BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – "Just be true to your oath of office. Never propagate and nurture loyalty to a government employee or soldier. We are on the same boat. It's always to the flag and the Constitution."
This was President Rodrigo Duterte's message to the Class of 2017 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) during the military school's graduation rites Sunday, March 12, his first appearance as guest speaker and commander-in-chief.
He told them to hold true to their oath of office and let "your hearts and minds remain in the right place."
Duterte also reminded the Salaknib class that the "entire world," not only one's enemies, will "test, tempt, corrupt and pressure you."
"But as long as your hearts and minds remain in the right place whom you have pledged to serve, remember your roots and remember the people," he continued.
During his 8-minute speech, the President also promised that his administration "will give you and your families the services, benefits and entitlements that you rightfully deserve."
"Rest assured that the government will reciprocate your valor and your unwavering courage by providing you with all the necessary support and incentives," he said.
"Proceed with your heads held high, knowing that the government and the Filipino people are with you in every step of the way," the commander-in-chief said, as he closed his speech. "Powered by our strong convictions and an unshakable faith in the Filipino, let us overcome the challenges that lie ahead and usher in a great future for our nation."
Duterte also acknowledged the fact that the class has the biggest number of women graduates in the academy's history.
"This is the first time that 8 of the top 10 graduates are women. This is a fitting tribute to our mothers, sisters, and aunts in this Women's Month," said Duterte. (READ: PMA valedictorian, 7 more topnotchers are women)
Duterte’s speech was also wrought with apologies and candor.
He was in the middle of his speech when his military aide handed him a note. "I acknowledge this and this was not done," he said referring to his not ordering tikas pahinga (at ease) to the PMA cadets, who were exposed to the sun at the PMA's Borromeo Field.
After the adjutant ordered the tikas pahinga, Duterte said: "Ang nagsulat hindi sinabi. Bugbugin natin." (The speechwriter did not put it in. Let's beat him.)
He then added, "I'd like to apologize to the beautiful lady," referring to Vice President Leni Robredo whom he omitted in his acknowledgement of the guests. "Sorry po, ma'am."
Then he added, "nawala na ako" ("I lost my train of thought") and went back to reading his speech.
Unlike in past PMA graduation ceremonies, the President and Vice President were not seated beside each other. Between Duterte and Robredo, who arrived at the grandstand 15 minutes before the President, was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (READ: At PMA graduation, Lorenzana sits between Duterte, Robredo)
Duterte gave the Presidential Saber to class valedictorian Navy Ensign Rovi Mairel Martinez, while Robredo gave the Vice Presidential Saber to class salutatorian Philip Viscaya. Lorenzana, meanwhile, awarded the Secretary of National Defense Saber to class number 3 Eda Marapao.
Unlike the previous presidents, Duterte also made small talk with all of the 167 graduates during the ceremony, asking them their branch of service and even giving some a pat on their shoulders.
The class goat, or the last in the merit of order, is 2nd Lieutenant Rinze Marrion Eviota. He is also the oldest graduate, having been originally a member of the Class of 2015.
– Frank Cimatu / Rappler.com