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What's Wrong with McCoy's Closer Than Brothers?
By Rolly Malinis

Mr. Alfred McCoy, a university professor at the University of Wisconsin, published a book entitled "Closer Than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy". He attempted a new approach to the military history of the Philippines by comparing Class 1940 and Class 1971. By comparing two generations of graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, he asserted that it "uncovers fundamental differences in their academic socialization and subsequent ascent to power". Class '40 became a study of military professionalism or military socialization where the military is considered subordinate to that of civilian authority; while Class '71 is the anti-thesis and an example of breakdown of military socialization. 

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While the arguments about the thesis and the anti-thesis might sound relatively simple as the book suggests, explanation as to the causes and effects of the behavior exhibited by both classes is a little bit more complicated. The readers should not be carried by the volume and length of research, theories, numerous personal interviews, and newspaper accounts done by the author. While he should be credited for bringing together voluminous details to his book, there are more fitting questions that need to be asked. Did the details pass the test of sufficiency and logic to allow him to draw valid conclusions? Was he successful in weaving these details in a coherent and logical manner? What are the author's motives for publishing this book? Apparently, answering these questions requires a more methodical analysis and deeper scrutiny of the different information presented.

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Anyone who has read this book would agree that it was an attack to Class '71 by Mr. McCoy who branded the Class as torturers, killers, and murderers. The intended impact of this book, through careful scrutiny and reading in-between-the-lines, is not to smear Class '71 and praise Class'40 but it was a clear attempt to destroy and divide the alumni of the Academy making one class hate and condemn the other. In effect, it came as an assault to the Philippine Military Academy and to what it all stands for.

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The book failed. It failed to prove that basic differences between Class '40 and Class '71 exist. More so, it failed to provide hard and sufficient evidence that would malign Class '71. Through incoherent writing and slip in logic, the author further revealed his ulterior motive of maligning personalities opposed to some politicians. 

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The theoretical framework the book used to explain the difference between Class '40 and Class '71 was excellent. It cited individual personalities, political ideas at the time coming from the nations capital, the ruling regime's political agenda, and external factors such as global change and culture as the ones causing these differences. Other theoretical frameworks were discussed to back up its effort. Unfortunately, it failed to provide a logical connection between the theories and the information he presented.

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Changes in the curriculum, existing political ideas, and other factors may have affected the training of Class '71, but only to a small degree. Their perception as to who the enemies were and what kind of enemies they were might have been affected. The more important thing, however, which is the character value training, particularly the honor system, has been kept intact in the class. The Academy, through the Honor, Fourth Class, and Upper Class and Lower Class systems and its academic training, had instilled the same idealism, patriotism, nationalism, esprit de corps, and public service as embodied in the PMA motto of courage, integrity, and loyalty. Class '71 actions and behavior are consistent with the values that have been instilled to each graduate of this institution. Like Class '40, the Academy had developed Class '71 from plebe year to first class year so each one of them would grow up as military professionals who would recognize that the civilian authority is over and above that of the military.

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The author had thought of a sociology model, which could have rationalized why Class '71 broke down from military socialization, but ignored its relevance. The book talked about the classic model from American sociology by Morris Janowitz and Samuel Huntington. The model isolated the factors that led Western officers away from an eighteenth-century heroic ideal toward a modern professionalism where the military is subordinated to civilian authority. According to the book, the model states that modern military is transformed from "the heroic leader" into the "military manager" where "a uniformed civil servant subordinated to civilian authority". Furthermore, the book said that this study could not be applied to the Philippines because it could not explain the contrast of events in the Philippine case where the military was transformed from the professionalism of Class '40 to the heroic vision of Class '71. This is exactly the opposite relative to the model.

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The breakdown in military socialization of Class '71 may be interpreted consistent with the sociology model. The explanation can be implicitly read from the books own statement saying the model "seems to works best for societies, like the United States, where the change is complete". At that time, the US was on its state of high economic development and stable democratic government. As the book reported, the Philippine government chose the Western ideal of military professionalism when it opened PMA in 1936. President Quezon sought the support of American advisors to make it operational. From then on, the idea of military professionalism was ingrained in the mind of every graduate from the pre-war classes to the post-war classes.

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The truth is that the Philippine condition was not ripe for the final and complete transition to military professionalism. The situation was still very volatile. Once Class '71 was exposed to a high degree of political corruption, coupled with the presence of radical political ideas, global changes and given a strong leader, the spirit of idealism, patriotism, and public service planted in the heart and mind of every graduate would be aroused. Breakdown of military professionalism or socialization was inevitable. Yes, the Philippine military development is still in the "heroic" phase. There could be no short cut. As the sociological model is saying the transition is from a "heroic" leader to "military manager". For the Philippines, that change will only be complete when the country shall have achieved that state of high economic development and stable democratic government. In the mean time, all that can be done is to continue to inject that spirit of military professionalism to the military and lessen the impact of factors causing them to break away from this fragile state of professionalism.

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Using the theoretical framework, the book noted how the state leader seating in Malacanang Palace would have an impact on the military socialization of the PMA classes. For Class '40, President Manuel Quezon endeavored to keep the military apolitical. He needed a military, not for political purposes but to fight invasion. He said this influence had kept Class '40 to retain that military socialization till their retirement. For Class '71, Marcos politicized the military. Soon, Class '71 broke down military socialization and rebelled against civilian authority. Following his framework, one would say that Marcos, through the politicization and corruption of the civilian government under him, had influenced the breakdown of military socialization of the class. The author's logic began to crumble from here. He deviated from the framework he set. Instead of saying it was the political agenda of Marcos that prompted Class '71 to break socialization and rebel, he said that it was the class experience of being Marcos' "fist of repression" and its systematic torture, intimidation, interrogation, surveillance, penetration, and psychological warfare that did it.

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From there, the book went on to build up its case that members of the class are murderers, torturers, and killers. Tracing its root from the Academy, it wanted to show that Class '71 were not subjected to hazing when they were plebes but hazing revived when they became upperclassmen. Those who were in the Academy during those times would know that this report was baloney and misleading. Based on this erroneous premise, the book arrived at its wrong and biased conclusion that "Class '71 graduated with an experience of brutality that served as emotional gateway to torture". In Chapter 6 of the book (Torture), the book argued that evidence showed that only Class '71 exhibited intriguing coincidence of torture experience and coup. The fact is that Chapter 6 associated only one member of Class '71 to torture properly supported with alleged specific details and events. Another member was linked for murder but the book admitted it was based on an unconfirmed report. Although it mentioned three other members of the class as torturers yet it did not give any specific detail/event to prove it. This accusation technique would defy any "Rules of Evidence". Or another way of saying it using probability would be, the chance that the book is correct in linking the class to torture is 4% while the chance that the book is wrong is 96%. In short, the book has not presented sufficient evidences to warrant the serious and unfair accusation against Class '71. With its failure to correlate Class '71 to tortures, the theme of the whole book would collapse since the book rested on this basic premise. 

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To sustain its case and confuse the readers too, it constantly interchanged RAM members, torturers, rebels, and other classes to refer to Class '71.  Clearly, the book also misrepresented some facts just to support its case. First, it mentioned at least five times that the Class is 85 strong (onetime he said it is 106). Class '71 is 109 strong. He talked about Cavalier Reynaldo Acop'71 as facing charges for the mass murder of Kuratong Baleleng in 1995.  That was not true.  At any rate, one begins to doubt the historical accuracy that is supposed to go with history books. The author said it took him 10 years to do the book but reported later that he was working on it since 1985 or a total of 15 years. At one stage, it wrote that Cavalier Florendo was the classmate of Cavalier Balbas '60.

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The author was witch hunting when he talked about torture experiences boosting the will of the coup leaders to launch a succession of coups after the February Revolution. Once more, his logic was off. By the book's framework, the leader in the seat of the government would influence the state of socialization of the military. The national leader could have repaired the breakdown of socialization once the reasons for its existence would be removed. But at times, the leadership failed to see, recognize, understand, and acknowledge the idealism, patriotism, and reform-mindedness of the leaders of February revolution. The factors that led them to break socialization must first be recognized and removed before the restoration of military socialization may take place. Hopefully, the restoration of military socialization will soon be a reality. At this time when conditions are still not ripe for final transition, its success will depend greatly on the actions by the ones seated at the Malacanang Palace.

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Now let us look at methodology. Part 1 of the book about Class '40 was produced from the story of their friends and from the class themselves as collected from interviews, yearbook, letters and memoirs. Unlike Part 1, Part 2's perception about Class 71, as admitted by the author, was shaped mostly from statements and papers of the enemies of the class most notably from a newspaper daily which is known for its biased stand against the military, and also from purportedly victims of torture of the class. As the author said it was a problem of "selection rather than searching" and again it appeared that he preferred reports and stories that would fit his yearning to besmirch the class and ignore those which would not contribute to this end.

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Here is the bombshell. In comparing Classes '40 and '71, the author admits the limitation of this exercise.  Unlike behavioral sciences, he could not "eliminate all the ambit variables-ethos, era, culture, and circumstances - that distinguish events a decade or a generation apart, and thereby reduces our cases to their structural essentials" which is desired in order to create a scientific distinction between groups of people.  He admitted that the comparative technique he used was flawed as could be seen from the following quotation from the book:

"If the individual who were Class'40 had somehow, graduated in March 1971, would they behaved just like the real '71 becoming torturers and launching coups? Would circumstances have overwhelmed their individual and collective moral will? The short answer: maybe. One could make a case that Class '40 member Bartolome Cabangbang, for example, could have emerged as a Honasan-like figure under Marcos, or that Class '40, if plunged into the safe houses, would have emerged, like '71, brutalized and politicized."

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The author said it took him 10 years (or 15 years?) to publish this book because he doubted if he had enough information to make this comparison. Noticeably, he still did not have sufficient data yet he still persisted on finalizing the book. Under the pretext of literary analysis (he said he was writing history?), he still carried out the biased assessment of Class '40 and Class '71. While acknowledging the limitations on the comparative exercise, he reduced their importance by unfairly putting them in the background and only after systematically painting "devil" pictures of the class in the minds of the readers.

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In short, the interesting conclusion is this --- the comparison exercise between Class '40 and '71 found from page 1 to page 348 was invalidated by the limitation found in page 349 (the fourth page from the last page of the main book). Quoting from that page - "No doubt Class '40 would have moved in the direction of Class '71". The quote continues - ", but they MIGHT not have gone all the way to become indestinguishable.(Capitazalition is mine)". His only basis as he admitted is his instinct. He has not presented any theory at all to prove his thesis. His hypothesis crambled. There was no basis for the contrast.

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But let us see what the author really wants. It appears that the author is bent on pursuing his own agenda even at the expense of truth, facts, and coherence. Under the pretext of a historical approach to the history of the military particularly the Academy, he tried to hide his real purposes of vilifying Greg Honasan and Marcos, and criticizing the influence of male gender on a distinctly gendered institution like the PMA. It even cited the insignificant and unrelated portrayal of action star Fernando Poe, Jr, in his term, " whose violent masculinity replaced the chivalry of his father's era".  According to him, the issue of gender he presented relates to manhood in the Academy and the hazing rituals and resulting bonding among its graduates. One of the hidden agenda in this gender issue, however, was to use this as a background on the feminist issue he was trying to inject. It was not a mere coincidence that the coup events described in the book occurred during the time when a female gender was in the hot seat in Malacanang Palace. He made a remark that one of the reasons for the succession of coup was that the plotters could not accept the fact that the President was a woman. Now on Fernando Poe Jr. - who was his enemy? 

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The bulk of the attack on the book was aimed on Marcos whose name appeared at least 363 times. Honasan's name was stated at least 232 times. In many instances, the author always found time to focus on Greg Honasan -his movement, his haircut, his life, his words, his pets and even more meticulously on how his shoulder looks, his stance, his face, and his smile to make sure it will add up to his depiction of an "evil Honasan" and being careful too not to mention anything about his virtues, characters, and idealism that would negate his thesis. Honasan won as a Senator in 1995 with the big support of the people in recognition to his integrity and sincerity on serving the people. But the author saw it differently. In trying to explain the intensity of the response of the people during his senatorial candidacy in May 1995 he said -" Though fit and handsome, Honasan was approaching fifty and lacked the youthful glow that commands box office in the Filipino film industry. Perhaps RAM's reputation for torture, murder, kidnapping, and coups added an erotic element. With looks and manner eluding with power and violence, Honasan seemed to project a seductive aura of subtle threat".

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The more fitting title for this book is "Bringing Down Honasan, Marcos, Male Gender, and Fernando Poe, Jr".

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Through the years, the Philippine Military Academy, with its Honor, Fourth Class and UpperClass systems, have instilled in its graduates values as Secretary Vicente Rivera (honorary member of Class '57) said, --"unity, caring and concern for other, duty, patriotism, and what has been so deeply ingrained in every cavalier: Courage, Integrity and loyalty." These very values have been the primary weapons for the cavaliers to withstand even the most horrible time. These were the very values that allowed Cavaliers Alcaraz of Q-112 boats and Heracleo Alano of Q-111, both of Class'40, to evade what could have been a fatal attack by nine Japanese aircraft at Manila Bay in 1942. Cavalier Francisco Lumen, Class '40, could not forget the loyalty displayed by Cavalier and classmate Joe Mendoza in rousing his will to survive as he started to slip away toward death in the death march. These were the very values that sounded when Cavalier Toots Tolentino, Class '40, did not leave his mistahs in the same death march, despite given the golden opportunity to escape as planned by his relatives from Pampanga. These were the very values that were exemplified when Cavaliers Gelvezon, Baban, Osias, Cabangbang, and Alcaraz, all of Class '40, chose to tread the honorable path to fight Marcos even at the expense of forced retirement and persecution. These were the very values that allowed Cavaliers Velasco, Karingal, and Baclagon to exit with grace despite the support they had given to Marcos. The book did great in mentioning these heroism and idealism of Class '40. Class '40 is worthy of a salute for all these heroic achievements and any praises and recognitions for these actions, embodying the PMA motto of courage, integrity, and loyalty, are all well deserved.

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But what the author failed to see is that these are the very values that allowed Class '71 to withstand the numerous combat field duties in Mindanao to ensure that the people will leave in peace in their homes. This love of country, idealism, patriotism and service to the nations were paramount even if it meant death to some members of Class '71 and tears to the members of the families they left behind. These values have been the keys to the success of the Class in both the government and the private sectors. These values, particularly patriotism and not torture experiences, led them to react to Marcos betrayal to his sworn duty of honorably looking for the welfare of the state. These were the values too for other members of the class, who were supporting Marcos and other governing leaders, to accept defeat honorably. These were the very values in the vein of Honasan as he outstandingly served as Senator in the Philippine Senate today. These are the very values that Cavalier Ping Lacson '71 clings on to sustain his role as a catalyst for change, to regain the honor and prestige of the Philippine National Police. Several other members of Class '71, along with the prominent members of other classes and the rest of the Armed Forces, had helped shaped the destiny of the Armed Forces in the 20th Century.

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And most importantly, these are also the very values that guided other classes of the Academy, aside from Class '40 and '71, to unselfishly serve with honor and gut the people and the Philippine nation. General Angelo T Reyes '66, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in his paper "The Relevance of Cavaliers in the 21st Century", emphatically states how the same value training in PMA sustained the effort of all classes involved to fight Eastern Colonizer (Japan) in Bataan, Corregidor, and other parts of the country. Cavaliers, with training in PMA deeply ingrained in them, fought in Vietnam, Korea, and Congo. They fought rebellions, insurgencies, and separatists. They "fought dictatorships in both sides of the fence and practically invented and patented non-violent warfare". "In the past century, the cavaliers have fought and lost, they have fought and won, but they were never defeated in spirit", training they owed to the Academy. There is a long list of cavaliers whose steadfast display of the values of idealism and service has shaped the destiny of the country. Cavaliers, even in the private sector, in the words of Secretary Rivera, " have helped enhance professional expertise, creativity and innovation, adding greater dynamism and vigor to the economy". But they were not torturers or murderers. More so, they were not killers! On the contrary, they were the ones who got killed. Look at the countless number of alumni who died in the pursuance of the PMA's motto of courage, integrity, and loyalty and in seeing to it that the very people, who sometimes look upon them with disgrace, will live to savor the fruits of democracy and freedom in their own comfortable homes and offices.

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To reiterate, there is no basic difference between Class '40 and '71 and any other classes of the academy. The character values go with the cavaliers as they left the portal of the Academy. "Courage, Integrity and Loyalty" permeated in the minds and souls of the cavaliers. State leaders and other outside factors may lead them to react in different ways but still all in consonance with these values.

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The author's perception about the current generation of graduates of the Philippine Military Academy is wrong. The same spirit and values that the Academy has deeply embedded to its alumni, since the beginning, will be there forever. Imbued with this strength, its graduates will remain steadfast in attaining its goal of serving our country and our people despite the harsh realities of this world. As a parting word, the academy song "Strong Hearts" quoted below illustrates these undying and unfading ideals of the long gray line:

And when the taps shall sound for me
Banners drape my last remains
Let singing comrades bury me
To the echo of these strains
For hearts will live and die for Thee
Forever live in Thee
Young blood shall come to carry on
When too old strong hearts are gone.
 
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