Duterte to PMA graduates: Secure PH sovereignty, protect territory
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday ordered the 261 Philippine Military Academy graduates to help in securing the Philippine sovereignty and preserving its national territory.
“Our security is not anymore just about arms and equipment. At this time, complex and irrational state and non-state actors may even pose danger to our country,” Duterte said in his speech during the graduation rites of PMA "Mabalasik" Class of 2019 at Fort General Gregorio H. Del Pilar, Baguio City.
“Given this reality, I ask you to always remain faithful to your mission: Be a good soldier who will serve the Constitution, protect the people, secure our sovereignty, and preserve the integrity of our national territory,” he added.
The Philippines is engaged in a territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte told all the graduates to be humble, teachable, grateful and always look at each other’s back as this special day marked the beginning of their “lifelong path” as military officers.
“As you march today with pride, remember that thousands of other individuals dared to join your ranks and take part in the journey towards the noble profession of arms. In the end, only 261 out of the 350 cadets, have emerged triumphant,” he said.
The President also urged them to embody courage and loyalty as they pursue their noble careers in the military.
“Let these values be your beacon until your last taps are sung and your perpetual memory would be to see your country truly free,” Duterte said.
“With you behind me, I am confident that we can build the foundations of a better, safer, and more peaceful life for all Filipinos,” he added.
The President arrived almost two hours late on the scheduled start of the ceremony and skipped the handing of awards and certificates which was instead led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Dionne Mae Apolog Umalla, this year's PMA topnotcher, received the Presidential Saber and a house and lot from the President, who is also the commander-in-chief.
Duterte also handed a Sig Sauer 9mm caliber pistol to John Mark Solomon who is the last cadet who went up on the stage to receive his certificate.
The President, at the latter part of the event, also gave his own watch to one of the cadets after he noticed that he was not wearing one.
During the signing of pardon to the graduates, Duterte again joked about forgiving those who committed rape.
“Well, anyway I’ll pass you this time because I need good and capable soldiers and I know that one or two is bound to happen. But I will forgive you… The number one is for rape. Number two is drugs with rape with robbery… third is multiple rape of the women of Baguio, the beautiful ones. Who’s that?” he said in jest.
Duterte asked the incoming junior military officers to serve and die for the country.
“Remember the young Filipinos (have) yet to come, the children and those who are now studying. Don’t forget that. And if you think that the country is not run the way it is and if it will destroy your country, you should know what to do. Do you understand me?” he said.
Meanwhile, in her valedictory address, Umalla became emotional as she narrated how she ended up in the country's premier military school.
She recalled how she wanted to be a doctor, but due to financial constraint, she became a teacher like her mother. And when she started to love the teaching profession, her mother, prodded her to enrol at PMA.
"While I may not have achieved my dreams of becoming a doctor or a teacher... I realized that I only wanted one thing, to serve my people at all costs. I have achieved that dream today, we all have," she said. Ella Dionisio/DMS