That silence is the most powerful scream (a writer once said) lends credence to the idiom that it can be deafening at times.
Last week, my phone rang continuously from calls from a military top brass, saying that a number of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) upperclassmen have decided to “boycott” today’s PMA homecoming march.
“We have been attending the homecoming rites for the past 40 years,” he said.
“Today, in my class, only two of us will attend. About 75% of my class said they would rather not attend.” He hinted that other upperclassmen may decide to boycott the homecoming, too.
Class ’70 is the PMA Class of Armed Forces comptroller Jacinto Ligot. Ligot was named by whistleblower George Rabusa as one of those allegedly involved in the military fund scandal during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings.
We tried to confirm from other military officials the truthfulness of the report. All we received was “silence,” a kind request not to quote them. However, from what we have gathered, corroboration was received.
The alleged boycott is said to be the result of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s apparent disrespect to a fellow cavalier and obvious upperclassman, the late Armed Forces Chief of Staff and former Defense Secretary Angelo T. Reyes. Reyes recently committed suicide, purportedly as a result of the inquiry.
Trillanes belongs to PMA Class ‘95 while Reyes, Class ‘66.
Whether the alleged boycott is true or not, it remains to be seen how the upperclassmen and underclassmen will resolve a quietly growing rift within their ranks.
The grilling of Reyes, our source said, was uncalled for and quite a break from the honor code of the Academy. “They can file 50 cases if they want, but they cannot display public disrespect for an upperclassman like Reyes.”
Forwarded text messages revealed that AFP generals have been texting their “mistahs” to attend the homecoming in lieu of the fact that many have already decided not to come.
The source also informed me that numerous hotel reservations made by generals supposedly en route to Baguio for the homecoming have been cancelled at the last minute.
Well, boycott or not, a quiet rift is obviously growing between the upperclassmen and Trillanes. The underclassman-cum-senator knows this, saying in a report that he will not attend the homecoming rites because “it is still too hot.” He said he had other plans for today.
The upperclassmen raised the issue of tradition and the PMA honor code to revile Trillanes’ manner of grilling the late Gen. Reyes. Trillanes, too, used the honor code to justify his actions against Reyes. What honor code is left for us citizens—who are caught in the crossfire—to use, I guess, is better left unsaid.
Tradition. Honor code. It scares me to think that something that stands on a foundation of a thousand years can easily crumble for one flimsy reason: That it can be interpreted any which way by those who hold it to be sacred.
UPDATE: According to the PMA, the cavaliers’ attendance at the 2011 homecoming bash reached 1,800, a normal figure. Apparently, a boycott did not happen. However, it was noted by some eyewitnesses that the Class of 1966 banner wasn’t displayed. It was the PMA class of the late Angie Reyes. Also, one ranking official who refused to be named said that the number of cavaliers from Class 1970 seemed to have gone down compared to previous years. Class 1970 is the class of Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot who was allegedly involved in the AFP fund scandal according to AFP budget officer George Rabusa. Attendance at the homecoming celebrations last dipped in 2006, closing at 1,300.
JOEL PABLO SALUD is the chief editor of the Philippines Graphic magazine, the country’s top newsweekly publication under the ALC Group of Publications, which include the BusinessMirror. He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle. He regularly writes reviews for the Philippines Graphic Review of Literature.