From the Reveille column of Ramon Farolan in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 14, 2019): Opinion: New PMA head out in 13 months
Last month, a new Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff was installed at Camp Aguinaldo. Lt. Gen. Noel Clement will serve for three months. Two weeks ago, in the wake of a hazing scandal that saw the death of a fourth class cadet, the AFP put in a new superintendent at the Philippine Military Academy. Rear Adm. Allan Ferdinand Cusi will serve at Fort Del Pilar for 13 months, the remaining year of his military career. Cusi holds a respectable service record and will most likely get his third star before retirement.
What is happening to the AFP? Our chiefs of staff, our major unit commanders, have become short-time executives serving for three months, six months, or one year at best. Is this the continuing norm for the future AFP? Is this current trend acceptable? Common sense tells us this situation benefits a few, but in the long run, is detrimental to the organization. This is true for the PMA, the primary source of leadership for the Armed Forces. We need stability, continuity of command and sustainability of reforms for the organization to be considered truly professional.
Of all the educational institutions of the land, none is more representative of our country than the PMA. The cadets come from every part of the nation and in that sense, they represent the youth of the land from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi. The great majority of these young boys and girls are from the middle and lower classes of Philippine society. Most are products of provincial high schools. For many, entrance to the PMA represents the only opportunity for higher education with a possible realization of their dreams for a better life. For a few, the vision of someday becoming AFP chief of staff is also a part of that dream. They are all chosen on the basis of competitive exams nationwide.
In terms of support from the Filipino taxpayer, no institution in the land comes close to the academy. Everything a cadet needs—uniforms, clothing, food, shelter, transport, books and instructors, training and sports facilities, all with a monthly stipend—is provided for by the government. The cost comes up to almost P3 million per cadet. In return, they dedicate the best years of their lives, if not life itself, in the service of our country.
There is absolutely no reason why we should treat the leadership of the academy in such a cavalier manner as to appoint short-term superintendents regardless of their qualifications. When we act in this manner, we do a great disservice to the AFP and to the nation.
The heads of our state colleges and universities nationwide have a term of office of three years. The president of the University of the Philippines enjoys a tenure of six years, and most private educational institutions have the same outlook when it comes to administration. In the case of the PMA, we have short-term leadership arrangements; as such, it is difficult to dismiss the idea that it is simply a way station for an additional star before retirement.
Why not a senior colonel or a young brigadier general, with several more years of active duty in his career, one with drive, imagination and ambition? He might just come up with some bold, crazy ideas that may pleasantly surprise everyone. Some years ago, there was a directive from the defense secretary that read: “Tour of duty of the Superintendent—The PMA Superintendent shall have a tour of duty of three years, unless otherwise earlier terminated by the President. In order to provide stability and continuity of policies and programs in the PMA, no officer shall be designated to the position of PMA superintendent unless he is able to substantially complete the tour of duty of three years.” This directive did not require congressional approval. Unfortunately, like many things in our lives, good ideas are sometimes coterminous with the tenure of their proponents. We can do better!
The brigade commander or “baron,” of the cadet corps, First Class Cadet Ram Michael Navarro, resigned from his position, citing command responsibility over the death of Cadet Darwin Dormitorio. He is possibly the first and only cadet to step down from the most prestigious post in the corps, and we commend his action. It serves as an excellent example for all cadets.
But what about the battalion commander of Dormitorio, First Class Cadet Raymart Cabangcala; his company commander, First Class Cadet Elbert Lucas; and his platoon leader, First Class Cadet Irvin Sayod? Were they completely blind or unaware of what was happening with one of their men who had been in and out of the station hospital? Command responsibility covers what you do and what you fail to do. This early, cadets must learn that while rank has its perks and privileges, it also carries with it a heavy responsibility, especially for the welfare of the men entrusted to their care.