Was Darwin hazed and tortured to death?

Published September 28, 2019, 12:04 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

At around 9 p.m. of August 20, Darwin Dormitorio wrote by hand:

“The 4th class of Echo Company he told to signify the allowance in order to track the allowance spending of plebes. I already spent half of my allowance and it was an offense to my buddies namely Cadet Imperial, Cadet Lumbag. I fell from bridge under bunk many times and hit the floor many times. Cadet Lumbag was very angry and made me raise my arm up high and punched me in the body in the rib part. I was hit a few times more after.”

In the next few days and weeks, Darwin would be beaten up more times and even tased, right inside the Philippine Military Academy.

According to the police, Darwin was not only hit in the head by upperclassmen but also electrocuted in his genitals.

The suspects used a flashlight taser to inflict pain on Dormitorio, the police said.

Even staff of the PMA Station Hospital may be in cahoots.

By September 18, Darwin would die, just under two months after entering the PMA as a 4th Class cadet.

More details of Darwin’s agony due to hazing and what are arguably acts of torture are coming out as his family and the public demand a full investigation into the circumstances of his death.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago and Cagayan de Oro Reps. Rolando Uy and Rufus Rodriguez are justifiably furious. Darwin was among their constituents. But unlike these members of Congress, the likes of Senator Bato dela Rosa and PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde justify the hazing as “necessary”.

Newly minted military chief Noel Clement, whose name was tagged in the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, was quick to prejudge the ongoing investigation by saying Darwin’s was “an isolated case.”

The noises made by Dela Rosa, Albayalde, and Clement betray a web of deadly hazing and torture in the PMA, and everyone should stand behind Darwin’s family to investigate   his death and ultimately dismantle this infrastructure of violence.

Let us tell them: There is no acceptable justification — or alibi — to whitewash the role of the military leadership and the PMA administration in perpetuating, encouraging, hiding, and rationalizing hazing and torture as part of “military training” in the PMA.  Those who repeatedly beat up Darwin did so with the knowledge that they are “continuing a tradition.”

It also did not escape our attention that investigators and authorities are using the word “maltreatment” to downplay what was done to Darwin. Indeed, what “maltreatment” are they talking about?

Hazing does not adequately and correctly describe what the other cadets did to Darwin, and which authorities appear to have turned a blind eye on. The anti-hazing law states that hazing refers to “initiation rites… placing the recruit, neophyte, or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish, and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury.”

Another law may actually fit what the beasts did to Darwin. I refer to the anti-torture law which prohibits “act(s) by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession; punishing him/her for an act he/she or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed; or intimidating or coercing him/her or a third person; or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a person in authority or agent of a person in authority.”

“Other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment” refers to a deliberate and aggravated treatment or punishment not enumerated, inflicted by a person in authority or agent of a person in authority against a person under his/her custody, which attains a level of severity causing suffering, gross humiliation, or debasement to the latter,” the law adds.

Acts of torture include “systematic beating, headbanging, punching, kicking, striking with truncheon or rifle butt or other similar objects, and jumping on the stomach” and “mutilation or amputation of the essential parts of the body such as the genitalia, ear, tongue, etc.”

Victims of acts of brutality and torture in the hands of the military and the police from the time of the Marcos dictatorship until the present are understandably shocked because of what they read and hear as having been inflicted on Darwin.

The use of hazing and torture in military training does not inspire but violate public confidence. People expect that military training involves molding cadets into professional, patriotic, and law-abiding protectors of the people and state. People view the PMA Honor Code as a code of ethics, not like an omertà for a training school for brutal and corrupt criminals. People honor PMA cadets as among the country’s best and brightest, and thus agree to giving them a bigger budget compared to University of the Philippines students. Hazing and torture violate and warp this public confidence, and make the public insecure, that future soldiers are being trained to be inhumane against one another — or just a step away from being brutal against the people.

We are thus justified in calling for a full, joint congressional inquiry into Darwin’s death, and the hazing and torture that led to to his demise. This is no isolated case as reports come out that other cadets are now recuperating in the hospital. And definitely unjustifiable and unacceptable as a method of training. We owe justice to Darwin and his family. We owe young people everywhere and ourselves to make sure the PMA that does not train and perpetuate lawless torturers and brutes.