By Artemio Dumlao, September 25 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines — Top officials of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) led by its superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista relinquished their posts following the hazing death of cadet Darwin Dormitorio last week.

Commandant of cadets Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro also tendered his resignation after finishing the probe on the death of Dormitorio.

At a news conference here yesterday, the PMA officials also announced that the four upperclassmen involved in the hazing were “separated from the service.”

The others were suspended while active military officers involved in the training of cadets were relieved from their posts.

Other PMA officials, particularly the attending physicians of the PMA hospital, were placed under administrative investigation.

Evangelista said all reports for the administrative and criminal cases against the cadets directly involved in the hazing were concluded for prosecution.

“I did not leave my post in the midst of crisis. I faced the problem squarely and we have finished the investigation,” Evangelista said.

And the last act that the military training institution demands, Evangelista said, is to take responsibility for what happened.

“In the military tradition of command responsibility, it is now the proper time for me as head of the institution, together with the commandant of cadets, to relinquish our respective positions,” he said.

Dormitorio was confined at the PMA hospital twice last August complaining of stomach pains, a medical condition the doctors diagnosed as urinary tract infection.

On Wednesday last week, an unconscious Dormitorio was rushed to the hospital where he later died from internal injuries apparently sustained during hazing.

Evangelista said the tragic death of Dormitorio was a lesson learned.

“PMA takes this opportunity to cleanse its ranks and further professionalize every aspect of education and training. All that is right, legal and moral must be learned, experienced and inculcated in every lesson, activity, interaction and relation in every cadet’s four-year journey in the PMA,” Evangelista said.

“It is our hope and prayer that all actions have been faithful to what this institution stands for: courage to seek and face the truth, integrity to defend what is right and loyalty to the honorable life that makes us worthy to be called PMA-ers.”

Evangelista admitted “it was wrong” for Dormitorio to die in this manner in the PMA.

“It was wrong for a cadet to die at the hands of fellow cadets. Maltreatment is wrong in the PMA,” he said.

Entire nation is watching

While waiting for an official order over their replacement, Evangelista assured the family of Dormitorio that the PMA leadership has exhausted all that is humanly possible to ferret out the whole truth behind the incident and identify those responsible.

Bacarro meanwhile explained their resignation was not an admission of negligence of their respective duties and obligations, rather to save the PMA as an institution under the doctrine of command responsibility.

Their resignations came a day after Evangelista himself declared that he is not resigning his position but as a soldier, he is ready to go, if so ordered by President Duterte, the commander-in-chief and the sole appointing authority.

“His (Evangelista) resignation will pave the way for an impartial investigation,” said Dexter Dormitorio, the eldest of Dormitorio’s siblings in a radio interview with dzBB.

“We believe that more cadets were involved,” he added.

Dexter added his late brother could have incurred the ire of upperclassmen after learning their father Willy was of PMA Class 1974.

He also said their mother is a relative of the wife of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a retired Armed Forces chief.

Año ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to take custody of the personalities involved in the fatal hazing of Dormitorio.

“All those involved should answer. All parties that are criminally and administratively liable should be charged,” Año said.

Año warned investigators against withholding information that would result in a whitewash, adding that they must always be transparent to the public.

“The entire nation is watching us. So, let’s do the investigation properly. We owe it to the family of the victim,” he said.

Año said he respects the decision of Evangelista to quit.

“Probably for him it is the most honorable thing to do. With this, the public is assured that he cannot influence the investigation of the case in any manner,” Año said.

Malacañang commended Evangelista and Bacarro for tendering their resignation.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said  Evangelista showed “his kind of delicadeza by resigning as superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy.”

Panelo said other government officials should follow the PMA officials’ example, especially during controversies during their watch.

“Immediately nag-resign siya, including the deputy I understand, and this is the right step to maintain the integrity of the Philippine Military Academy,” Panelo added.

Panelo assured the public Malacañang will be monitoring developments in the hazing case.

“We will of course proceed with the investigation, and we will prosecute those who are behind this murderous – I will classify this murderous because hazing is intentional inflicting physical injuries on the victim,” he said.

Panelo said the Office of the President “guarantees that there will be no whitewash and expects that justice will be rendered for those responsible for the PMA plebe’s death.”

Senators, for their part, lamented the expense in maintaining the schooling of cadets in the premier military institution.

Sen. Ralph Recto said PMA cadets are also Iskolars ng Bayan whose studies are shouldered by taxpayers.

On a per student subsidy, PMA cadets occupy the top tier in the country’s million-plus public college student population.

Using the previous four years’ appropriations and reported number of cadets admitted, the cost of producing one PMA graduate is about P2.982 million, he said.

“It is six times more expensive to produce one commissioned officer out of The Long Gray Line in Baguio than to produce one scientist out of the picket lines of Diliman,” Recto said.

As such, PMA cadets, he said are “the people’s investments,” to whom the defense of the republic will later be entrusted.

“If they will have to drop out, then it must be on their own steam, and not on a stretcher out of a hospital or morgue,” Recto said.

“The PMA’s grief for losing one of its own should be translated into justice it must relentlessly pursue,” he said.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, for his part, said he is against hazing but maintained the cadets in the PMA must undergo rigid training to prepare them for the challenges they will face in the field.

Dela Rosa said hazing rites should be stopped in the PMA.

Dela Rosa, of PMA Class 1986, admitted that he himself underwent hazing during his time as a cadet.

He said he was made to drink half a bottle of patis (fish sauce), which made him groggy for almost a week.

He added there are means of training other than subjecting freshmen to hazing. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Jaime Laude, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Christina Mendez