MANILA, Philippines – Dismissed Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia found a witness to testify that he was a victim of a supposed mistrial by the Honor Committee. The original 8-1 vote was reportedly rigged to become a 9-0 unanimous vote against him.
Cudia failed to submit this new evidence, however, in time for his March 4 deadline. The PMA denied his motion to extend his deadline and then decided to uphold his dismissal on grounds that he lied about the reason he was late for one class.
Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chair Persida Acosta called up Rappler Tuesday night, March 11, to say her office is protesting the PMA’s refusal to wait for Cudia’s appeal, adding the gag order in the academy made it difficult for them to interview witnesses and gather evidence. She sent a copy of Cudia’s new appeal. (The PAO provides free legal counsel to Filipinos who can’t afford lawyers’ fees.)
Commander Junjie Tabuada of the Philippine Navy executed an affidavit detailing his conversation in January with Cadet First Class Lagura, who was in his office at the PMA headquarters in Fort del Pilar, Baguio City. Lagura is a member of the Honor Committee who, according to Tabuada, originally voted to acquit Cudia. (The document does not provide Lagura’s first name.)
Tabuada said in his affidavit that Lagura was in his office in the morning of either January 23 or 24, giving him an opportunity to ask about Cudia’s case.
Tabuada’s affidavit reads:
“When he was about to leave I called him, ‘Lags, halika muna dito,’ and he approached me and I let him sit down in the chair in front of my table. I told and asked him, ‘Talagang nadali si Cudia ah…..ano ba ang nangyari? Mag-tagalog or mag-Bisaya ka?’ He replied, ‘Talagang NOT GUILTY ang vote ko sa kanya sir,’ and I asked him, ‘oh, bakit naging guilty di ba pag may isang nag NOT GUILTY, abswelto na?’ He replied ‘Chinamber ako sir, bale pinapa-justify kung bakit NOT GUILTY vote ko, at na-pressure din ako sir kaya binago ko, sir.’ So, I told him, ‘sayang sya, matalino at mabait pa naman’ and he replied ‘oo nga sir.’ After that conversation, I let him go.” (I asked him about what happened to Cudia. He said I voted not guilty, sir. I asked, but if you voted not guilty, shouldn’t he been acquitted then? He replied: I was put in chambers and was asked to justify my not guilty vote. I was pressured to change my vote, which was what I did, sir.)
Under PMA rules, a unanimous vote by the Honor Committee is needed to require a cadet to resign. The committee is composed entirely of cadets. Its proceedings are confidential and its decisions are usually final. This system however has been subjected to various controversies. (READ: Ex-AFP chief’s son ‘violated’ code, managed to graduate)
Cudia’s appeal, which he failed to submit to the PMA because he sought for an extension, named Honor Committee chairman Cadet First Class Mogol as the one who ordered, after the initial 8-1 vote, to “go to a secret room.”
After their closed-door meeting, the verdict became 9-0, Cudia’s camp said.
Cudia argued that the original 8-1 vote absolved him of charges of violating the Honor Code, which compels cadets not to lie or cheat.
The rules of the Honor Committee are not clear. There are alumni who claimed that there have been changes in the honor system that allow for a second voting in a tight case.
If it were a 5-4 vote, for example, a second voting is not required. An 8-1 vote, however, would merit a second voting, they said.
Acosta said the affidavit is a new piece of evidence that the PMA should consider. She intends to bring the appeal to Malacañang and the Armed Forces general headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo.
The PAO argued that the Honor Committee “gravely abused its discretion when it chambered one of its voting members.”
It added the committee also abused its discretion when “it failed to consider the explanation of Dr Costales,” the instructor who made Cudia wait after class and subsequently caused him to be late in the next class.
Acosta is calling on the PMA to continue its review of Cudia’s case. Convinced that Cudia should not be expelled, Acosta said they may bring the case to the court. – Rappler.com