Killers at the PMA

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

I AM not referring to the Philippine Medical Association but to the top military training center of the Philippines, the Philippine Military Academy. The image of the academy had for several years now been tarnished by cadets with killer instincts disguised as enforcing an archaic academy code that has no place in a democratic society or any human society at all.

The PMA was established on December 21, 1936 in compliance with Commonwealth Act № 1 or the National Defense Act that created the Philippine Army. The PMA was to train young men who were to take regular or fulltime jobs in the military service. While under training, they are scholars of the state, provided with everything they needed and once graduated they are commissioned by the President as second lieutenants in the army. In the past, their first commissioned rank was that of third lieutenant, but this rank was later abolished.

The PMA is patterned after that of the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. Almost everything was copied from the USMA – curricula, code of conduct and even the American revolutionary uniform of cadets. This is one reason the Philippine military service, including the navy and the air force, also copy the styles of their American counterparts.

The PMA is a noble institution, crafted by the best military minds – General Douglas MacArthur and General Dwight Eisenhower. The former was then the Military Adviser of the Philippines and the latter was a member of MacArthur’s staff. In World War II, MacArthur was the Allied Supreme Commander of the Pacific while Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the Allied European Theater. No military training institution in any country can claim this magnificent heritage.

This is the reason that the brutes that some cadets had become in the PMA are a slap on the face of these two of the world’s best military minds, particularly the genius MacArthur.

The image of killers and sadists in the PMA is an underserved commentary, but this public perception resulted from what had been happening there. These incidents betray the lofty aims of the academy’s philosophy that ought to guide the commanders and senior cadet leaders in molding their juniors. The juniors will later take over leadership in the country, not only in the military service but in civilian posts as well because of their perceived adherents to their slogan of Courage, Integrity, Loyalty.

Although most of what the PMA does is USMA patterned, the two institutions differ in their slogan, the USMA slogan is Duty, Honor, Country.

Compare the two slogans. The USMA is well defined – it speaks of clearly distinct albeit linked priority of obligation and denial of self in the attainment of higher ideals. That of the PMA is subjective. It focuses on the person to the extent that duty to country is hazily defined and can even conflict with loyalty to one’s personal choice like loyalty to persons or ambitions.

Slogans are not inert; they create a subconsciousness that comes out when the right trigger is squeezed.

Thus, hazing is a mechanism to inculcate even undeserved respect and loyalty. The system is handed down from one class to another and remains to the end of the cadet’s life. But that loyalty is not necessarily to country and duty but to persons.

Pushed beyond limits, the unintentional becomes murder that is carried out in the name of obedience to a superior authority.

The philosophy of the PMA says, it “adopts a holistic view of man as body, soul, and spirit. PMA believes that future leaders can be selected, formed, and developed to their fullest potentials. PMA is principally an institution for military leadership and it is from the total view of man that PMA’s leader development program is based. It contains character development, a balanced college education, military leadership, and physical development, necessary to prepare the cadets for the profession of arms and to be responsive to the needs of the Armed Forces and the Nation.”

But a chasm can develop between philosophy and practice. PMA’s code of conduct or honor needs to be restudied. It has become the justification as character development for carrying out physical torture on the junior cadets.

Many PMA graduates had excelled in life, but many excellent young men and women had rejected the PMA for fear of being killed by their own superiors.