What makes an officer and a gentleman/lady?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Retired US Army Gen. Colin Powell, the first ever black secretary of state, passed away on Monday (Manila time) due to complications from COVID-19.

Before his retirement from military service, Powell was the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

What was noteworthy about Powell was that he was not a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. He got his commission from the Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC) at the City College of New York.

The City College of New York, the first public school of higher education, is not on the same level as Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

If Powell were a Filipino, he would not have made it to chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Seldom, if ever, do ROTC graduates make it to the rank of AFP chief of staff because that position is reserved mostly for graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City, the country’s counterpart of West Point.

There was a time, however, when graduates of the ROTC, considered “second class citizens” among the AFP officers’ corps, made it to chief of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Constabulary or the entire AFP.

Most notable among them were Gen. Romeo Espino, a graduate of the ROTC program of the University of the Philippines (UP), and Gen. Fabian Ver, also a UP graduate. They were appointed AFP chief of staff during the time of president Ferdinand Marcos.

Also, during Marcos’ tenure, another ROTC graduate, Brig. Gen. Vicente Raval, became chief of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), the forerunner of the Philippine National Police. Raval joined the ROTC program at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST).

Marcos put on an equal footing all military officers, whether their source of commission was through the PMA, ROTC or the Officers Candidate School (OCS).

Marcos’ successors – Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Rodrigo Duterte – prefer PMA graduates over those of the ROTC in the choice of key positions.

Because PMAers take precedence over ROTC graduates (“Mustangs,” those who rose from the rank and file or enlisted personnel), the AFP and PNP don’t attract graduates from the country’s “Ivy League” institutions.

Examples of Ivy League schools in the country are UP, Ateneo, La Salle, San Beda, UST, Silliman University in Dumaguete City, University of San Carlos in Cebu.

Graduates of Ivy League schools are adept in social graces and communication skills. If they joined the AFP, they would bring elegance to the AFP officers’ corps because of their upper class or upper-middle class upbringing.

A man (or woman) holding an executive position in the military hierarchy is called “an officer and a gentleman (or lady).”

The word “gentleman” or “lady” connotes fine manners, etiquette and the proper way he/she carries himself/herself in public. It also means having communication skills.

Most PMA graduates lack social graces and communication skills and – in the strict sense of the word – cannot be called a gentleman or lady. Yes, an officer, but not a gentleman or lady.

They were taught leadership and how to fight at the premier military institution, but social graces and communication skills may not have been emphasized.

Many PMAers are inarticulate. A good example is Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa of Class 1986. Bato is also gauche.

However, there are exceptions. Angelo “Angie” Reyes of PMA Class 1966 was one.

The son of a schoolteacher, Reyes was an embodiment of an officer and a gentleman. He obviously got his fine manners from his mother. Fine manners are acquired at home.

Most graduates of the PMA come from poor families. The once-poor kids learned about social graces in their interaction with civilians later in their military career.

Anyway, there are many officers in the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP), for that matter, who are not PMA alumni but are equally qualified or even more qualified for the highest positions in the military and the police.

Why are they not being given the chance to prove their worth?

Again, because there is a caste system in the AFP and PNP wherein PMA graduates are “first class” and while the rest are “second class” officers.

I’ve seen this in many instances when some officers who were fit to become AFP or PNP chief did not get the position because they didn’t graduate from the PMA.

One example was a close friend, the late police general Marcelo Ele Jr., who never made it to the PNP’s highest post because he was not a PMAer.

Jun Ele was a lawyer (graduate of the University of Sto. Tomas), a helicopter pilot, scuba diver, paratrooper and an awardee for police officer of the year several times in his career.

Ele also received the Dangal ng Bayan, the highest award a civil government official or employee could receive.

Jun Ele was much loved by his subordinates in all units that he commanded in the then Philippine Constabulary and later PNP.

*      *      *

Joke! Joke! Joke!

On their 50th anniversary the wife found the negligee she wore on her wedding night.

She went to her husband, a retired admiral. “Honey, do you remember this,” she said.

He looked up from his newspaper. “Yes, dear, I do. You wore the same negligee the night we were married.”

“Do you remember what you said to me that night,” she said.

He said, “Yes, I said ‘Oh, baby, I’ll make love to you the whole night.’”

She giggled. “That’s exactly what you said. Now, I’m wearing the same negligee. What do you have to say tonight?”

He stared at her for a while and continued reading the newspaper. “Mission accomplished,” the admiral said.

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