By Argyll Geducos and Martin Sadongdong
President Duterte was outraged when he learned about the death of a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet because of hazing and assured the family of the victim, Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio of Cagayan de Oro, that justice will be served.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was angry because hazing is an oppressive act.
“Siyempre galit siya sa nangyayari. Alam mo si Presidente (Of course, he’s outraged. You know the President), he’s one man who’s always outraged by any kind of oppression and hazing is an oppressive act,” he said.
“Kasi sinasaktan mo, intentional. Murder nga ang dating ‘pag namatay. Siyempre ayaw niya yun (Becaue you intentionally inflict harm on the person and it’s murder if he dies. The President does not want that),” he added.
But the President has not issued any directive to the authorities concerned reportedly because they already know what they should do to get to the bottom of the issue.
“Hindi naman siya kailangan mag-directive pa. Alam na nila ang dapat nilang gawin ‘pag nagkaroon ng ganitong insidente (He does not to issue any directive because the police already know what they should do during incidents like this),” he said.
Two cadets hospitalized
Meanwhile, two classmates of Dormitorio were hospitalized after complaining of stomach ache after they were reportedly “maltreated,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed yesterday.
Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said one of the cadets was hospitalized on September 17 while another on September 21.
Dormitorio likewise complained of stomach ache and vomited on September 17. He was found unconscious inside Room 209 of Mayo Hall Annex at the PMA compound in Baguio City around 3:40 a.m. last September 18. He was rushed to the PMA Hospital where he was declared dead around 5:15 a.m.
Arevalo said the military has yet to establish if there is a link in all three cases.
“Let me establish that one, hindi ko pa kasi naitanong ang particular link na ‘yan but so far, these all are fourth class cadets so they are all classmates in the PMA,” he said.
“Ang initial na diagnosis, dinadaing nila yung kanilang pain in their abdomen,” he noted.
The alleged perpetrators in the case of the two cadets had been identified and are being held at the PMA Holding Center “under tight guard” as the investigation proceeds.
“The AFP, the PMA, in particular are both enraged by these incidents and thus reiterate their strong and unequivocal positions condemning maltreatment,” Arevalo noted.
The senior tactical officer and company tactical officer of Dormitorio, both militarymen and academy officers with a rank of major and captain respectively, have also been relieved of their posts to pave way for an impartial investigation.
“They are the ground commanders sa company level so sila ang narelieve for us to have a better or impartial investigation,” said Major Reynan Afan, PMA spokesperson.
In the light of Dormitorio’s death, Panelo called on PMA superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista to step down from his post immediately.
“If I were the boss, how can I be staying a minute longer in my office if I don’t know what’s happening in my office? You are the superintendent of the PMA tapos may hazing pa diyan, bakit hindi mo alam ‘yan? Bakit hindi mo ma-stop (and then you did not know that hazing was happening in your turf? Why were you not able to stop it)?” he said.
Panelo said hazing should be treated as heinous crime and heads of institutions would be criminally charged if proven that hazing took place inside their organizations.
“Personally, I am suggesting that there must be a law that will make the heads, like the PMA, accountable criminally. Tigil ‘yan (Hazing will stop then),” Panelo said.
“‘Pag ginawa mo criminally subject sila sa prosecution, I don’t think magkakaroon pa ng hazing kahit sa mga fraternities. Gawin mo yung pinaka-head papakulong mo (I dont think there will still be hazing anywhere if you hold the heads criminally subject to prosecution and imprison them),” he added.
The Palace official said hazing would be a thing of the past if his proposal is adopted.
Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was tasked by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to investigate the hazing incident and “if evidence warrants, to file the appropriate charges against persons found responsible therefor.”
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, however does not see a need for the Senate to conduct hearings on the recent hazing incident at the PMA.
“The law is very clear and this is a clear violation of the Anti-Hazing Law as amended. They should not cross the threshold of punishing the plebes or trainees. Maliwanag naman yan (that is clear.),’’ Lacson told Senate reporters after attending a Senate budget hearing.
While he felt sad for the young cadet, Lacson also pitied those involved as they face not only administrative charges but a 40-year jail term for violating the law and a P3 million fine on those who participated in the hazing if the act results to death, rape, sodomy, or mutilation.
A penalty of reclusion temporal and a P1-million fine will be imposed on those present during the hazing, and all those who will try to hide the fact that such activity happened, and those who will obstruct any investigation that will be conducted.
Lacson, a member of PMA Class ’71 said hazing is part of the disciplinary mechanism “but times have changed and the cadets should be able to innovate.” (With reports from Jeffrey Damicog and Mario Casayuran)