Philippine Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation

Senator Francis N. Tolentino Leads Inquiry Discussion of Alleged Chinese Program for Members of the Philippine Military

delivered 7 August 2023, Pasay, National Capitol Region, Republic of the Philippines


[English-only transcript. Tagalog language delivery translated via professional service.)

Senator Francis N. Tolentino: Thank you, Senator Raffy. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for being late earlier.

I attended a meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth. Tammy Duckworth is now the incumbent senator from Illinois. She is a member of the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Senate. We just finished on the sixth floor. A lot of issues were discussed concerning our relationship with the United States, among others. But, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask a specific question which has been lingering on my mind for the last several weeks. And perhaps the DND [Department of National Defense] officers here can answer me.

Since 2008, as we speak now -- as we speak now, we have two cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis -- Filipino, Filipino. I have a former staff member currently there at Fort Rucker [Novosel], Alabama, undergoing training.

Since 2008, we have stopped accepting counterpart cadets from the United States going to the Philippine Military Academy. You can confirm this later.

I wonder, Mr. Chairman, every time we have a Commission on Appointments hearing, in the thick folders I read we have many military officers: O6 [rank], even Majors who, when they passed through, were graduates of the -- graduates of the "Beijing Military Academy" [People's Liberation Army National Defense University]. They studied in China, PLA Military Academy. Can you confirm this?1

We have stopped accepting cadets from the United States since 2008. Now we're sending our cadets -- PMA [Philippine Military Academy] graduates or cadets -- to the "Beijing Military Academy." What is -- What is the reason for this? We have ceased our acceptance of cadets from America.

We send cadets to -- to the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, to Annapolis, U.S. West -- West Point [U.S. Military Academy]. However, while we don't accept cadets from America, we do send cadets to the "Beijing Military Academy" in China. What is the rationale behind this? I wasnít asking during the Commission on Appointments hearing, but I see in their biodata that they are graduates of Beijing. How did this happen? Can somebody explain this? Why is it that we refuse those who are our treaty partners and allies? And we -- And we are sending our cadets from the PMA to those who harass us in the West Philippine Sea? Can somebody explain the rationale behind this?

Earlier, I didn't bring it up anymore, you know, with Senator Tammy Duckworth. Well, she lost both her legs. That was from an RPG [Rocket-Propelled Grenade] in Iraq. She was a helicopter pilot during the Iraq War; a senator from Illinois. She just left this building. So, can somebody explain this -- how we stopped in 2008 and yet we're sending to the "Beijing Military Academy" now? DND?

Defense Undersecretary Irineo Espino: Your Honor --

Senator Tolentino: Is that correct background information that I got?

USEC Espino: I think so, your Honor.

Senator Tolentino: What do you mean you "think so?" Right?

USEC Espino: Right, your Honor.

Senator Tolentino: We no longer receive -- because back then there were generals serving in the U.S. Army [who were] graduates of the PMA.

USEC Espino: Yes, sir.

Senator Tolentino: There are Admirals, Commodores who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy. They studied here. As for us, haven't we already graduated many from Annapolis, West Point, etc. etc.? But now we're having them graduate from the "Beijing Military Academy." Is that correct?

USEC Espino: Your Chair, before I retired from the service, I was superintendent of PMA and I asked that question also -- why [the] U.S. [has] stopped sending cadets?

Senator Tolentino: And when did you retire, sir?

USEC Espino: 2013, sir.

Senator Tolentino: Rowen [Tolentino] wasn't there yet? He wasn't there at the PMA yet. Not yet, right?

[cross talk]

USEC Espino: When was it -- '89, sir.

[cross talk]

Senator Tolentino: Okay. Go ahead. Go ahead.

USEC Espino: Yes, sir. And they said the U.S. stopped sending cadets to -- to us but other countries, like Singapore, they continued sending cadets to PMA; also Malaysia, they sent cadets to PMA. But I think recently they're no longer sending cadets.

Senator Tolentino: There must be a reason. So, because of that, I need another reason why we're now sending cadets to the "Beijing Military Academy." Is our system interoperable, our doctrine aligning with the trade-off in the Chinese military doctrine? How is that? I'm confused about that -- starting to send cadets to the "Beijing Military Academy." They might start speaking Chinese when they come back here.

USEC Espino: Your Honor, we -- we will check and we will ask.

Senator Tolentino: But is that true? Is that correct? There are cadets as we speak now.

USEC Espino: I heard about it, your Honor.

Senator Tolentino: So, we'll have a general who graduated from Beijing. Right? We have. Then, at the same time, we're also sending individuals to -- consistently to -- Annapolis, continuously. We stopped at -- can you provide this committee -- there must be a reason why they stopped sending cadets coming from the United States. Can you provide this? There's still a hearing, Mr. Chairman? But can you provide this committee a concrete black and white reason why they stopped? There must be a reason. It's not because it's ineffective. There must be a reason. And then can you provide this committee a reason why we started sending cadets to the "Beijing Military" -- I donít know if that's the correct name for that military institution.

USEC Espino: We will do that.

Senator Estrada: Are we requiring them or encouraging our cadets to -- to study at the "Beijing Military Academy?"

USEC Espino: [unclear]

Senator Estrada: I think this is quite alarming, and this is the first time I heard the news coming from Senator Tolentino. Are we encouraging them to -- to study at the "Military Academy of Beijing?"

USEC Espino: Your Honor, I cannot answer that. I have to find out the reason why they are sending cadets to China.

Senator Tolentino: Who is in charge? Who is in charge? Who is in charge?

USEC Espino: No. J8, your Honor.

Senator Tolentino: J8, so they give allowances. Does the Chinese government also provide allowances?

USEC Espino: Iím sure, yes.

Senator Tolentino: It has an allowance. It has billeting, lodging, accommodation. There's a patch when you graduate from -- you must learn likewise to sing the national anthem of the People's Republic of China. Alarming, indeed!

Mr. Chairman! In Cebuano, the word is nalipong. "Dizzy." So I think this has to be explained. This has to be explained. A lot of our young -- we are promoting ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps]. We are about to revive ROTC. Turns out, we are sending some there. This is confusing, Mr. Chairman! They're not there just to learn Chinese culinary and even use chopsticks. Isn't that right? The doctrine there is probably different. I just raise that, Mr. Chairman, just for the information of this committee.

Senator Estrada: Thank you for providing this vital information and Iím as surprised as you are. Because I donít think or I donít know if the Defense Department or DFD are encouraging our cadets to -- to study --

Senator Rafael Teshiba Tulfo: Mr. Chair, may I interject -- because I read an article that's part of what we call Chinese promoting influence globally. There's the entertainment aspect. If you notice, there are American movies with Chinese influence. There's the education aspect. Right now, the military. There's still the BRI -- the Belt and Road Initiative. There it is. We can clearly see that China's influence is spreading.

So this -- this is what's painful. It's good that Senator Tolentino mentioned this, that even our military is being infiltrated by them through providing free education to our JOs [Junior Officers]. And then what happens after our JOs graduate? They owe China, because they learned about Chinese influence and cultures there. They might even forget to sing Bayang Magiliw ["Beloved Country"] and already know the Chinese National Anthem instead. This is very alarming. So my question to USEC Espino -- you already knew, right? Why haven't you stopped it yet? This has to stop.

USEC Espino: Your Honor, your Chair, I was --

Senator Tulfo: I'm sorry, sir, if I can still interject. This is a slap to us. We are being bullied by China, and yet our military has no recourse. And now, our military is unable to stand up to China and say, "Stop!" We're even sending them to China to study, so this is like a slap in the face for us. USEC, sir.

USEC Espino: I agree. Totally agree, your Honor. I was given a note a while ago only CGSC [(Armed Forces of the Philippines) Command and General Staff College] and MNSA [Master in National Security Administration] counterparts were availed of by officers of the armed forces. I have to check if there are cadets sent to "China Academy." Thereís still no --

Senator Tolentino: So GSC counterparts. So these are lieutenant colonels going to China. So itís true, right? There are cadets, high ranking ones.

USEC Espino: Yes, sir, for senior officers.

Senator Tolentino: This probably won't take just one week, right -- visiting the Great Wall, visiting other sites.

USEC Espino: One year course, sir.

Senator Tolentino: You know, Mr. Chair, not to boast, I -- I won't mention who -- who the Chief of Staff was back then. When I was a battalion commander in the reserve, there was a parade in Aguinaldo. I was the one leading the parade. They said to "change your steps." They made me do the goose steps. I asked,

"Where did we get this?"
"From China.""
Well, the steps are quite high, sir."

We imitated that, right? We did the goose steps. We did the goose steps for how many years? That was difficult. My waist hurt.

USEC Espino: Yes sir, that was during the time of the late --

Senator Tolentino: No, no need to mention him. He's our friend; he's our friend. So again, these kinds of influences, we can't get rid of them. We have our own marching. God bless his soul -- we marched properly. But we imitated the march of China. The slow, high steps like that.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada: How about the short people?

Senator Tolentino: Which ones?

Senator Estrada: How will the short ones be able to march?

Senator Tolentino: Oh, everyone had a hard time with it. So sir, I just raised this point so that -- but we need the report for the committee. The reasons for the two: Why did the U.S. cadets stop [attending the] PMA? Why are we sending -- Is this an exchange? Do we have MNSA GSC Chinese counterparts attending?

USEC Espino: It was not given to me, sir.

Senator Tolentino: There are -- There are those who attended.

USEC Espino: Yes, sir.

Senator Tolentino: So they also have access to -- to -- our grounds and records that need to be re-evaluated. So, do they also reside in Aguinaldo?

USEC Espino: As of now, sir, I am not aware of any Chinese individuals who underwent GSC and MNSA.

Senator Tulfo: May I suggest, Mr. Chair, Senator Tolentino, for your consideration, that we perhaps temporarily halt any dealings with China in terms of military exchange, especially given the ongoing conflicts between China and the Philippines, and the Chinese military's bullying of our armed forces here. So let's hold off for now, because if we continue with that, our military personnel, lieutenant colonels, will be sent to the "Beijing Military Academy," which could be seen as an insult. Can we stop it, put a break right away? There are many other academies where we can send them. Why choose Beijing where they perceive us as an enemy due to their long-standing bullying?

USEC Espino: Yes, your Honor. Iím really going to inform the DSND about it.

Senator Tolentino: Third question, sir, with the permission of the Chair. Itís not just the Armed Forces of the Philippines but the Philippine National Police as well. Theyíre sending cadets to Beijing. Can you confirm that?

Senator Estrada: The representative from the Philippine National Police here? I donít think --

Senator Tolentino: I also learned -- you can verify from your counterparts. Thatís all Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the --

Senator Estrada: Can you please provide us with a comprehensive report about the -- what the Senator Tolentino provided us with this vital information. Because I, as Chairman, I find it very, very alarming that we are sending or we are encouraging -- or whatever -- cadets or even our high officers to Beijing. Please provide us with a comprehensive result within a week. Can it be done within a week?

USEC Espino: Yes, your Honor.

1 For initial clarification and subsequent updates on this question see, in order, here, here, here, and here

Original Text Source: Transcription and translation outsourced to professional service. Supplemental transcription work by Michael E. Eidenmuller

Page Updated: 9/14/23

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Public domain.
































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