BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – It's final: Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia, the honor student who was dismissed for supposedly lying, is not graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Sunday, March 16.
Cudia and his family failed to convince President Benigno Aquino III and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to allow him to graduate this year after a two and a half-hour meeting that started at 6:45 pm on Saturday evening, March 15, at The Mansion, the President's official residence here.
There is hope, however, that Cudia may be reinstated in the PMA. During the meeting, Aquino advised Cudia to file a new appeal. The president has tasked Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista to handle the investigation.
In a statement, Gazmin, said:
"The President and I met with the family of CDT 1CL CUDIA and heard them out. They had appeals, requests, and also raised some issues. We made sure that they were given the opportunity to air their side. At the end of which, we recommended that they formalize their appeal, requests, and other concerns in writing. It was agreed that CDT 1CL CUDIA will not graduate tomorrow, without prejudice to whatever will be the result of their new appeal, which is now elevated to the CSAFP (Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) whom the President directed to investigate."
Earlier in the day, PMA Commandant Colonel Rozzano Briguez said the PMA upheld the Honor Committee's earlier decision denying Cudia's appeal.
"The final recommendation of the CRAB is to deny the appeal of Cadet Cudia. It deliberated on the 3 counts for which his appeal was based upon," Briguez announced on Saturday, March 15.
Cadet Cudia will not march tomorrow," Briguez added. "This year, categorically, he cannot graduate."
Even if the President decided in favor of Cudia, he still would not have been able to march with the Sikla Diwa class Sunday. Briguez said Cudia would still not be able to graduate because he has not completed his academic requirements, such as his on-the-job-training.
"Technically, the President may not approve the administrative separation because he is the commander in chief of the Armed Forces fo the Philippines," Briguez said.
As of Saturday, Superintendent Major General Oscar Lopez was finalizing the report that will be submitted to the President. This is the 3rd time that PMA is upholding the dismissal of Cudia after the powerful Honor Committee declared him guilty of lying, a violation of the PMA Honor Code.
Cudia supposedly lied when he claimed that his first class was dismissed late so he came to his next class about two minutes late.
In his appeal, Cudia presented a new evidence to show alleged mistrial. One of the 9 voting members of the Honor Committee was supposedly forced to change his "not guilty" vote to make it a unanimous 9-0. Navy Commander Junjie Tabuada, head of the naval warfare, executed an affidavit detailing his supposed conversation with a certain Cadet Lagura.
But Briguez said the cadet issued a denial. The CRAB also recommended a separate investigation on Tabuada for "conduct unbecoming of an officer," a violation of the articles of war.
Briguez also explained that there was nothing with the honor committee holding a second vote to change the 8-1 not guilty vote to a 9-0 unanimous guilty vote.
"If you have a voting of 7-2 or 8-1, they go automatically into an executive session which is termed chambering. It is like an additional explanation [to discuss their vote]," said Briguez.
It is apparently a new procedure adopted as early as the 1990s.
He said the Honor Committee also cannot be accused of not getting the side of Costales, the instructor who asked Cudia to wait for the grades of the class and inadvertently caused him to be late in his next class.
A mother's appeal
Cudia's mother, Filipina, had wanted Cudia to graduate with his fellow first class cadets on Sunday.
Before the Saturday meeting, she issued a public appeal for the President to overturn the PMA decision.
"Mahal na Pangulo, nananawagan po ako sa inyo. Humihingi po kami ng awa na sana po ipagkaloob mo pa ang hustisya sa anak ko. Mahal na Pangulo, wala po talaga siya ginawang kasalanan. 'Yung Honor Committee po ang gumawa ng mali," she said.
(Beloved Presient, I'm appealing to you. We're asking for compassion, for you to extend justice to my son. Beloved President, he really did not do anything wrong. It's the honor committee that committed a mistake.)
"Gusto ko po bukas makasabay niya kaklase niya maka-graduate siya. Pinaghirapan niya 'yun," she added. (My desire is for him to be graduate tomorrow together with his classmates. He worked hard for that.)
Inspite of Lagura's denial, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) released a report on Friday, March 14, recommending that Cudia be allowed to graduate with his classmates on Sunday. (VIDEO: CHR probes PMA cadet dismissal, examines honor systemli)
The CHR spoke of another witness, a member of the Honor Committee, who supported Tabuada's claim. Briguez said this was not in the appeal of Cudia, however.
The Honor Committee is a powerful group inside the academy that is composed entirely of PMA students. They investigate and rule on reports of alleged violations of the PMA Honor Code, which orders cadets not to lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those among them who do.
PMA spokesperson Major Lynette Flores, in an earlier interview on radio, dismissed allegations that the academy was being "harsh" on Cudia for imposing a grave penalty for such a "small" offense. She said Cudia had been investigated twice before this case, on allegations of cheating. – Rappler.com