‘Observe courage, integrity, loyalty’

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday called on the new graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to live by the three core values of the school – courage, integrity and loyalty.

“Remember always the three words that have been ingrained deeply in your hearts—courage, integrity and loyalty. Embody these words and use them to guide your actions throughout your careers,” Duterte told the 282 members of the Alagad ng Lahing PInagbigkis ng Tapang at Lakas (Alab Tala) class of 2018.

“As you dedicate your life in the service of God, country and people, know that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has the government’s full support,” he added.

SCHOOL’S OVER Philippine Military Academy cadets celebrate after their graduation rites in Baguio City. PHOTO BY THOM PICAÑA

“As you leave the halls of PMA and enter your chosen branches of service, you will be faced with realities that are far more complex than what you have been prepared for. Mistakes will always be inevitable but have confidence in knowing that the rules of the academy have honed you for the responsibilities that await you as you assume leadership roles in the armed forces.”


“To the “Alab-Tala” Class of 2018, this achievement is only the beginning of the many future successes. May you continue to become a source of strength and inspiration to your fellow soldiers and instruments of meaningful change in our society,” Duterte said.

“You have been equipped with the knowledge and skills to excel but how far can you go will depend greatly on your discipline, determination and faith,” he added.

The commander-in-chief gave assurances that the government will continue to support the military. He said aside from increasing the base pay of Armed Forces personnel, the administration is working to implement the Second Horizon of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

TOP OF THE CLASS President Rodrigo Duterte hands the presidential saber to Cadet First Class Jaywarden Galiela Hontoria, the valedictorian of the PMA Alab Tala (Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas) Class of 2018. PHOTO BY THOM PICAÑA

“Priority projects [of the RAFPMP]are currently in several stages of completion to ensure that our men and women in uniform are provided the benefits and armed with the equipment to perform their duties effectively,” Duterte said.

Lucky goat
The President also gifted the “class goat” or the cadet on the bottom of the class, a caliber .45 pistol.

Incoming Second Lieutenant Haezzer Keith Atiwag, who is from Barlig, Mt. Province, was cheered loudly when the President handed him his gift.

Atiwag bowed before his classmates and the guests including Duterte, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, PMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Donato San Juan, and other high-ranking military and government officials.

Atiwag will join the Philippine Army.

Among the notable class goats of the PMA was former Armed Forces chief and senator Rodolfo Biazon, who graduated in 1961.

This year’s PMA class yielded the most number of women graduates at 75, three of which are in the top 10.

‘Observe courage, integrity, loyalty’

Duterte to PMA graduates: Brace for sacrifices

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday advised new graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to brace for “complex” realities and be ready to sacrifice for the country when they combat threats like illegal drugs and terrorism.

Speaking during the graduation of the PMA “Alab Tala” class of 2018, Duterte said the incoming military officers should be worried because of the daunting tasks ahead.

“In war, we are facing ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). It will never end in about five years… Then, there’s the drug menace. You have to worry. You know you have plenty of work to do. I do not pity you but I can see the sacrifice in the coming days that you have to bear for the country. That’s why I talk to each one of you,” the President said.

He assured the new graduates of protection should they face legal problems relating to the performance of their duties.

“I said do not be afraid. Just do your duty in accordance with law. I got your back. As you leave the halls of PMA and enter your chosen branches of service, you will be faced with realities that are far more complex than what you have been prepared for. Mistakes will always be inevitable but have confidence in knowing that the rules of the academy have honed you for the responsibilities that await you as you assume leadership roles in the armed forces,” Duterte said.

The 282 members of the Alab Tala class, he pointed out, have been equipped with the knowledge and skills to excel, but as to how far can they go would depend greatly on their discipline, determination and faith.

He also urged the incoming military officers to “become a source of strength and inspiration” to their fellow soldiers and become “instruments of meaningful change in society.”

“Your courage and bravery have been tested numerous times but despite all of these trials, you have emerged victorious and ready to take on bigger challenges ahead. Remember always the three words that have been ingrained deeply in your hearts—courage, integrity and loyalty. Embody these words and use them to guide your actions throughout your careers,” Duterte said, referring to the motto of the PMA.

The President said his military has the full support of the government, citing the increase in base pay of soldiers and policemen and the implementation of the second tranche of the Armed Forces modernization program. Despite the support given by his administration to the armed forces, Duterte reminded the PMA graduates to be loyal to the Constitution and not to him.

“Stay with the Constitution, stay in the chain of command, love the Filipino people that you serve. I never mentioned my name. I do not want to nurture loyalty. I find it corny. After my time, I will go. If there is a perfected constitution by 2020, then I’m announcing it to you now, I will step down. I will not wait for 2022. I will step down once a federal government is established,” he said.

‘Leni and I are friends’

Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo, the highest elected member of the opposition, shared the stage in yesterday’s graduation rites, the first time they were seen together this year. The event was held three days after Robredo criticized Duterte’s decision to withdraw the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court.

Duterte shook hands with Robredo when he saw her on the stage of Borromeo Field, venue of the graduation ceremony.

After acknowledging Robredo in his speech, Duterte looked at the Vice President, drawing cheers from the audience. Duterte then claimed that all is well between him and Robredo.

“Magkaibigan man kami ni ma’am (We are friends),” he said.

Robredo resigned as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in December 2016 after Duterte barred her from attending Cabinet meetings. Duterte said he banned Robredo from official meetings because she attended rallies calling for his ouster, a claim that she denied.

While the PMA graduation was a formal event, Duterte could not help but curse at the European Union, which he accused of interfering with his war on illegal drugs. He also described as fools the critics of his decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute.

Duterte also cracked jokes to entertain the families and visitors of the PMA graduates who witnessed the three-hour ceremony.

“Next time I think that if the program would exceed two hours, after one hour there should be an intermission number. I will bring the singer,” the President said.

The President delivered a speech that lasted for almost 30 minutes before the graduation ceremony ended.


Jaywardene Galilea Hontoria, the class valedictorian and now a Philippine Navy Ensign, began his valedictory address by reminiscing on the realities of his childhood as a farm boy.

He said his father was right in telling him that “it is much lighter to carry a pen than to hold a plow” when the latter urged him to study hard.

His family, he added, detested the idea of him joining the armed forces through the PMA when he had already graduated as a nurse through the help of his aunt.

“I felt something was lacking,” Hontoria recalled.

He added that “life in the academy was never easy” and the plebeians also felt fear whenever they heard news of soldiers getting killed in battle.

In acknowledging the hardships that his parents went through, he said “tama na po, kami naman po” (that’s enough, let us take over) as he vowed to repay them for the sacrifices they made just so he could achieve his dream.


Top PMAyer graduates, gets house, marries – in one day

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines — Ensign Jaywardene Hontoria, who graduated at the top of his batch at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), was given a house and lot and married his college sweetheart yesterday.

He also brought home the Philippine Navy Saber Award, Chief of Staff Saber, Academic Group Award, Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award, Spanish Armed Forces Award, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Department of Leadership Plaques and the Joint US Military Assistance Group Award.

After all the honors were bestowed on Hontoria, a registered nurse, he was presented a certificate of ownership of a house and lot by President Duterte from Camella Savannah in Iloilo City, where he shall build a home with his wife, registered nurse Loura Fe Dillera.

This was the first time that the PMA class valedictorian was given such a gift.

Vista Land Homes and Lifescapes, which gave Hontoria his graduation and wedding gift, is owned by former senator Manuel Villar’s development company.

Hontoria made history as the third “baron” or class brigade commander of the PMA Cadet Corps in the history of the academy to graduate as valedictorian. The last time a class had a baron at the top of the class was 67 years ago.


Palace: Solons vow to pass BBL in less than 2 months

NATIONAL legislators have promised to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law by May 30, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, even as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front expressed concern over the fate of the proposed measure in light of moves to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Roque said leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate made this promise during their meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on Tuesday.

“We cannot fail on this [BBL]. The next generation is counting on us,” Roque quoted Duterte as saying.

The President has repeatedly stressed that failure to address the concerns of Bangsamoro people might lead to more trouble in Mindanao.

Duterte’s 20-man consultative committee tasked to make recommendations on amendments to the charter has started its work, discussing among others how a new charter could accommodate the BBL, the enabling measure of the peace compact signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in 2014.

The MILF, the leading Moro group pushing for the BBL’s passage, said during its meeting with the consultative committee that it would be “easier” to pass the proposed measure than to overhaul the system of government toward federalism.

Security experts and Moro leaders have warned that Islamist extremists, who recently waged a five-month siege on Marawi City, might exploit a disgruntled Moro community in case the government failed to fulfill its promises to the region.

The passage of the original version of the BBL during the previous administration was scuttled because of the Mamasapano clash, where 44 elite cops were killed by MILF fighters and other private armed groups.

It also faced questions on its constitutionality.


JICA pledges P1 billion for Marawi City road project

Marawi City — The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has pledged at least P1 billion for construction of a 45-kilometer thoroughfare that will make this war-ravaged city more accessible and progressive after five months of intense fighting between government forces and ISIS – inspired militants.

Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain said JICA pledged P1 billion for the P2.5 billion road project.

“The P1 billion, according to them (JICA officials), may just be the start, there might be a continuing tranche also in the succeeding years,” Sadain said in a statement furnished to the Manila Bulletin.

He said JICA and the Asian Development Bank have earlie assured that it will help rehabilitate the portions of the city outside the main battle zone.

“We saw the need for development plans, not only addressing the post-conflict needs assessment on infrastructure requirements (in war-torn villages), but also the (priorities) in barangays outside ground zero,” he said.

This city has 96 barangays.

Sadain said the Japanese government was also ready to provide 27 sets of equipment for rehabilitation of this city, alongside 36 vehicles committed by Mitsubishi.

The launching of rehabilitation and reconstruction works in this city has been moved from April to May for concerned officials to have ample time in reviewing proposals submitted by developers, according to Task Force Bangon Marawi spokesperson Toby Purisima.

Evaluation results on the proposals of six developers were to be submitted this week to the Bangon Marawi Selection Committee, which will select one developer, Purisima said.

Swiss challenge

After the selection of the original proponent, this would be subject to a Swiss challenge, which could mean that other developers not originally selected have a chance of bagging the project, he said.

“We want to assure everyone that we will do this (process) as fast as we can. But we will do it in the right manner and following the right procedures,” he said.

This city was devastated by five months of fighting between government forces and ISIS supporters, which prompted President Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law.

JICA pledges P1 billion for Marawi City road project

Army, Navy planning to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles – DND chief

With the Philippine Air Force (PAF) now operating six ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that both the Army and Navy are planning to acquire the same equipment.
He made this announcement during the turn-over ceremonies for the six ScanEagle UAV at the Villamor Air Base, Pasay City Tuesday.
“(With) the Air Force acquiring this long-range UAV with a loiter of about 12 hours or more, I think the Navy is also acquiring its own UAV. Later on the the Army will also be acquiring its tactical UAV to support brigade or battalion-sized operations and these will be all integrated,” Lorenzana added.
Also, the DND chief is hoping that the UAV the Army and Navy are acquiring would be able to communicate with each other so that the military could cover and secure all parts of the country.
The UAV were acquired through the US foreign military financing program (FMF) and were worth $13.76 million.
“This collaboration is also an indication of the Philippines’ and the United States’ goodwill, deep friendship and genuine commitment to peace. On behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, we profoundly desire to maintain our strong connection and camaraderie with the United States as well as to expand common interests and handle differences with understanding and respect. Thank you and mabuhay,” Lorenzana earlier had said.
Also, the DND chief thanked the United States government for consistently helping the Philippines in purchasing weapons and defense equipment as well as in acquiring defense services and military training through the US FMF.
“It is through FMF that our acquisition of the ScanEagle UAV was made possible. This new asset has a state-of-the-art technology that makes it capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; special services operations; escort operations; sea-lane and convoy protection; protection of high-value and secure installations as well as high-speed wireless voice, video and data communications relay,” Lorenzana pointed out.
And given its superb technical specifications, the DND chief said the newly acquired equipment would certainly be vital to the capability readiness of the PAF, especially in the conduct of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in support of a variety of missions such as territorial defense, security and stability; humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and international defense and security engagement.
The Boeing Insitu ScanEagle is a small, long-endurance, low-altitude unmanned UAV built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing, and is used for reconnaissance.


NPA camp falls

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City — The military discovered a camp supposedly abandoned by fleeing New People’s Army (NPA) rebels near the border of Compostela Valley and the Caraga region. Capt. Jerry S. Lamosao, chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry (Agila) Division (10th ID) said the supposed CPP-NPA camp was discovered by the Philippine Army’s 60th Infantry Battallion (60th IB) which was conducting combat operations in the Laak-San Pedro area. “The said encampment was abandoned by the NPAs while ground troops were still scouring the area,” Capt. Lamosao said. (Mike U. Crismundo)


PMC as another AFP major service command sought

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday sought the immediate passage of a proposed law seeking to establish the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) as another major service command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to further strengthen its mandate of eliminating the enemies of the state.

House Bill (HB) No. 7304 or the “Philippine Marine Corps Act” filed by Alvarez and House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas seeks to form “the PMC as a branch of service, distinct, autonomous, but complimentary to the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy (PN) under the AFP.” Currently the PMC is part of the Philippine Navy.
“Although the PMC has lived up to its mandate, its lack of Charter has caused institutional challenges, including but not limited to fiscal and organizational restrictions. Despite these, the PMC has provided seamless transition of military power between sea and land domains. The men and women of the PMC have served and responded to the call of duty gallantly,” Alvarez and Fariñas pointed out in seeking the passage of the bill.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, one of the stalwarts of the opposition, is a former Marine officer.
Last Tuesday, President Duterte personally pinned the rank insignia of Colonel of the PN-Marines on Alvarez at Malacañang where Fariñas, a Judge Advocate General reservist, also attended.
Earlier, the Commission on Appointments had confirmed their nomination to the rank of Colonel in the reserve force of the various services of the AFP.
HB No. 7304 will be deliberated by the House committee on national defense and security this Monday.
The PMC, currently a naval infantry force under the command of PN, was created 67 years ago through the AFP General Orders No. 319 issued by then Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay, a former President, in 1950 to respond to the security threat of the emerging Hukbalahap insurgency in Central Luzon.
The bill mandates the PMC to deploy its forces to support the law enforcement agencies in implementing the laws of the land, respond to disasters, participate in the strategic defense under the Joint Defense Force, coordinate with the other branches of service in the performance of their duties and responsibilities, and determine its fiscal requirements through the allocation from the Department of National Defense.
The PMC is also tasked to organize, train, equip, maintain, develop, deploy, and supervise the PMC Reserve Force, the measure said.
According to the proposal, the PMC will be headed by a commandant with a rank of Lieutenant General who will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the AFP Chief-of-Staff and the Secretary of the DND and its three bases will be established one each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Alvarez and Fariñas credited the PMC behind the successful elimination of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-inspired terrorism in the heartland of Marawi City in Mindanao.
“Much blood has been spilled, lessons learned and experience gained in the service of the Filipino people with the loss of 1,437 men since 1950. In the 2017 Battle of Marawi alone, 36 brave souls gave their lives for the motherland,” the two House leaders said.
“They were the force combating terrorists in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” they said. “The vigorous men and women of the PMC are everywhere to alleviate the impact of disasters to the Filipino people.”


Most memorable day: Farmer’s son top graduate of PMA


Cadet 1st Class Jaywardene Galilea Hontoria

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City — March 18, a Sunday, will be the most memorable day for Cadet First Class Jaywardene Galilea Hontoria.

In the morning, Hontoria will receive his military commission and the Presidential Saber from President Rodrigo Duterte as valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Alab Tala (Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas) Class of 2018.

In the afternoon, the 25-year-old registered nurse from Pavia town, Iloilo province, will marry his college sweetheart, Loura Fe Dellera, also a nurse, at St. Ignatius Chapel here.

“It is overwhelming, but I am very excited and happily looking forward to that day,” he said.

Hontoria and his fiancée graduated from West Visayas State University.

A consistent honor student since high school, Hontoria will be the third cadet to graduate as both class baron (brigade  commander) and valedictorian since the PMA was established in 1936. The two others were Aristeo Ferraren in 1938 and Leopoldo Regis in 1951.

Hontoria, who is joining the Navy, will receive the Philippine Navy Saber, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Saber, the academic group award, the Australian defense best overall performance award, the Spanish Armed Forces award, the humanities plaque, the natural sciences plaque, the Joint US Military Assistance Group award and the department of leadership plaque.

His father, Oscar, is a farmer, while his mother, Nancy, is a homemaker. Both will be attending the graduation ceremonies.

“My tears of joy are overflowing that I may need to put them in my pocket,” Oscar told the Inquirer in Iloilo.

“As a parent, I was also concerned about the risk he will face being in the military, but he really wanted to be a soldier and serve the country and I supported him,” he said.

Top 10

Graduating salutatorian is Ricardo Liwaden, also a farmer’s son from Barlig town, Mountain Province. Jun-Jay Castro of Amulung town, Cagayan province, placed third.

Joining them in the Top 10 are Leonore Andrea Japitan of Butuan City (fourth); Mark Jantzen Dacillo of Zamboanga City (fifth); Jezaira Buenaventura of Negros Oriental province (sixth); Jessie Laranang of San Clemente town, Tarlac province (seventh); Paolo Briones of Baguio City (eighth); Jayson Cimatu of Aurora province (ninth); and Micah Reynaldo of Bamban town, Tarlac (10th).

The Alab Tala Class has 75 female cadets, the biggest number so far in PMA history. Of the 282 in the class, 143 will join the Army, 71 the Air Force and 68 the Navy.

Hontoria almost did not make it to the academy when he took a nursing course, following in the footsteps of his aunt, Corazon De-maala, who financed his studies.

“I had to suppress my dream of becoming a cadet to avoid offending my family. They wanted me to be a nurse,” he said.

Immediately after passing the nursing board exams in 2013, Hontoria took the PMA entrance test at 21, the age limit set by the academy.

Family’s rice terraces

His three-month stint in the Coast Guard inspired him to join the Navy, Hontoria said.

Liwaden, the class salutatorian, said he helped take care of his family’s rice terraces in Ifugao.

“Growing up, I would go straight to the terraces from school to help my parents—even on weekends. This prepared me physically for the rigorous military training in the academy,” he said.

“I did not aim to be in the Top 10,” he said.

“My goal was just to survive but I gave my best in everything,” said Liwaden, who is joining the Army.

Most memorable day: Farmer’s son top graduate of PMA

AFP rescues 4 loggers abandoned by captors

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Four loggers abandoned by their kidnappers after nine days in captivity were rescued by the military in Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte on Monday.

Roger Jung-an, Jomar Maglangit, Jomar Mantangan and Raymond Purisima, who were taken by members of a renegade faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, were rescued in Barangay Libucon at about 3 p.m., Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command chief, said yesterday.

“The victims were left by their disoriented captors after soldiers and policemen had relentlessly pursued them,” Galvez said.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Joint Task Force Zampelan commander, said barangay and local officials contacted the soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Battalion after the victims were sighted in the area.

Murillo said the kidnappers “panicked aside from being weary in the pursuit operations.”

The loggers were snatched while cutting timber in Barangay Panabutan. The kidnappers called up the employers of the victims and demanded the payment of ransom. One of the victims died after he was hit in the crossfire in a failed rescue operation on March 7.

The military said a manhunt for the kidnappers led by a certain Jamilon Wahab is ongoing.

“Let this be a warning to anyone or any group planning to engage in any criminal activities…We will eventually get you,” Galvez said.