MANILA – The Commission of Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday said that based on their investigation, dismissed Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia is innocent and should be allowed to graduate from the academy.
According to CHR’s findings, the Honor Committee, the body that decided Cudia’s case, conducted an unfair trial and committed other violations such as unbridled wielding of power and perjury.
“The Honor Committee conducted a sham trial; made a mockery of the rule of law, justice and human rights. It violated Cadet Cudia’s rights to due process, non-discrimination, dignity, education, privacy and access to genuine justice,” it said.
The commission affirmed Cudia’s innocence and said he was wrongfully convicted.
“Cadet Cudia did not lie. He did not intend to lie. He did not intend to deceive or mislead others for the explanation he gave to his Tactical Officer or PMA authorities, including the Honor Committee.”
CHR also recommended that Cudia be proclaimed as a “full-fledged graduate and alumnus of PMA,” give him his official diploma and issue to him a transcript of his academic records.
Although the CHR has no jurisdiction over the PMA, Chairman Loretta Rosales said the findings of the committee will be forwarded to the authorities including high-ranking PMA officials, Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin and President Benigno Aquino III who, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, will ultimately decide on the case.
The CHR findings also revealed that a member of the Honor Committee who participated in the trial of Cadet Cudia had a vested interest in the result of the case.
According to CHR, Cadet Noel Raguindin ranked second to Cudia in their class. Therefore, should Cudia be dropped from the rolls, Raguindin would automatically occupy his position in the class standing.
The commission said Raguindin’s participation was questionable due to conflict of interest.
“Cadet Raguindin should have inhibited from taking part in the preliminary investigation of Cadet Cudia. But he did not. Neither did the Committee see it appropriate for Cadet Raguindin to inhibit, even for delicadeza. This casted doubt and tainted the process in the PMA justice system at the preliminary investigation stage.”
The CHR also said that if the written procedures of the Honor Committee was followed, Cudia should not have been proclaimed guilty.
According to the rules, only a unanimous decision can pronounce a guilty verdict on a cadet being tried.
However, when the members of the Honor Committee first voted on Cudia’s case, it was learned that eight members voted guilty and one voted not guilty.
After seeing that the votes were not unanimous, the voting members of the Honor Committee were allegedly called into a “secret room or chamber.” When the members conducted another voting, the result then became unanimous.
CHR asserts that the first voting conducted by the members of the Honor Committee is the “final and true decision."
“The written procedures and even the Honor Code do not speak of initial voting. There is no provision that if the result is eight guilty and one not guilty, there should be chambering.”
“The chambering was clearly resorted to by the Committee for the purpose of pressuring Cadet Dalton John Lagura to change his vote from 'not guilty' to 'guilty' to ensure Cadet Cudia’s ouster from the PMA,” it said.
The commission added that the minutes of the trial proceedings submitted to the CHR was inaccurate, incomplete and deliberately tampered.
“There was a deliberate omission of substantial portions of the proceedings in the minutes, particularly the discussion and pronouncement of the eight-guilty and one-not guilty voting result.”
As such, in its recommendation, CHR said that administrative, criminal and civil charges must be filed against the members of the Honor Committee and that the process of “chambering” in the PMA be investigated.
‘REVIEW OF HONOR CODE’
Meanwhile, in response to the controversy surrounding PMA and its cadets, CHR appealed to President Aquino, Defense Secretary Gazmin and top PMA officials to review the so-called Honor Code and its implementation inside the academy.
The commission is suggesting new Honor Code policies and implementing procedures that are more human rights-based.
It also appeals to the Philippine Congress to pass a legislation penalizing ostracism and discrimination especially in the PMA.