, including those within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“The government now made it a point not to leave behind our soldiers and policemen. We are taking into serious consideration your needs so that you can carry out your mission and obligation to the people,” he said.
He cited as example the housing projects for AFP and members of the Philippine National Police, which now have extended to members of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Bureau of Fire Protection.
Aquino said there are already 21,800 housing units for soldiers and policemen in Luzon. The National Housing Authority’s plan to build 31,200 housing units for the second phase of the program is underway with the program reaching the Visayas and Mindanao.
In his speech, Aquino said weeding out corruption in his administration has so far resulted in record budget savings and surpluses in a short span of time.
For one, past administrations took 15 years to accumulate P33 billion for the AFP Modernization Program, he said.
Under his watch, Aquino said P28 billion has already been collected since he took office in July 2010.
In just 18 months, Aquino said the government has already spent P28 billion in 18 projects under the AFP modernization program.
He cited the government’s acquisition of a Hamilton-class cutter, now known as BRP Gregorio del Pilar, adding that another is on the way to enable the AFP to defend the country’s territory.
When facing the real world, Aquino told the graduates to always go back to where they started at the PMA and ask themselves why they chose to become soldiers. - By Artemio Dumlao and Delon Porcalla