Honourable and dishonourable silence

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Thursday, 18 December 2014 - Last Updated on December 18, 2014

Photos:Phil.Online Chronicles/EDD CASTRO
Phil.Daily Inquirer/LYN RILLON

Matthew 1:18-25
Our seminary is named after St. Joseph. Who is St. Joseph? What kind of a man was he? St. Joseph was the husband of Mary. According to Scriptures, he neither lived with nor had relations with Mary before their marriage. Today’s Gospel tells us about an impending scandal and how St. Joseph intended to handle it:
This is the how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was bethrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “ Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Even without the benefit of an explanation, Joseph preferred the quiet and gentler way of dealing with the apparent scandal involving Mary and the pain it brought him. A weaker man would have chosen a more vengeful alternative. It would have been an eye for an eye, pain for pain, insult for insult. Being an honourable man, he chose the path of silence or discretion by quietly divorcing Mary. But an Angel speaks to him in a dream. This makes me imagine how Joseph must have agonized over the matter to the point of falling asleep on it. In his less than peaceful sleep, he dreams and is enlightened by an angel to see the truth. Joseph must have prayed and asked for guidance. Hence, his wish is granted. Thanks to his silence and prayerfulness he did not act in haste, instead gave the Spirit a chance to guide him. Joseph’s silence is that of a prayerful person. It was not intuitive and not secretive.
Early this year a young man became the victim of a different kind of silence. Aldrin Cudia who was graduating top of his Navy class was accused of violating the PMA Honor code and as punishment not allowed to graduate last February 15, 2014. He was supposed to graduate second overall and with this came a scholarship in a prestigious military university abroad. The official reason for the punishment was a two minute tardiness in another class and his excuse which was considered by the Honor Committee as a lie. According to Cudia the teacher of a previous class asked some of them to stay behind because he was giving them something. Because of this he was two minutes late for the next class and when Cudia explained, his explanation was deemed unacceptable and considered a lie. Annavee, Cudia’s sister explains how her brother was disliked by his tactical officer who did not particularly enjoy Cudia’s frequent questioning. Annavee explains how her brother from childhood has always been inquisitive and had the habit of asking questions all the time. When officials of the Philippine Military Academy were asked why the harsh punishment for a seemingly petty offense, they simply said there is “something deeper.” When further asked what that “something deeper is” they would walked away tight lipped.
At the height of the Cudia controversy, social media went into a frenzy. One striking comment is, “Civilians will never understand, “they told us in interviews. And they’re right. After all, many PMA graduates have been linked to dishonourable conduct: corruption, kidnapping, murder, among others.” Why the double standard? Are there two sets of rules, one unreasonably strict and another replete with exceptions? Are young soldiers at the PMA hapless cogs in a mindless military machine ran according to an equally heartless Honor Code? Woe to you if you become an inconvenience to the institution, the entire brunt of the Honor Code may just come crushing on you. The controversy has landed the Philippine Military Academy in a bad light. The matter was brought to the Commission on Human Rights which has declared the decision of the Honors Committee as a gross violation of Cudia’s human rights. Days before the February 15 graduation the matter was brought before P Noy who for better or worse decided in favour of the Military Institution against the rights of a lowly cadette. Last May 1, 2014, CHR Chair Loreta Ann Rosales recommended to P Noy the overhauling of the PMA Honor Code System. She also declared that Cudia did not lie and his rights were violated when he was not given due process to adequately present his case. Furthermore, his rights as a student to graduate after fulfilling all the requirements of his course were not recognized. Cudia should be allowed to graduate. Again, after the CHR’s chair favourable decision on the case as well as her recommendation for Cudia’s graduation, a deafening silence ensues. The Philippine Military Academy remains silent to this very moment. Malacanang has joined the eery silence. But the concerned public will not join the dishonourable silence.
I am happy to have met Aldrin Cudia. I know a good man when I see one. I did not hesitate to organize a run for Aldrin then and will gladly organize another one soon if nothing happens with the appeal waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision.
The silence is disturbing. It is reminiscent of the silence of General Angelo Reyes while he was being grilled at the Senate. The troubled General was gripped by a silence that reached the point of no return. It is not only a matter of justice and truth that people should speak against the PMA’s strange and unjust silence. To speak out now is fundamentally a matter of survival and life. Aldrin Cudia has decided to take up law as he does not have any future within the Military. But the Philippine Military Academy refuses to give him his diploma which makes it impossible for him to enrol in any school of Law. For Aldrin to survive and live, there is no other way but for him and those who believe in his cause to continue speaking out. Clearly, silence in this case is not only dishonourable but also death.
Aldrin neither speaks or writes anything. He is careful because anything he says or writes may be used against him. His silence though is akin to the honourable silence of Joseph. Clearly, the deafening silence of the Philippine Military Academy leans on its Honor Code which to many has become less than honourable.

Fr. Robert Reyes (86 Posts)

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