Will mistahs be actively campaigning and violate the Constitution?
Second of 3 parts
MANILA, Philippines—Nineteen adoptees of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) classes—including presidential aspirants Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Manuel Villar Jr.—are running this year, representing the highest number of honorary “mistahs” seeking posts in 5 regular elections in more than a decade.
With adopted PMAers in the polls, apprehensions are once more rising that some elements in the military might get involved, overtly or covertly, in campaigns and thus violate the constitutional ban on partisan activities.
The military, run and peopled mostly by PMA graduates, is still trying to rebuild its credibility after several generals were implicated in special operations that allegedly rigged the vote to make President Arroyo win in 2004.
Although the generals were later cleared of the charges by a government fact-finding body, the scandal gave an idea of the lengths that some in the military would be willing to go once they take sides.
Soldiers are being deputized by the Commission on Elections this year to guard the ballots and the vicinity of polling precincts in some violence-prone areas.
“It’s the first time that we will have automated elections. There are several apprehensions about the role of the military,” said Armed Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner of Class 1989. “So it's very crucial to maintain the military's apolitical nature.”
There are 19 official and unofficial honorary members of PMA classes who are seeking national and local elective posts in 2010.
The list could have been even longer were it not for events this week. Re-electionist Tarlac congressman Jose Yap succumbed to cancer on Tuesday, while Manila International Airport Authority chair Alfonso Cusi withdrew from the congressional race in Oriental Mindoro.
This year’s list is the longest since 1998, a presidential election, when 14 ran. Eleven ran in 2001; 14 again in 2004; and 10 in 2007.
Of this year’s candidates, 2 are running for president and 2 for vice president. This makes the 2010 the first election where more than 1 PMA adoptee is seeking the highest elective post, and where honorary PMAers are seeking the vice presidency.
Teodoro of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD is an adopted member of Class 1976, while Villar of the Nacionalista Party is an adopted of Class 1977. In the last 2 presidential elections, only 1 PMA adoptee sought the presidency each time—President Arroyo (adopted by Class 1978) in 2004, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago (adopted by Class 1969) in 1998.
No honorary PMAer had run for vice president in the past. This year, there will be 2 candidates—Manuel Roxas II of the Liberal Party (adopted by Class 1984) and Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (adopted by Class 1969, but not officially recognized by the alumni association.)
The 2010 elections will also see the biggest number of honorary PMAers seeking Senate seats—there are 6 of them—compared to only 2 in 2007; 5 in 2004; 4 in 2001; and 2 in 1998.
Dr. Clarita Carlos of the University of the Philippines political science department doesn’t discount the possibility that politicians would use their networks in the military, if any, in the elections.
“If you don’t have many scruples, you’ll do everything to get voted, including tapping into military contacts,” she said.
It is difficult to generalize, however, if individual soldiers or an entire PMA classes would be willing to get involved in these politicians’ campaign, she said.
“If PMA classes or individual members allow themselves to be used by politicians—maybe to get money or others—then they could. But it depends. The military is not a homogenous organization,” she told Newsbreak.
For instance, Teodoro’s adoptive PMA Class 1976 declared its support for his candidacy, but class president Leopoldo Bataoil said only retired members of the batch would campaign for him.
Those in the active service are prohibited by the Constitution to get involved in campaigns. Article III, Section 5, states: “The armed forces shall be insulated from partisan politics. No member of the military shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity, except to vote.”
The 1976 batch includes Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police Director Jesus Verzosa, and Philippine Navy Chief Ferdinand Golez.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said that when he ran for re-election in 2007, his “mistahs” the “Sandiwa” Class of 1985 helped him. “But only those members of the class no longer connected with the government actively helped me in the campaign.”
The senator by then had been an unofficial honorary member of batch 1985 for over 5 years. He won in 2007, garnering 14.5 million votes and placing 5th in the senatorial polls.
The adoptive classmates extend help beyond the campaign period, Pangilinan said. They have, for instance, provided him valuable policy inputs after he got elected. His classmates, he said, help in “gathering inteligence on security related matters affecting the nation.”
Pangilinan is also an adopted member of the Philippine National Police Academy Class 1989.
Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate Ferdinand Marcos II, an official adoptee of “Matapat” Class of 1979, said PMA classes provide “useful connections.”
“It’s like an instant network within the military. If you work with your adopted classmates, you have a pool of talent instantly available to you,” Marcos told Newsbreak in a text message.
Class 1979’s members include Philippine Naval Forces Western Mindanao commander Alexander Pama and former AFP spokesperson Tristan Kison.
Another member of the class is Col. Ariel Querubin, who is detained on mutiny charges for allegedly attempting to overthrow President Gloria Arroyo in 2006. He is also running for senator under the Nacionalista Party.
Question of motive
Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a member of Class 1961 and incoming alumni head, said that the years represented by the PMA batches adopting politicians “raises questions” about their motive.
He said that politicians are usually adopted by classes whose members are still in the active service and are already in senior positions—ripe for promotions or higher appointments.
“If you look at those who adopt, they are already in the upper bracket of seniority who are already on deck for higher positions. This raises questions,” Biazon told Newsbreak.
The least these adoptive PMAers can do, he said, is to avoid violating the constitutional ban on engaging in partisan politics.
“This is crucial especially during the  elections because we must maintain the apolitical nature of soldiers,” he said.
PART 1 OF 3: Some famous PMA adoptees are illegitimate
PART 3 OF 3: Villar has more 'mistahs' to promote than Gibo