PMA: Cudia charged 3 times with honor violation

MANILA, Philippines – The "lying" incident that can cost Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia his diploma was not the first time he had been charged of violating the institution's revered Honor Code.

Major Agnes Lynette Flores, PMA public affairs office chief, said in an interview with radio station DZBB that in Cudia's final year at the PMA, he was accused of committing two other violations, both involving alleged cheating.

"This is the third instance he was charged in an honor violation. The first two were cheating violation. I can't divulge that case because it is confidential," Flores said, when asked if Cudia had prior incidents of honor violation.

She said, however, that the first two charges of cheating were dismissed after a preliminary investigation.

"When it was investigated, someone proved that he was given permission to do the supposedly reportable offense, a violation of their honor code. It was supported. The investigators saw that there was justification so it was dismissed. The second time, it was also dismissed so it didn't turn into a big issue of cheating," she said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Flores said this should put to rest allegations that Cudia is being singled out.

"Nakita niya naman, kung sinasabi niyang pinagkakaisahan siya, noong una pa lamang pagkakataon hindi na siya doon pinalusot," she said. (He saw that himself. If he was being ganged up on, as he claims, he would not have been let off the hook.)

Flores also clarified that Cudia was not in the running to be class salutatorian but number 3 among this year's graduates. She said Cadet First Class Liza Jumawid Dango is the "rightful salutatorian." (READ: PMA salutatorian: She's a dancer, licensed teacher)

All up to Aquino

She declined to say whether Cudia has a chance at all to join the rest of the graduates on March 16, saying this is now up to President Benigno Aquino III, the Commander-in-Chief, who is reviewing the cadet's appeal.

In a press conference on Tuesday, March 11, PMA Superintendent Major General Oscar Lopez said  the PMA had summoned Cudia in response to his fathers request for a case review. Instead of providing documents to support his appeal, the cadet asked for an extension to submit his witnesses who were having on-the-job training.

Since Cudia did not submit any documents to support his appeal, Lopez said the Cadet Reviews Appeals Board (CRAB) was constrained to complete the report, which was then forwarded to the General Headquarters on March 10.

Lopez said he affirmed the recommendation of former PMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Edgar Abogado for the separation of Cudia from the PMA, following the verdict of the Honor Committee that Cudia had lied.

The Honor report states: "Lying that is giving statement that perverts the truth in his written appeal, stating that his 4th period class ended at 1500H that made him late in the succeeding class."

Cudia was then immediately put on indefinite leave and has remained in a holding area inside the academy.

On March 4, Cudia made another appeal for an extension until March 19, coursed through the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), because his earlier requests for the documents of his case were not approved and the said witnesses were ordered not to communicate with him.

On March 11, Cudia was informed that his appeal was denied. This was a day after Lopez had forwarded the documents to General Headquarters with his own recommendation for Cudia's separation.

The PAO still filed the appeal with the PMA on March 11 for a review and rehearing of the case and to nullify the decision of the Honor Committee against Cudia.

In the appeal forwarded by the PAO, it cited new evidence – an affidavit issued by naval officer Commander Junjie Tabuada.

Tabuada alleged that in a conversation with Cadet Lagura, a voting member of the Honor Committee, the latter claimed he voted not guilty but had been "pressured" to change his vote.

Cudia could not get a sworn statement from Lagura because of the PMA's Order to Ostracize, which was also given to the other cadets who witnessed the 9-0 verdict. The Honor Code provides that a unanimous vote is needed for a guilty verdict.

The PAO said the practice of penalizing cadets who violate the Order to Ostracize goes against the basic tenets of due process. It also said it was irregular to discuss the vote in a secret room after the votes had been cast and the result, announced.

"There is nothing in the rules that would allow the Chair to order the chambering of a cadet who voted contrary to the majority and subject him to reconsider his vote to get a unanimous vote," it said.

Prior to Tabuada's official affidavit, Lopez claimed there were no documents to show that the vote was rigged.

The PAO also argued that Cudia was not given the right to confront his accusers nor informed of the evidence against him, and that the Honor Committe gravely abused its discretion when it failed to consider the explanation of Costales.

The PAO stressed that the penalty of dismissal denying Cudia's right to graduate is cruel and unjust and denies Cudia the right to graduate with his batchmates.

Malacañang has said that the President will make a decision before the PMA graduation on March 16.  –