BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR AND VICTOR REYES
PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday urged graduates of the Philippine Military Academy to be vanguards of hope and catalysts for change, to resist corruption, and to remain loyal to the Constitution.
“May the values and learning imparted to you during your years in the Academy be engraved in your hearts and may these guide you wherever life leads you. Out there, the challenge will not just require your intellectual or physical capabilities, but your sound moral judgment as well,” he said.
“It is not only your enemies, but the entire world, that will test, tempt, corrupt and pressure you... Be vanguards of hope, be catalysts of change,” he also said.
The President made the call during graduation rites of the PMA Salaknib Class of 2017 held in Fort del Pilar, Baguio City. It was the first PMA graduation event he attended as president.
Salaknib stands for Sanggalang ay Lakas at Bukay Para sa Kalayaan ng Inang Bayan.
The class valedictorian, Cadet First Class Rovi Mairel Valino Martinez, said she and her classmates will strive for excellence to earn the respect of the Filipino people.
“To the Filipino people whom we have pledged to serve with honor and integrity, utang namin ang lahat ng ito sa inyo (we owe it all to you). We will strive to become the best officers who are worthy of your respect,” said Martinez, who is from Cabanatuan City.
Martinez, who will join the Navy, is the fourth woman to top a PMA class since the academy began accepting female cadets in 1993.
Martinez leads seven other female cadets in this year’s Top 10.
Among officials present in the graduation rites was Vice President Robredo whose supporters and allies are being linked to supposed destabilization plots against the Duterte government.
It was the first time she and Duterte were seen together in a public event after Robredo resigned from the Cabinet in December last year after she was asked to refrain from attending Cabinet meetings due to what Malacañang said were “irreconcilable differences” between her and the administration.
But the two met in Malacañang last January during the Legislative-Executive Development and Advisory Council meeting to which Robredo was invited, and Palace officials said the two were “civil” to each other.
At the PMA event, Robredo and Duterte shook hands before the graduation rites started. Former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was seated between them.
Duterte, after reading about a third of his prepared speech and acknowledging guests, apologized to the Vice President for failing to recognize her presence.
“I apologize, ma’am. It was not done... Ang nagsulat ma’am dito hindi ka sinali. Bugbugin na lang natin. (The one who wrote this did not include you. We will just beat him up). I would like to apologize and acknowledge the presence of this beautiful lady, the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. Sorry ma’am ha?” Duterte said.
Robredo was there to hand the Vice Presidential Saber to class salutatorian Cadet First Class Philip Viscaya.
Martinez, the valedictorian, received the Presidential Saber from Duterte.
Duterte said the 167 graduates should remain be true to their oath of office and be loyal to the flag and to the Constitution instead.
He thanked all Filipino soldiers for their loyalty to the flag and for risking their lives, and vowed to give them, in return, support and incentives like proper equipment and weapons and benefits to the soldiers and their families.
The President also acknowledged that 63 of the 167 graduating members of the 2017 class are women, and eight of this year’s top 10 are also women. Duterte said he considers this as a “breakthrough.”
Ninety of the graduates will join the Army, 44 the Navy, and 33 the Air Force. The class goat (the graduate with the lowest academic record), Rinze Marrion de Monteverde Eviota, is among those joining the Army. Maybe he will follow in the footsteps of another PMA goat, Rodolfo Biazon, who became AFP chief of staff.
The seven other female cadets in the Top 10 are Eda Glis Marapao of Baguio City (No. 3), Cathleen Jovi Baybayan of San Fernando City, Pampanga (No. 4), Shiela Joy Jallorina of Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya (No. 6), Sheila Marie de Guzman of Manaoag, Pangasinan (No. 7), Joyzy Funchica of Butuan City (No. 8), Resie Jezreel Hucalla of Nabunturan, Compostela Valley (No. 9), and Catherine Mar Gonzales of Zamboanga City (No. 10).
The other male is fifth placer Emmanuel Canlas of Lubao, Pampanga.