Batch ’67 mistah Duterte moves higher up in PMA family

Pia Ranada
Batch ’67 mistah Duterte moves higher up in PMA family
During his first PMA Homecoming as president, Rodrigo Duterte will be adopted into the PMA alumni association, a privilege accorded to only select mistahs

MANILA, Philippines – In his first Philippine Military Academy (PMA) homecoming as president, Rodrigo Duterte will be adopted into its alumni association, a privilege accorded only to select mistahs.

His adoption will take place at the PMA Homecoming on Saturday, February 18, in Baguio City.

It’s a step deeper into the fold of the prestigious PMA, the country’s premier military school, whose students go on to become prominent members of either the 160,000-strong police force or 125,000-strong military.

While Duterte is an adopted member of the PMA “Dimasupil” class of 1967, becoming an honorary member of the PMA Alumni Association Incorporated (PMAAAI) comes with status and privilege not accorded to all adopted mistahs. (Mistahs refer to PMA classmates.)

SOFT SPOT. President Rodrigo Duterte condoles with Norman and Nelia Alejo, parents of slain soldier Second Lieutenant Miguel Victor Alejo who was killed in an encounter with communist rebels in Manay, Davao Oriental last February 1,2017. Photo by Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo

Unique to the Philippines, it’s a practice that best exemplifies how politics and the country’s police and military forces mix.

Politicians that become PMA mistahs are usually expected to help out their class and its members. PMA class members, in return, are expected to support the politician during elections.

In the 2016 PMA Homecoming, the last homecoming before the 2016 national elections, politicians who would run for office that year graced the event. Those spotted were former vice-presidential candidates Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, and former presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II.

Cayetano was adopted by PMA class 1992. Roxas was adopted by PMA class 1984, the same class that adopted President Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio.

PMA classes may choose to grant their mistah an even greater honor by nominating them for membership into the PMAAAI.

Under PMAAAI guidelines, 3 classes must nominate a mistah, said PMAAAI chairman Anselmo Avenido Jr in an interview with reporters.

A nomination will only be approved for mistahs, be it a Filipino or foreign national, with exemplary and distinguished professional standing; whose membership brings honor and prestige to the assocation; and who has contributed to the attainment of the association’s objectives, according to a Newsbreak report.

INTO THE FOLD. President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a photo with newly-appointed officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on January 31, 2017. File photo by Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo

After a vetting by a committee and recommendation by the executive committee, there must be a unanimous vote by all PMAAAI board members to adopt the individual.

Three presidents have already been adopted as PMAAI associate or honorary members: Fidel Ramos, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Once civilians are adopted by the PMAAAI, they are no longer part of the class that adopted them, although they can still join the class during the traditional PMA alumni parade.

Support from PMA alumni

Duterte was adopted by Class ’67 in 1994, when he was still mayor of Davao City, in recognition of his support for PMA graduates assigned to Davao City, said Avenido, who is part of the same class.

His adoption into the PMAAAI as a whole is a sign of their support for him.

Aside from his adoption, Duterte will also be presented with a manifesto of support from the association.

“This is how we will show that we are fully behind him in his efforts to maintain peace and order in the country and his efforts towards the development of the country,” Avenido said.

From his mayorship to his presidency, Duterte has emphasized his support for the military and police.

In his first months as Chief Executive, the country watched as he travelled from one military or police camp to another.

He frequently goes out of his way to visit wounded soldiers in military hospitals or condole personally with the wives of policemen killed while enforcing his controversial drug war.

He’s had a soft spot for security personnel since his younger days, when he would spend a lot of time with the security detail of his father, then a governor of the undivided Davao.

But recently, he’s shown a less obliging side to police. After the murder of a South Korean inside police headquarters in Camp Crame, Duterte ordered an internal cleansing among the police force to weed out corrupt personnel. He personally berated some of them in Malacañang.

Nevertheless, Duterte is well aware of how much he needs PMA graduates to win the many battles he faces: wars against drugs, police corruption, communists, and terrorism. – Rappler.com  

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.