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Cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia from soldier to lawyer.

Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia was a member of Siklab Diwa Class of 2014 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) at Fort Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City.

A few months before graduation in November 2013, Cudia was reported to the Honor Committee (HC) for violation of the Honor Code. The report stated . . . lying, that is, giving statement that perverts the truth in his written appeal, stating that his fourth period class ended at 1500 hours that made him late in the succeeding class.

After an investigation, formal hearings were conducted by the HC, resulting in an 8-1 guilty verdict. Upon further deliberation, the presiding officer announced a 9-0 guilty verdict.

In February 2014, Col. Rossano Briguez, the commandant of cadets, affirmed the findings of the HC and recommended to Vice Admiral Edgar Abogado, then PMA superintendent, the separation from the PMA of Cadet Cudia for violation of the First Tenet of the Honor Code (lying).

The Cudia family appealed to the Office of the President for reconsideration of the decision of the PMA Honor Committee.

In June 2014, the Office of the President sustained the findings of the AFP chief of staff and the Cadet Review and Appeals Board (CRAB). The letter signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. stated: After carefully studying the records of the case of Cadet Cudia, the decision of the Chief of Staff, AFP, and the Honor Code system of the AFP Cadet Corps, this Office has found no substantial basis to disturb the findings of the AFP and the PMA CRAB.

In the evaluation of Cadet Cudia's case, this Office has been guided by the precept that military law is regarded to be in a class of its own, 'applicable only to military personnel because the military constitutes an armed organization requiring a system of discipline separate from that of civilians.' Thus, this Office regarded the findings of the AFP Chief, particularly his conclusion, that there was nothing irregular in the proceedings that ensued, as carrying great weight. Accordingly, please be informed that the President has sustained the findings of the AFP Chief and the PMA CRAB.

Among other courses of action taken, Cudia appealed to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)-Cordillera Autonomous Region for alleged violation of his rights, particularly his right to due process, education and privacy of communication.

Before this, in May 2014, the CHR issued its resolution recommending that the PMA set aside the 9-0 guilty vote, and respect the 8-1 guilty result, and make an official pronouncement of NOT GUILTY in favor of Cadet Cudia. It also called for the passage of an antiostracism and/or antidiscrimination law. It recommended the comprehensive review of all rules of procedures, regulations and policies, including the so-called practices in the implementation of the Honor Code.

The case was also elevated to the Supreme Court when the family filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus with temporary restraining order. Last month, the Supreme Court came out with a decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta. The foreword to the decision reads as follows: The true test of a cadet's character as a leader rests on his personal commitment to uphold what is morally and ethically righteous at the most critical and trying times, and at the most challenging circumstances.

When a cadet must face a dilemma between what is true and right as against his security, well-being, pleasures and comfort, or dignity, what is at stake is his honor and those that [define] his values. A man of an honorable character does not think twice and chooses the fore. This is the essence of and the Spirit of the Honor Code-it is championing truth and righteousness even if it may mean the surrender of one's basic rights and privileges. (Quoted from the PMA Honor Code and Honor System Handbook, Series 2011, p. 7.)

On the CHR findings:

The findings of fact and the conclusions of law of the CHR are merely recommendatory and therefore, not binding to this court. The CHR. . . is only a fact-finding body, not a court of justice or a quasi-judicial agency. It is not empowered to adjudicate claims on the merits or settle actual cases or controversies. The power to investigate is not the same as adjudication.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court upheld the findings and conclusions of the Office of the President, and with it that of the PMA CRAB, which were found to be not contrary to law and jurisprudence.

The Supreme Court in the dispositive portion of its decision ruled: WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The dismissal of Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff P. Cudia from the Philippine Military Academy is hereby AFFIRMED. (Voting was 13-0 with two justices not participating.)

Prior to the graduation of PMA Class 2014, there were reports that Cadet Cudia would be the class salutatorian. Had he been allowed to join the commencement exercises, it is possible he would have been awarded the Vice Presidential Sabre, presented to the second-ranking member of the class.

Recently, Aldrin Jeff Cudia passed the written exams for admission to the UP College of Law.

We congratulate him and wish him much success in his new endeavor.

In the past, there have been cases of cadets who were separated from the PMA under various circumstances. Some were discharged due to Honor violations, some were involved in hazing cases, while others left, unable to adjust to the new environment. Many of them joined the ranks of other professions and became outstanding practitioners.

If he becomes a lawyer, Jeff Cudia could one day end up as a Supreme Court justice, or even president of the Republic. His dismissal from the academy is not the end of the world. If he is still interested in a military career, in time, the doors will be opened to him. Sometimes, those who have fallen but have managed to pick themselves up, perform much better than those who have never experienced failure or personal disappointment.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 20, 2015
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