Of Equal Rights and Filipino Men and Women in Uniform

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By Art Tibaldo

Consumer Atbp.

Monday, March 17, 2014


SHE was about to collapse under the midday sun. My attention was caught by a slight movement by men and women in formation while I was covering the PMA Siklab Diwa Class under the shades of a platform provided for cameramen at the Borromeo Field. Her knees almost touched the ground but the alert men or women behind her grabbed her waistband restraining her from falling. It’s obvious that she’s been trying to keep her balance and posture among the graduating cadets in what is to be the academy’s most controversial batch in decades. This happens when the Commander-in-Chief left for about half an hour for an unscheduled break that surprised everybody present. Being a PMA cadet foster parent myself, I felt the tension and emotional stress of seeing a graduating daughter about to faint during graduation day. But that did not happen. When the Commander-in-Chief returned to the grandstand and was prompted to acknowledge the men and women in formation, the corps of first class cadets was yet to form the famous long grey line and this allowed the female cadet to move her legs and march in cadence with the rest.

Odd it may seem, but the fainting female cadet was positioned right in front of me and I noticed her uneven waist band that must have been held by her classmates. I saw how she struggled to keep upright and it even came to a point when she wiggled in the formation and inched her feet forward to maintain balance. Three men including one in civilian clothes checked on her and had her sip water from a bottle and that perhaps gave the much needed antidote for fatigue and restless graduation exercises.

Moments after they were cheered by their underclass cadets who trooped the long grey line, I saw her pale face glow with triumph as she was embraced by her mistahs and later family members. They tossed their shaco like it’s the last ritual or activity that made them shout to themselves and to the world…”it’s over and finally. I’m now a military officer.”

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I have covered the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites since 1983 when the country was still under then President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos as the Commander-in-Chief. I was coordinating for media accreditation back in 1987 looking for PMA Public Relations Officer Col. Eduardo Purificacion when the Borromeo Field grandstand was bombed by alleged enemies of the state. I felt the earth shook in that deafening explosion since I was just within the vicinity when that explosion happened. Said to be intended during the graduation rites with President Corazon C. Aquino as the speaker, the bomb exploded pre-maturely findings concluded.

I documented the first entry of female cadets to the country’s premiere military institution back in 1993 as part of my assignment when we launched our community television program with Nuvue Cablevision. The female cadets or chosen few who entered and graduated from the academy as “Kalasag-Lahi” Class 1997 went on to make history except for dozens of other ex-female cadets like Alexandria Noble, daughter of renegade soldier Col. Alexander Noble who caused a major peace and order disruption during the Presidency of Corazon Aquino. One officer of the first batch of female graduates of 1997 went on to become a tank commander during a military operation in Mindanao and I was deeply saddened when we learned that she was killed during a heroic encounter with rebels.

My wife and I have a foster daughter who is now with the country’s elite air force unit and we hope that their trainings in the military will be put to good use with adequate winged armaments that can ensure protection to our country’s sovereignty.

Having written the above on a women’s month, let me share few information that seeks to empower women in Filipino shores as mandated by a Magna Carta for Fliipino Women. The signing into law of Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women may have been a long and challenging quest for gender equality and women's empowerment but it clearly demonstrates the effective dynamics of a responsive Philippine leadership, individuals and stakeholders in Philippine Government decision making. The Act seeks to eliminate discrimination against women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling and promoting the rights of Filipino women. These rights include all rights in the Philippine Constitution and those rights recognized under the international instruments signed and ratified by the Philippine Government. Among these rights are: Protection from all forms of violence, including those committed by the State, Protection and security in times of disaster, calamities and other crisis situations.

Participation and representation, Equal treatment before the law, Equal access and elimination of discrimination against women in education, scholarships and training, Equal participation in sports, Non-
discrimination in employment in the field of military, police, and other similar services, Non-Discriminatory and non-derogatory portrayal of women in media and film, Comprehensive health services and health information and education, Leave benefits and equal rights in all matters related to marriage and family relations. The Magna Carta of Women also guarantees the civil, political and economic rights of women in the marginalized sectors. Mabuhay ang kababaihang Pilipino.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 18, 2014.

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