By Martin Sadongdong
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has acknowledged the charges filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against two former Philippine Military Academy (PMA) executives in connection with a plebe’s hazing death a month ago.
Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said that Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista, ex-PMA superintendent, and Brigadier Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, ex-Commandant of Cadets, will be prepared to face the charges filed against them by the NBI-Cordillera.
Last week, the NBI-Cordillera charged Evangelista and Bacarro charges for violation of the Anti-Hazing Law over the hazing death of Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio on September 18.
“When men and women in uniform tasked to accomplish a mission are later asked to account for what they did or failed to do, that is soldiery,” Arevalo said.
“When soldiers, airmen, sailors, or marines face a military tribunal or a civilian court to answer charges for what they did or failed to do, that’s due process.”
“That is what military leaders who decide and act in all circumstances must be prepared to do,” he stressed.
Citing command responsibility, Evangelista and Bacarro both quit from their respective posts on September 24 over Dormitorio’s death at the hands of his upperclassmen.
According to media reports, the NBI found out that Evangelista and Bacarro “neither lifted a hand nor exerted efforts” to investigate or implement appropriate actions to prevent the propagation of torture and hazing within the academy.
Initial investigation by the PMA though revealed the involvement of seven upperclassmen of Dormitorio, two tactical officers and three PMA hospital officers in the incident.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Noel Clement, AFP Chief of Staff, ensured that changes within the academy were being implemented to avoid a repeat of the incident.
“A lot of things have changed already. PMA has implemented that in one room, plebes will be joined by their upperclassmen to prevent instances of maltreatment,” Clement said.
“We have stopped some of the alleged traditions in the academy that have been causes of the maltreatment. We are now encouraging cadets to, instead of giving physical punishments in the terms of physical contact, they give more exercises to the plebes to help develop their physical profile,” he added.
Clement said the measures that have been put in place were “enough at the moment” while they continue to implement long-term measures to prevent similar cases from happening.