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.