By Genalyn Kabiling, Charissa Luci-Atienza, and Raymund Antonio
President Duterte has called on new Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates to be good and humble soldiers, saying they should even be prepared to die for the country if needed.
At the graduation ceremony of the 261-member PMA Mabalasik Class of 2019 in Baguio City Sunday, the President reminded the soldiers about embodying humility, courage, and loyalty as he directed them to protect the people and the country’s sovereignty and territory.
“Serve your country well. Die for your country if need be,” the commander-in-chief told the newly commissioned military officers.
“Remember the young Filipinos yet to come, the children, and those who are now studying. Huwag kalimutan ninyo ‘yan (Don’t forget this). And if you think that the country is not run the way it should be and if it will destroy your country, you should know what to do. Do you understand me?” he asked, prompting the PMA graduates to respond, “Yes, sir!”
The President told the new military officers that the country’s security is no longer just about arms and equipment, and warned that “complex and irrational state and non-state actors” might also pose danger to the nation.
“Given this reality, I ask you to always remain faithful to your mission: Be a good soldier who will serve the Constitution, protect the people, secure our sovereignty, and preserve the integrity of our national territory,” he said.
As they begin to serve as military officers, the Chief Executive also reminded the new PMA graduates to stay humble, grateful, and willing to learn.
“Be humble. Nothing beats humility. Always remember that the rank, authority, and trust of your subordinates and the people that you serve are borne out of respect for the office that you carry,” he said.
Duterte said the soldiers should also remain willing to learn, saying that in all endeavors, the way to success requires order and discipline.
He told the troops to “always be grateful,” saying they should honor their seniors, officers, professionals, enlisted personnel, and civilians “who have taught you, prayed for you, and believed in you.”
“Lastly, always look at each other’s backs. In the field, nobody wins alone; where many old mindsets are fading fast and new ones are coming from the unprecedented sources,” he said.
The President awarded the Presidential Saber to Cadet First Class Dionne Mae Umalla of Ilocos Sur for topping the PMA class of 2019.
The class valedictorian also received a certificate of ownership of a house and lot from the President. Umalla is the fifth woman to top the PMA graduating class since 1999.
Duterte also presented a new pistol to Cadet Danmark Solomon, the PMA goat or the last in the order of merit, during the ceremony.
The President, who arrived late for the PMA ceremony, congratulated all the PMA graduates and issued a pardon for all outstanding punishments for the PMA underclassmen at the end of his speech.
“I’ll pass you this time because I need good and capable soldiers and I know that one or two is bound to happen,” he said. “You are all pardoned. Congratulations,” said Duterte.
PRRD, VP share the stage
The country’s top two leaders shared the same stage on Sunday during the graduation ceremony of PMA “Mabalasik” Class of 2019 held in Baguio City.
Before the start of the two-hour graduation ceremony, Duterte greeted and shook hands with Vice President Leni Robredo as he went on stage.
The President and Vice President are invited annually to the PMA graduation to give the presidential saber and vice presidential saber to the top two graduating cadets.
At the beginning of his speech, Duterte addressed Robredo to the delight of the crowd.
“Vice President Ma. Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo, Ma’am,” Duterte acknowledged the presence of the Vice President.
But after his greeting, Duterte turned his head toward Robredo and said: “Bakit noon Ma’am nag-smile ka sa akin? Ngayon hindi na. Ikaw ha?” (You used to smile at me Ma’am. How come you don’t smile at me anymore?), the President said.”
His remark drew laughter from the audience. Robredo was also caught on camera responding with a hearty laugh.
READ MORE: Duterte, Robredo meet in PMA graduation
The public meetings of the two leaders have been closely watched, especially because of the animosity between them and their supporters.
At the PMA graduation, Duterte awarded the presidential saber to class valedictorian Cadet First Class Dionne Mae Apolog Umalla of Alilem, Ilocos Sur.
Robredo presented the vice presidential saber to class salutatorian Cadet First Class Jonathan Mendoza.
The Mabalasik Class of 2019 is composed of 261 graduates. Of this number, five of its top 10 graduates, including the class topnotcher, are women.
Apart from Umalla, the other top female graduates are Cadets First Class Jahziel Tandoc, Marnel Fundales, Glyn Elinor Marapao, and Angelique Pasos.
Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez urged this year’s PMA graduates to serve and defend the nation with utmost dedication, and remain apolitical and loyal to the Constitution.
The adopted honorary member of the PMA Sambisig Class of 1991 also urged the cadets to shy away from partisan politics and adhere to the chain of command and discipline.
“I wish them well. The important thing is for them to always follow discipline and the chain of command,” Romualdez said.
He asked the graduates to stick to their values and keep their character as they leave the academy which served as their home for four years.
Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), challenged them to be agents of positive change and be true defenders of democracy and sovereignty from internal and external threats.
“I congratulate these young idealistic and brave graduates of the PMA. I hope they will always become the agents of positive change in our country and would use all the discipline and knowledge earned in the military school while performing their duties and responsibilities for the country,” Romualdez said.