(Speech of President GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO at the Philippine Military Academy, Baguio City, August 22, 2003.)
PRESIDENTIAL Adviser, Governor Chavit Singson, Sec. Afable, Sec. Alingod, Undersecretary Purugganan, men and women of the Cadet Corps. Ladies and Gentlemen. I have come here, first of all, to affirm to you that I will not abolish the Philippine Military Academy.
After July 27 that I heard and the country heard many negative things said about the PMA. Those in the extreme said that the PMA should be abolished. There are those who say the cadets are spoiled and live in an idyllic world so detached from reality, and that is why they become lost dreamers when they are shocked by the realities in the field. Some say Mistah culture has bred corruption and coverups as well as blind loyalties to the wrong complex. Many blame the cadet for displaced idealism and for breeding the messianic complex within the officer corps.
As President of the Philippines, I listened intently to these opinions. But I would like to assure you that I did not come here to blame you for anything or to give you a long lecture on your values and principles. I dont believe that our cadets or young officers are spoiled. I dont believe that you are empty dreamers or wayward idealists. I respect you as soldiers of the people.
I came here to have a heart to heart talk with you. I appreciate it very much, and we would appreciate it very much, if you could dispel any preconceived thought that I am an arrogant President. I know I can be contentious and, perhaps, even overbearing sometimes, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses, our failings and frailties, anxieties and fears. But I do not habor notions of superiority over my fellow human beings including subordinates in the civilian and military service.
God gave us a great gift the power to communicate and understand each other. And as long as we are earnest and sincere and geared towards a common mission, as long as we agree to listen to each other and to respect each others diverse beliefs and opinions, there is nothing in this world that can destroy those great ideas we hold so dear the nation and the flag.
It is high time for our nation to break away from the excessive preoccupation with politics and even with We must now consolidate and solve energies towards the indispensable task of public order and development, especially the fight against poverty, terrorism, crime and corruption to which the government is devoting its undivided attention.
There is an insidious attempt to sideswipe the presidency. Because nobody has so far dug up anything that can put my office in bad light.
I am drawing a clear line between the purely private matters that are being imputed against my husband. And the issues of governance being attended to by the presidency. That controversy has nothing to do with my work as Chief Executive. I do not interfere with my husbands private business and I do not allow him to interfere with the affairs in the state.
My husband is not a ward of the palace. And if charges are filed against him, which we hope will be done, he will mount his legal defenses independently. Neither he nor any other member of the first family enjoys a mantle of political protection. I am not going to intervene. The palace is not a legal refuge of the first family.
I am married to our country.
As your Commander-in-Chief, I would like to be accorded respect, but not subservience. I would like my lawful orders to be carried out, but I demand honestly, frankness and candor. No officer of the Armed Forces should ever flinch in telling the truth to the Commander-in-Chief, whether he or she is a man or woman. I do not seek to be shielded from the horrors of soldiery or the dirt under the carpet. War is neither pleasant for me nor for you for our families and loved ones and for all our people for that matter.
I know the soldiers in the field are waiting upon the leadership of the Commanderin-Chief. I shall not be betray their yearnings and expectations, nor yours.
I am with you in your desire for equity and reform in the Armed Forces.
The big AFP cleanup has to be done. I have set up a task force for procurement reform. We are selecting officers for the task force known for their integrity and incorruptibility. We are setting up a fastidious selection and screening process to box out unscrupulous contractors. We will modernize the system so that discretion can be scaled down and accountability increased.
This week, pending financial review, I ordered a suspension of all military infrastructure projects except the building of Barangay roads and schoolhouses, core shelter projects in the war-torn areas, detention centers and hospital improvement. I also instructed the task force to take a closer look at the operation of military financial institutions and institute more effective controls in the use of petroleum products and munitions, with the end in view of moving more logistics to the field.
We are putting a stop to the practice of conversion. We shall set up a system by which critical requirements needed at a moments notice will be supported under effective controls. Henceforth all contingency funds of the major services will be subject to full audit.
We will move forward in areas that need immediate attention. The task cannot be done overnight but we are breaking ground.
That effort to rebuild Armed Forces starts here, right in these halls where you, the hope of the uniform, are reared and nurtured. I expect you to uphold the highest standards of integrity, courage and loyalty. Not loyalty to peers, classmate or PMAers, but loyalty to what is noble and worthy, what is right and good for nation and people.
Do not listen to the selfserving leaders who exploit your ideals, then later desert you in the aftermath of controversy or conflict.
Stick to the code of honor and the chain of command.
I know that many of those in the Oakwood incident have the sympathy of many of you. I understand your position. It takes great courage for any young officer to stand up and speak aloud about his frustration, maybe even greater courage than what is needed to face the enemy in combat. But, we need to ask ourselves. Is this the way we really want to change our nation? Are we aware of the consequences of doing away with the Constitution establishing a revolutionary regime backed by force rather than law? Are we prepared to undertake reforms by dictatorship rather than democratic rule?
I did not come here to demonize the officers and soldiers who went to Oakwood, but they did wrong, and they must pay for it. Every soldier must take justifiable punishment as part of his duty. But whatever you think about the rightness of their cause, I ask you once more to re-examine your oath, to dig deep into your conscience and to recall the values and principles our forbears fought for right? The dominant PMA value, duty honor, country guided those who detected, disrupted, prevented and dismantled the power grab. The perversion of these values drove the power grabbers. The governments success was due to the PMA ethic of professional military service. The PMA did not fail the mutineers, the mutineers were the ones who failed the PMAs tradition.
I ask you once more to recall the values and principles our forebears so bravely gave their lives for in past wars from the revolution of the turn of the century, the second World War, the huk surgery, the Korean and Vietnam War and up to the EDSA Revolution of 1986. What did they fight and die for, was it not freedom and democracy?
The officers and soldiers in Oakwood did wrong to the flag even though many of their grievances were valid. I will never surrender the flag under pain of death. But let me assure you that I will continue to reform the Armed Forces.
We shall move forward with will and determination and I hope you will join us every step along the way.
With political will and the support of the people, as well as the leadership of men and women of honor like you, we shall prevail and win. Together, we can make a difference in reforming the Armed Forces.