A cadet's death: Lorenzana defends appointment of Bacarro as SOLCOM commander amid controversy

Published July 2, 2021, 12:48 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has defended the appointment of Major Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro as the incoming commander of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) amid strong opposition from a House lawmaker who implicated the general to the death of a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet in 2019.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (File photo/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Lorenzana said the appointment of Bacarro went through a “rigorous selection process” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Board of Generals where he was “found fit to assume higher position” in the military organization.

The AFP confirmed on Thursday, July 1, that Bacarro, the current commander of the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), was appointed by President Duterte to replace Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as the commander of the SOLCOM upon the latter’s retirement on July 26.

However, House Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez urged Duterte to recall Bacarro’s appointment since the lawmaker argued that the general was still not off the hook in the hazing death of 20-year-old PMA freshman cadet Darwin Dormitorio on September 18, 2019.

“Mr. Bacarro is one of those repsonsible for the death by hazing of PMA cadet Darwin Dormitorio on Sept. 18, 2019. Darwin was a constituent of mine in Cagayan de Oro,” said Rodriguez.

It can be recalled that Dormitorio’s death resulted in the unprecedented resignation of the PMA’s top two officials at the time: Bacarro, who was then-Commandant of the Corps of Cadets; and Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, as the PMA Superintendent.

But Lorenzana emphasized the Bacarro has since been cleared by the Baguio City Prosecutor’s Office in June 2020 from criminal charges “for lack of probable cause.” Six cadets and three officials of the PMA General Hospital were charged over Dormitorio’s death.

“On the unfortunate death of cadet Darwin Dormitorio, Maj. Gen. Bacarro was cleared by the Baguio City Prosecutor’s Office of any responsibility for lack of probable cause. Those responsible for the death of Cadet Dormitorio are now facing criminal charges,” the DND chief noted.

“It would be an injustice to Maj. Gen. Bacarro if he is prevented from moving up in the ladder of command for something that he did not commit,” he added.

Lorenzana also expressed confidence that Bacarro “will perform outstandingly” as the SOLCOM commander.

Bacarro had earlier received the Medal of Valor, the highest award given to military personnel, after he successfully led the 6th CAFGU Active Auxillary Company in a 10-hour long firefight against approximately 150 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Maconacon, Isabela.

He is a product of the PMA Class of 1988.