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AFP report: PMA probes at least 27 more cases of ‘maltreatment’

/ 07:30 AM October 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — At least 27 cases of alleged maltreatment are being investigated at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in the wake of the hazing death of freshman cadet Darwin Dormitorio, an internal military report revealed.

Fifty-two cadets have been moved to confinement pending investigation on these 27 cases, which were documented between September 16 and 27, said the Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a confidential report completed in late September. The report was seen by INQUIRER.net.

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Thirty-eight 3rd Class cadets or in sophomore year; and seven cadets each from 2nd and 1st Class or in junior and senior year are being investigated by the Department of Tactical Officers in the Baguio City-based military school. Five of those being questioned are female cadets, the report also noted.

As of September 27, 22 4th Class cadets or freshmen have been reported to be in different hospitals for alleged maltreatment, the report said.

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PMA commandant of cadets Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. confirmed in an interview that an investigation on other alleged hazing cases, which were mostly discovered only after Dormitorio’s death, is ongoing. He could not immediately provide the exact number of cases, however.

“This was an outcome of the medical examination on plebes that was ordered by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana after Dormitorio’s death. We are being careful with the ongoing investigations. The cadets should be accorded due process,” he said in Filipino.

Some of those being investigated have been reporting to class while the others have been confined in a holding area, he said. Some of those who were brought to hospitals have also returned to PMA.

Death of Dormitorio

The country’s premier military school came under fire after the death of Dormitorio last September 18 due to injuries he sustained from the beatings of his upperclassmen.

Seven senior cadets, two tactical officers, and three military doctors have been charged in connection to his death.

Those facing criminal charges were PMA Cadets 3rd Class Shalimar Imperial, Felix Lumbag Jr., John Vincent Manalo, Julius Carlo Tadena, and Rey David John Volante; Cadet 2nd Class Christian Zacarias; and Cadet 1st Class Axl Rey Sanopao.

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Also charged were tactical officers Maj. Rex Bolo and Cpt. Jeffrey Batistiana, and doctors Lt. Col. Cesar Candelaria, Cpt. Apple Apostol, and Maj. Ofelia Beloy.

Persistent beatings

Earlier, local police reports said that Dormitorio had to put up with torture from his seniors even a month before his death.

Lumbag was already ordered on August 29 to stay away from all plebes especially from Dormitorio after causing the latter’s first hospitalization due to maltreatment.

Dormitorio was confined at the PMA Hospital from August 20-27 due to severe beatings from Lumbag.

The death of Dormitorio could have been prevented if the tactical officer, Cpt. Batistiana, strictly implemented the sanction on Lumbag or immediately isolated Lumbag after maltreating Dormitorio last August 19, the military report said.

But it was also found that Batistiana, who assumed his position as a tactical officer of Echo Company last August 14, had taken a paternity leave two weeks after his designation.

Lt. Juny Ross Quibilan, the tactical officer of Foxtrot Company, temporarily took over his post at that time. Batistiana returned to duty just a few days before the maltreatment that led to the death of Dormitorio, the report also said.

The cadet’s death could have also been avoided if the station hospital was “more prudent in diagnosing patients,” especially in maltreatment cases, it added.

But the report also cited a separate medical audit report from AFP Health Service Command and The Surgeon General, concluding that there was no indication that the medical practitioners were remiss in their duties and responsibilities when they handled Dormitorio.

The doctors earlier said that there were no signs of maltreatment on Dormitorio when he was brought to the hospital in the morning of September 17, where he stayed for a few hours and was diagnosed with urinary tract infection.

The suspects should have respected Dormitorio’s status of “sick-in-quarters” (SIQ) or excused from duty due to treatment, the report pointed out.

But Dormitorio’s seniors continued to beat him even after he was discharged from the hospital that day, leading to his death.

Deeper probe

The report likewise found that tactical officers appeared to be “complacent” in handling the cadets.

“The complacency is also evident in the case of Dormitorio where he was not protected, being an SIQ, from the upperclass cadets and for not bringing him to the hospital earlier on the night of 17 Sept.,” the report said.

The tactical officers are supposed to be directly responsible for the administration and discipline of cadets.

There was also “no immediate action” after it was found that there were cadets with manifestations of maltreatment based on the periodic “stripping” conducted on cadets to look for signs of injuries.

The results of the said strippings were also not counter-checked and supervised by the tactical officers.

The report recommended that the tactical officers should be investigated “for possible neglect of duty and negligence in dealing with maltreatment.”

It further proposed for an investigation on the possible accountability of Cadet 1st Class Benson Tasic for bringing Dormitorio to the room of Zacarias, who supposedly beat the plebe a few times before he was brought to the hospital in the morning of September 17, or a day before he died.

System overhaul

The Philippine Military Academy has initiated a series of reforms and launched a review of its policies following the death of Dormitorio.

The last time a cadet died in the academy due to hazing was 18 years ago.

Brawner said some of the new developments include changes in room assignments, an overhaul in healthcare system, more attention on mental health, installation of CCTV cameras, use of honor system in offenses in school regulations, and review of training culture, among others.

But Brawner admitted that things may not change overnight for it will take time to observe if these solutions will be effective to stamp out the alleged culture of violence in the state’s leading military school. /kga

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TAGS: Crime, Darwin Dormitorio, hazing, investigation, Local news, Military, military school, Nation, national news, news, Philippine news updates, PMA
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