PMA to 2019 candidates: Don’t use our homecoming to campaign

Rambo Talabong
PMA to 2019 candidates: Don’t use our homecoming to campaign
The Philippine Military Academy will ask politicians to get rid of their campaign materials found in Fort Gregorio del Pilar

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Expecting the influx of politicians during its annual homecoming, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) warned candidates in the May elections against campaigning inside its premises, even if they are alumni.

Dini-discourage natin [na mangampanya]. So, kung may mga banners, tarpaulins sila na nakalagay diyan sa mga dito sa vicinity, we will call their attention para tanggalin po nila ‘yung mga ‘yun,” PMA spokesman Colonel Harry Baliaga said in an interview with reporters Friday afternoon, February 15.

(We are discouraging them [to campaign]. So, if they have banners, tarpaulins that are put up in the vicinity, we will call their attention to have them removed.)

The  PMA will hold its homecoming on Saturday, where all alumni are welcomed back to the academy to reconnect and celebrate their achievements. For 2019, the PMA expects 6,000 people to flock to its headquarters, Fort Gregorio H. Del Pilar in Baguio City, accounting for returning former students with their friends and families.

Who are the PMA alumni running in May? The thousands of guests on Saturday include a few alumni who are running for the 2019 elections, among them former top cop Ronald dela Rosa and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano. Both are gunning for the Senate.

The PMA also welcomes honorary or “adopted” class members or those who did not graduate from the premiere military school. An adopted alumnus is usually a politician or a businessman who has forged close ties with a class.

Many politicians belong to this group: PMA Class 1967 adopted President Rodrigo Duterte, while his aide, senatorial candidate Bong Go, is an honorary member of Class 1992 class. Former interior secretary Mar Roxas is an adopted member of Class 1984, while the top performer in senatorial surveys, Senator Grace Poe, was adopted by Class 1991.

How can a candidate campaign during the homecoming? Aside from brandishing campaign materials outright, there are many other ways a candidate can campaign during the homecoming, like connecting with influential alumni from other batches, and being visible during the nationally broadcasted program.

Every year, cameras focus on the tradition of Trooping the Line, where all alumni parade with their classmates in the PMA’s historic Borromeo Field as they review the formation of the PMA cadets. While the graduates could enjoy the exposure, adopted members have been “discouraged” from joining the march. Balliaga said they have been given an allocated space at the grandstand to watch the ceremony.

After the homecoming program, alumni are expected to attend their respective class parties where they are to campaign. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.