The case of dismissed Philippine Military Academy student Aldrin Cudia has lingered long enough among the chattering classes. When news of it first broke out, it seemed that Cudia was dismissed for being a few minutes late for a succeeding class. Eventually, it became known to the public that Cudia was found guilty of something else; a far more serious offense from the point of view of the PMA: he was found guilty of violating the honor code.
“We cadets do not lie, cheat, steal, nor do we tolerate those among us who do.”
What needs to be accepted is that, we outside of the PMA may never know all of the details of this case, and that the PMA is under no obligation to tell us.
I find what has happened in Filipino civilian society when this case became news quite amusing. With regards as to how this case has played out there, I think it says a lot about the society at large, and not just about the military as an institution.
First off, this case was brought to civilian society’s attention through social media by cadet Cudia’s sister. This led me to ask: why are there Filipinos who seem to think that settling grievances by garnering public sympathy and popular support noisily is the proper way to do so? Public opinion is not necessarily right, and as such, isn’t it better to settle things in a dignified manner, and with those who are actually well-versed in the applicable laws and institutions in question?
Filipinos were quick to judge PMA’ers and soldiers as “hypocrites” for not “sticking to their honor code” once they graduate. The cases of the “pabaon” generals and the Euro generals are often cited as example of soldiers who “violated the honor code”.
Why don’t we apply some sort of alternative thinking here?
Has anybody considered that perhaps it’s not the PMA per se that has a problem? There is one obvious, undeniable fact that Filipino civilian society seems to be ignoring:
Filipino society at large has no inherent honor code.
Not only do Filipinos lie, cheat, steal, and tolerate those who do so, they even encourage them. They even elect those who do into government positions.
The way of life within the academy is regimented – very controlled. Once a cadet steps outside those walls, however, it is a totally different story altogether. Imagine stepping into a world which is the very antithesis of what you were used to and made to believe during your academy years. While the military, ideally, shapes its personnel to conform to a standard of a good soldier, Filipino society, on the other hand, inculcates the “virtue” of getting ahead through dishonorable means.
The guiding principles in Filipino civilian society are rather simple. It’s every man for himself. Prepare for a forced compliance to a consensus of low standards of conduct and morality (pakikisama). If no one complains about you doing something illegal, immoral, or dangerous, then there’s no problem. If you don’t lie, cheat, or steal, not only will you not get ahead, you will most likely be ostracized by everyone else who tolerates and does it openly, especially if you work for government. Don’t these all sound familiar?
We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.
– Colonel Nathan Jessup, A Few Good Men
Yes, it’s quite funny, indeed, how Filipinos can claim to use a word like honor, when honor is not really a strong part of Filipino tradition. It’s also quite funny how Filipinos can use words like code and loyalty, when they are notorious for having double standards and easily selling any sense of principle that they have for the right price.
In certain forums, there were Filipino civilians who tried to make an argument based on a phrase found in the current Constitution:
“Civilian authority is at all times supreme over the military,” with which they claim that Filipino civilian society is entitled to know all the details of the case. I call bullshit.
What that phrase actually refers to, is that whenever a civilian authority or government is established, the military follows orders the commander-in-chief. The role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is to protect the state, its sovereignty, and its national territory. While “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them”, to interpret that phrase as “civilians can demand anything they want from the military” is rather preposterous.
Filipinos, of course, are not really known for respecting institutions.
Now suddenly this case is going to be elevated to president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino? What does HE know about honor? BS Aquino is the poster boy for disregarding institutions. In fact, people should not forget how he had disrespected the military and had failed to insulate it from partisan politics when he unceremoniously called for recently deceased former AFP Chief of Staff General Delfin Bangit (ret.) to resign simply because he was an appointee of his predecessor and arch-enemy Gloria Arroyo.
Many people seem to overlook that one of the simplest and best ways to show honor is to keep one’s word consistently. Who can categorically say that Filipinos are collectively known for this?
BS Aquino’s alleged use of dishonorable means to get the Legislature and the Judiciary to get what he wants is well-documented in GRP and other web sites. Up until now, let us not forget that he has not fulfilled his campaign promise to pass the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI).
As it stands, it seems that cadet Cudia thinks he is an unfortunate victim of “personalan” when the guilty verdict was handed down. Not surprising that he has done so; Filipinos aren’t known to take unfavorable circumstances quietly and in a dignified manner. And now, reportedly the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have been brought in to intervene on the case. Aside from “honorable” BS Aquino. One thing that we need to consider is that it has to be proven that the PMA was either selective or inconsistent in applying its own rules. But if the complaint merely states the ruling was unfair because of a perceived “personalan”, then things look rather bleak for him.
Bottom line is: whether this whole case could have been settled quietly or not, the result was a big drama. An unnecessary one. Unfortunately, it is one that will leave Filipino civilian society with an even worse impression of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The PMA was just upholding its principles, and because Filipino civilian society does not agree with principles, and institutions, the pervading mood would seem to be for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to go eff themselves.
Which is not to say that I necessarily agree with everything the military does or is. The military seems to be an archaic institution that is slow to adapt to changing circumstances because of its top-heavy chain-of-command structure. But it is a necessary institution for a sovereign nation. They are charged with defending the state against all internal and external threats. It is imperative that the military, with the help of the civilian state, adapt the changes needed (technological, procedural, etc.), so that they can better fulfill their duties.
In this particular case, perhaps they can rethink how they can better inculcate the honor code into each and every cadet that passes through their hallowed walls.
Cadet Cudia’s case will soon be forgotten by the Filipino public, who have short tempers, shorter memories, and even shorter attention spans. The underlying implication to all this, however, is that somehow, Filipinos have to learn to uphold and improve institutions instead of merely complaining that they are unfortunate victims of what they perceive as unjust ones.
But first, they have to stop tolerating those among their own kind who lie, cheat, and steal. Without that, anything built upon a foundation of dishonor is sure to come crashing down.
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