Hazing has become a byword that is distinctly associated with the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Until this very day.
And it is so sad and unfortunate. For hazing is not a positive term. It betrays the character that the academy is supposed to represent. But it also manifests what is entirely wrong with the institution. The malpractice has surfaced once again due to the death of another victim. Despite policies and programs to eradicate hazing at the PMA, it nevertheless persists, rendering such initiatives ineffective and useless. (READ: PMA's record of hazing deaths)
What are the military and the generals to do about hazing at the PMA? What should the superintendent and commandant do about it? Why have lessons not been learned after decades of this problem? This brief essay will attempt to answer.
Despite the positive image that the academy and alumni like to brandish, the reality of hazing resulting in fatalities continues to gnaw at this image. It betrays an inner reality that cannot be whitewashed by an outer one. It is like trying to submerge atrocities committed in campaigns against enemies through the staging of colorful parades and accolades to the delight of worshipping crowds. It is similar to etching a carefully crafted testimonial speech that does not truly reflect the truth but rather just a positive image of the person edified.
These common practices in our military and society betray a culture that does not echo the very motto of the academy. Courage. Integrity. Loyalty.
I have heard of new initiatives to make hazing go away from some alumni groups. One even suggested the copying of the Respect Officer concept from the United States Military Academy. But this concept was not put in to address hazing such as what exists at the PMA. I think it is a shallow solution. Along with any other forwarded solution which sounds nice but actually is mere window-dressing.
Looking back at years of hazing at the PMA and their aftermaths should already teach us that such solutions do not work in our particular case.
What new solution?
The military and its generals like to sound off all kinds of loud reactions each time hazing is highlighted. They feel it is their duty to somehow address the problem in a loud manner enough for the public to hear. After all, it is their alma mater that is once again put into focus.
Many of them also experienced hazing. Many do not think hazing is an issue. Many are even proud that they went through hazing and survived it. The insider view is that hazing is merely a natural occurence in any fraternal membership.
The superintendent and commandant, in particular, will feel that they need to come up with a solution that is loud enough for the public to hear and one that will pacify agitated spirits. Therefore, they will tend to go for what has been stated earlier about coming up with a relatively "new" solution that has never been tried before. (READ: 'Have heart and soul,' new PMA chief tells cadets)
But there is no such solution. For all have already been tried before and found wanting.
Truth is that there is no need for any “new” solution. The old solutions still work and they only need to be taken seriously.
They all begin with the academy motto: Courage-Integrity-Loyalty. The true solution lies in reforming the cultural spirit and not just the cultural letter. As of now, the spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak.
It is time the academy, the generals, the superintendent, and the commandant take the alma mater seriously in its totality and all its forms: word, action, and spirit. Their true character.
If hazing is illegal, then why does it still occur? Prosecute all guilty, dismiss them, and send the word out as example to all without fear or favor. Courage is having what it takes to implement the anti-hazing rule and all its attendant truths.
The generals and alumni themselves must not play politics with the rules. Or courage will expose them too. Integrity is always aligning action with the letter and spirit of rules. Any inconsistencies must be exposed by any stakeholder be they cadets, civilians, generals, the supe, or the com, etc. And loyalty is having the commitment to protect courage and integrity because in the end, it is the institution (including all its members and alumni) which is at stake.
Enough of words
And enough of words. There is too much talk about hazing but not enough action. It should be a real challenge to the academy and the alumni. For men in uniform of character, this hazing eats away at what the military academy is highly esteemed for, which is its integral character.
In the military, we challenge each other saying how one can actually execute "yes sir" to the satisfaction of the superior. If the subordinate is able to accomplish the mission given him to the complete satisfaction of the superior, then that subordinate did what is usually expected of military professionals: execute the mission well above legal and moral reproaches. In short, "snappy"!
The same challenge is now thrown at the entire cacophony of significant stakeholders who must make hazing finally go away for good especially to the academy officials and alumni.
In summary therefore, hazing continues to be a sickness suffered by the academy but whose continued existence manifests a challenge that the academy and alumni have not yet defeated.
For hazing is not merely the ownership of a bunch of misguided cadets. Hazing reflects a system of double standards much like the one that persists in the real world outside the academy.
But double standards have no room in an environment like the academy. Where everything is supposed to be black or white. Where right is right. And wrong is wrong. In fact, double standards have no room in a much edified institution like the military whose superior virtue is its honor.
Hazing is nothing new. And it needs no new solution. If there is anything to be renewed, then it is the cultural spirit that must prevail and not merely its letter. – Rappler.com
Retired colonel Dencio Acop attended the PMA before graduating from West Point in 1983. He left the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2006 and built a second career in the private sector working for PSA, Wyeth, Pfizer, and Nestle, and retired in 2018. He writes freelance.