By Martin Sadongdong
PHILIPPINE MILITARY ACADEMY, Baguio City – The discharge orders of all the cadets behind the death of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio are ready for implementation pending the order of President Duterte, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) disclosed on Tuesday.
Lieutenant General Noel Clement, AFP Chief of Staff, said they were just waiting for the approval of President Duterte to officially implement it.
“The discharge orders are already in place. We are just awaiting confirmation from the Office of the President for them to be discharged since the cadets are appointed by the President,” Clement said.
The police had earlier named seven cadets as suspects in the death of Dormitorio.
They are Cadets 3rd Class Felix Lumbag Jr. and Shalimar Imperial, Cadet 1st Class Axl Rey Sanopao, Cadet 3rd Class John Vincent Manalo, Cadet 2nd Class Christian Zacarias, Cadet 3rd Class Rey David John Volante, and Cadet 3rd Class Julius Carlo Tadena.
Manalo allegedly tried to suffocate Dormitorio by placing a plastic bag on his head on September 14.
On the morning of September 17, Lumbag, Imperial and Sanupao allegedly subjected Dormitorio to hazing due to a missing pair of boots.
On the same day, Dormitorio was also allegedly maltreated by Zacarias and when he returned to his room, he was kicked in the head by Volante since the latter thought the victim was only acting up.
Just before midnight, Dormitorio was allegedly tasered in his private parts by Tadena.
It was not clear, however, if all seven will be separated from the military service.
Shalimar, Lumbag, and Sanupao were already ordered discharged from the academy, as announced earlier by resigned PMA superintendent Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista.
Clement said the cadets are under the supervision of the PMA while the criminal investigation being conducted by the police is ongoing.
He confirmed that a separate inquiry by the AFP Inspector General (IG) on the death of Dormitorio has already been completed.
“The Inspector General has submitted to me his report and what I asked from the IG is to look into the processes and systems that have to be looked into to correct what happened to Cadet Dormitorio,” Clement said.
“The IG did not divulge the specifics of the culpability [of the cadets] but more on the systems [of the PMA] that have to be corrected,” he added.
Clement reminded PMA cadets not to tolerate injustices as what their “Honor Code” mandates them to do.
Clement issued the statement as he presided over the change of command ceremony between Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista, resigned PMA superintendent, and his successor, Rear Admiral Allan Cusi.
“Aside from the sacred Honor Code, it is our moral duty to protect our alma mater and the best way to do that is to do the right thing all the time,” he said.
“Maltreatment has never been right and will never be right in any circumstances. Do not be afraid to speak in the midst of injustice,” he stressed.
The Honor Code is deemed sacred by the PMA cadets as it governs their life inside the academy.
Through the honor system, the cadet binds himself to a code which states: “We, the cadets, do not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate among us those who do so.”
“The capacity to withstand stress and pressure is not the sole determinant of being a ‘snappy cadet.’ Being a good soldier and a good leader requires more than endurance and tolerance of pain,” Clement said.
“Rather the yardstick we must employ is one that is anchored on principle, sense of justice, and love of and service to our country and fellow Filipinos,” he stressed.
Clement challenged Cusi to rid the PMA of maltreatment and lead the reorientation of cadets on their views of authority and responsibility.
In response, Cusi said that he would personally talk to all the cadets to establish a personal relationship with them.
He noted that setting a “good example” to the cadets will be a major factor in eliminating their violent tendencies.
“You change their (cadets) heart and soul first. It’s very critical to have the best officers assigned here at the PMA,” Cusi said.
Clement also apologized to the bereaved family of Dormitorio as he asked for their “understanding.”
“Words may not be enough to convey our most profound apologies. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and we could only hope for your understanding,” he said.