Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Human Rights vs. Military Justice in the Cudia Case

The talk at the barbershop is the case of PMA First Class Cadet Aldrin Jeffrey P. Cudia.
1st Class Cadet Aldrin Jeffrey P. Cudia
Cadet Cudia was accused and found guilty of violating the Honor Code by a group of student cadets who make up the Honor Committee. Many are taking issues with this finding because of the process and the corresponding consequences on Cudia.

Commander Junjie Tabuada of the Philippine Navy executed an affidavit detailing his conversation in January with Cadet First Class Lagura, a member of the Honor Committee who found Cadet Cudia guilty of violating the Honor Code.

In his affidavit, Commander Tabuada swore that Cadet Lagura told him that he originally voted to acquit Cudia but was pressured to change his vote. Lagura’s “not guilty” vote would have exonerated Cudia.

If the decision of the Honor Committee sticks, Cadet Cudia would suffer the following consequences:

1.    Excluded in the list of graduating class of Siklab Diwa 2014;
2.    Deprived of all the academic honors he deserves;
3.    Denied commission as new ensign of the Philippine Navy;
4.    Ostracized by all cadets;
5.    Dismissed or discharged from the military service; and/or
6.    Asked to refund or reimburse all expenses incurred for all his years as a PMA cadet. 
The PMA publication on the Honor Code states:

"Our Code does not deviate from the universal concept of Honor. It demands the truth ... nothing else, but the truth ... both by act and implication. Each cadet becomes a zealous guardian to this earmark of the Corps and will report another or himself for a violation of honor. It is in keeping this priceless legacy from our predecessors that we seek to transmit it unblemished to the unending gray line."

It further says, “Truth is the virtue of the Corps.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) headed by Chairwoman Eta Rosales conducted its investigation to find out the truth.  Commander Tabuada reiterated his claim in a sworn testimony before the CHR.  It was also determined and admitted by other witnesses that the initial vote was 8-1 and changed to 9-0.

CHR concluded that Cadet Cudia’s human right to due process has been violated.

In order to discover the whole truth, the Honor Committee should make available all the records of the proceedings done against Cadet Cudia, including the video footage, audio records, and minutes of the proceedings to the new AFP Body reviewing the case.

There are Cadet recorders.  In fact, at West Point where the PMA Honor Code System was patterned, they even have Civilian Recorders. The records should be made available for the sake of finding out the truth.

The AFP reviewing body should also look into the certification and affidavit of Dr. Maria Monica Costales, the professor of the class that supposedly caused Cudia’s tardiness by two minutes.

First Class Cadet Cudia spent four (4) years of schooling going through rigorous mental and physical preparation which included initiation.  The taxpayers underwrote all that with an estimated expense of about Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P2, 500,00.00).

Do we forego all that because Cadet Cudia was allegedly late two minutes in his next class - a subject the final exams of which he is exempted from taking by virtue of his excellent academic record?

Do we forego all that because he said he was dismissed later than usual? This was because he finished a long exam and was told to wait for his section grade by the professor who certified and swore to this fact.

The spirit of the Honor System is based on two basic questions:
Do I intend to deceive? Do I intend to take undue advantage?
Did Cadet Cudia’s actions and statement intend to deceive?  What on earth make his actions and statement so deceptive? 

Did he intend to take undue advantage? Why would he jeopardize his military career by bringing dishonor?  What advantage would he get?

The answer to these questions which is NO would negate any violation of the Honor Code.
The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was organized under Commonwealth Act No. 1, Section 30 and Section 31.  Upon the recommendation of certain officials and upon the fulfillment of certain conditions that include among others physical and mental examinations, the President of the Philippines shall have the authority to appoint all of the cadets of the academy.

Correspondingly, the President also has the power to remove or dismiss any or all of them.

In the case of First Class Cadet Cudia who would have graduated as Salutatorian of the 2014 Graduating Class, his appointment by the President is being countermanded by a group of student cadets called Honor Committee.

The fact is, even those adjudged as guilty under the Honor Code are only asked to resign. They are not automatically dismissed or fired. 

The taxpayers and the Office of the President invested on Cadet Cudia.  He worked very hard to earn his diploma and did it with flying colors. He made his parents, relatives, and the taxpayers proud. He was a good investment!
Cadet Cudia has been unfairly deprived of due process. In a democracy like ours, which soldiers are called upon to protect, and where civilian authority reigns over the military, due process is a constitutional right enjoyed by all citizens.

Cadet Cudia deserves both the protection and enjoyment!

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