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Garcia affecting PMA, says Balaoing

Fort Del Pilar, Baguio Ci­ty—The controversy over the Philippine Military Academy alumnus Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia’s pending court-martial for conduct unbecoming an officer and conduct prejudicial to the military service has reduced the number of applicants to the PMA.

PMA Supt. Gen. Cristolito Balaoing said the number of applicants to the academy has declined by as much as 15 percent since September. Because of the situation, Balaoing said the PMA is forced to hold another entrance exam in December to make up for the shortfall.

Only 12,000 people applied for the PMA on September 5, 2004, compared with the more than 15,000 in 2003.

Balaoing, citing a PMA study, said the decrease, directly reduces the number of better cadets for the PMA and the attrition rate as they spend four years of being trained as officers of the Armed Forces.

 “It has been known that cadets selected from the lower 500 results in a small chance of passing and actually graduating from the rigid academic and physical rigors of the academy,” Balaoing said.

 “We would rather spend another million pesos in conducting another examination to broaden the base of selection and have better cadets whose chance of graduating is greater to save the government more money,” he added.

The government spends millions of pesos for each cadet’s four-year stay at the academy. The government spends about P300,000 annually for one cadet, Balaoing said.

Those cadets who graduate usually land in the top 300 of the examination results.

The PMA will spend a million pesos for the 20 examination centers across the country for the preparations, examination booklets and travel expenses.

He said that they are currently employing hard-sell strategies in attracting people to join the PMA. He also disclosed that the academy was asking alumni to help fight the bad publicity generated by the court-martial of Garcia.

However, Balaoing admitted that the PMA was finding it difficult to convince alumni to support the academy’s efforts. He cited the case of an old and distinguished alumnus who was so disappointed with the recent crop of graduates of the PMA. The alumnus, who declined to be called a PMA graduate because of reported corruption in the military, requested not to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and declined to be given military honors upon his death, Balaoing said.

“That is how much we are affected by one of our cadets,” he said.

But he also explained that it is unfair to blame the PMA with the actions of its alumni after years of being out of the institution.

 “In the academy, cadets are taught the honor code. We do not teach our cadets to cheat. Discipline, self-sacrifice and love of country are instilled in them in this academy as seen by the cadet prayer recited every Sunday before God. The PMA do not tolerate actions contrary to the honor code,” Balaoing said.

According to Baloiang, Garcia’s action was personal. Garcia graduated 33 years ago.

“If the event [case] happened immediately after graduation it could be said that there is a ‘factory defect’ but if it happened 33 years later, it’s not fair to attribute what he did to the PMA,” he said.

Environment, society and pressure of family who might be demanding so much from the officer were cited as reasons that could affect the actions of alumni and officers after graduating from the academy, Balaoing said.

Cadets who were interviewed by The Manila Times on the controversial case of Garcia said, “We are not in the position to comment on such matters.”

Laarni Ilagan

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