â€œThe budget for counter-insurgency should not be increased, because we are not sure whether the money would indeed be used for counter-insurgency. It might only be used for political killings.â€
Striking words these â€“ from a young man who had braced himself for a military officerâ€
Ronald Gian Carlo Cardema, 21, had dreamed of becoming a military officer for as long as he can remember. â€œI never imagined myself in any career other than that of a military officer,â€ he told Bulatlat in an interview. He knew about the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) even as a little boy, and prepared for a military officerâ€
A consistent honor student from grade school, he was a scholar taking up BS Biology â€“ though he had no plans of becoming a doctor â€“ when he took the PMA entrance examinations. â€œThe success of an officer is not only measured by the stars on his uniform, rather it is in harnessing all the means to use his position and authority to serve his countrymen well, to inspire his men with good deeds. Thatâ€
Last May, his uncle Noel â€œNoliâ€ Capulong â€“ a leader of the Promotion of Church Peopleâ€
Ronald was then on a rest period from the PMA, having been taken ill a few months back. He asked permission to extend his leave and was allowed to do so, he said.
Grief and anger drove him to write an open letter condemning his uncleâ€
A few weeks later, he returned to the PMA â€“ and found himself getting dismissed. The official reason given for his dismissal was that he went absent without leave.
Late last month, he was surprised to find his name on the news â€“ as a â€œrebelâ€ who had studied communism in Laguna and gone on to infiltrate the PMA! The â€œinformationâ€ was leaked by sources who remain unknown.
Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a PMA graduate and a former Marine commander, took up his case and offered to help in having him reinstated.
He politely refused, saying he just wants to get on with life at this point, as a civilian. Though he remains an avid observer of developments in the military institution, he has lost all interest in getting another shot at his aborted military education. He is preparing to get back into UPLB, but ultimately plans to shift to BA Political Science at UP Diliman. He now has his sights on a new career prospect: the legal profession.
Below are excerpts from his interview with Bulatlat:
What is it in the military life that fascinated you?
It was the term â€œthe most noble profession,â€ referring to the military manâ€
Were you aware that your Tito Noli was an activist early on?
When I was little, we didnâ€
About my Tito Noli, he was quiet at home. He would only speak if you asked him something, he was that kind of person.
One time I saw him speak (at a rally) in Calamba, and I saw that he was pushing for his views for the betterment of the nation. Thatâ€
In the letter of yours that circulated around the Internet, you said that it was here at UPLB that you learned patriotism. How did that come to be?
Even when I was in the ROTC and the said organization is military-based, we were always aware that we students at the State University have our studies funded by the people. We are indebted to the people, because our government is funded by the people. It was thus that I realized that we should be very patriotic because our studies are really funded by the people, so we should give back to the people.
It is worth noting that included in the reading list on your Friendster profile are the likes of Renato Constantino and the Simbulans (Dante and Roland) â€“ who are known to have strongly criticized the military at various instances. What made you interested in their writings?
Dr. Dante Simbulan, the father of Roland Simbulan, is a PMAer. I read one of his books, The Modern Principalia, and what he is saying there is very right. I thought that if PMAers discussed social problems like he does, it would be good. Whatâ€
As for Roland Simbulan, I saw his website and it was only then that I found that heâ€
As for Renato Constantino, I read his book The Filipinos in the Philippines and Other Essays. He urged us to place more confidence in ourselves as a race, taught us that we donâ€
As one who was able to spend quite some time at the PMA, you must have heard of the likes of Crispin Tagamolila and what they did during the Marcos period. What do you think of him and what he did?
I read about Tagamolila in a book by someone who also used to be a military officer, retired Navy Capt. Danilo Vizmanos.
I bought the book because I saw that it was written by someone who went to the U.S. to study at Kingâ€
I think he was really patriotic. Captain Vizmanos makes readers like myself realize that people like Lieutenant Tagamolila who were already officers of the Armed Forces and were privileged with benefits left the service to go over to the other side and take to the hills, where they have none of the privileges and benefits they had as military officers. If you care for nothing but money, why would you do such a thing?
I realized that people like him are really patriotic and they cast their lot in defense of those of our countrymen who suffer. They dedicated their lives just for that. (In the hills) they make do with little food and distance from their families. Thatâ€
During the peak of military restiveness, some newspaper columnists branded the PMA as a â€œbreeding ground of destabilizers,â€ supposedly because many of those who have led mutinies were PMA graduates. As a former PMA cadet, what can you say about this?
It now seems funny because recently, UP was also branded as a â€œtraining ground destabilizers.â€ So whatâ€
We can say such statements are irresponsible… And I think many of those they call â€œdestabilizersâ€ may be destabilizing only corrupt officials and are not really aiming to bring down the government, they may only want change in the policies of the government.
Talking about military restiveness, what do you think about the various forms of protest staged by military men thus far under the Arroyo administration â€“ from the so-called Magdalo group to the likes of Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim?
Technically these are beyond the boundaries of the Constitution, but we all know that what they are fighting for, their views, their idealism, are correct. The Constitution does not provide for these types of action, but we have seen that they didnâ€
The ones who did those actions were among the best of the best.
Lt. Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV was the Honor Committee chairman when he was a cadet at the PMA. He was in charge of maintaining honor in the ranks of the cadets. Those who joined the Magdalo group were usually among the top ten in their classes… They were the really battle-tested ones: most of them are Marines, Scout Rangers, Special Forces â€“ they are the ones who lay their lives on the line in the battlefield, and they really realized the problems.
Your Tito Noli is one of the many, many victims of political killings under the Arroyo administration. What are your observations on the political killings?
My uncle was on his way home after selling a few baskets of eggs when he was suddenly gunned down.
Government is being pointed to as the one responsible for these killings. Even if we say for the sake of argument that it is not the government that perpetrates these, at least it should be able to solve these.
If they are really the ones doing these, (they should realize that) political killings are useless because the military cannot capture the hearts and minds of the people (by going on a killing spree). Even if you finish them all off, all those against the government, you canâ€
The budget for counter-insurgency should not be increased, because we are not sure whether the money would indeed be used for counter-insurgency. It might only be used for political killings.
What do you think of the â€œall-out warâ€ declared by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against the Left?
How do you see the mistahs you left behind at the PMA in the next few years? Do you see any reforms coming for the military as an institution?
I know that the mistahs I left behind there are good and capable people. I know they will do what is right, I know they want our country to be peaceful and the war to stop and the nation to develop.
I know that the military has established a Grievance Committee to hear out problems raised by soldiers and that they are building houses for soldiers. Those are the developments Iâ€
I know of many competent soldiers and officers. They either have left the service or are in prison. So I donâ€
Now that you have decided to just live a civilian life, what career path are you now thinking of â€“ and why?
I am going through the process of reinstatement here, and I intend to shift to any pre-law course and proceed to law school. Before I thought that by being a soldier I can defend myself and others â€“ the victims of oppression â€“ through arms. But now that I have lost the chance to bear arms, I think I can defend those who are oppressed through debate, as a lawyer. Bulatlat