Maritime academy officers face probe over possible ‘neglect of duty’ | Inquirer News
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Maritime academy officers face probe over possible ‘neglect of duty’

PMMA says cadet who died was ‘manhandled’ by an upperclassman despite strict rules

SALUTE The corps of midshipmen of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy holds a necrological service for Midshipman Cadet 4th Class Jonash Bondoc who died of head injury after he was allegedly punched by an upperclassman on Tuesday. The urn bearing Bondoc’s ashes was flown home to Butuan City by his parents on Thursday. —PHOTO COURTESY OF PMMA

SAN ANTONIO, ZAMBALES — The Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) has started an investigation into possible lapses and neglect of duty of certain officers in the state-run maritime school in the wake of the death of one of its students who was punched by an upperclassman during a “traditional recognition” rite.

PMMA stressed that hazing among its corps of midshipmen, or cadets, “is not tolerated” and it will proceed with the probe despite the arrest of the suspect, Midshipman Cadet 2nd Class Jomel Gloria, amid public uproar over the death of Midshipman Cadet 4th Class Jonash Bondoc.

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Gloria was already charged with homicide for Bondoc’s death but police said he was released on a P120,000-bail on Thursday.

“The PMMA has yet to close the case and shall look into possible administrative lapses and neglect of duties for possible disciplinary measures,” Commodore Joel Abutal, PMMA superintendent, said in a statement.

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He added: “Despite the strict rules and regulations, regimented routines, heavy consequences on any form of breach of discipline, and the long-standing Honor Code System, maltreatment such as this case still happens.”

Blunt force injury

PMMA is a quasi-military institution and the country’s premier maritime school that gets funding both from the government and the shipping industry. Its graduates are conferred the rank of ensign (second lieutenant) who can choose to join either the Philippine Navy or the Philippine Coast Guard, or be a part of the private maritime industry.

The academy’s graduates have become the “finest Filipino merchant marine officers,” PMMA says on its website.

It says the school has “produced many master mariners, chief engineers, shipping executives, naval officers, excellent educators and trainers now serving in marine and maritime-related industries in (the) country and abroad.”

But the aspirations of 19-year-old Bondoc, a native of Butuan City, was cut short when he was found unconscious inside a restroom of the cadets’ barracks around 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday and was taken to the academy’s clinic before he was transferred to the hospital.

Gloria was arrested hours after Bondoc was declared dead on arrival at the San Marcelino District Hospital in this town on the same day.

Police Col. Romano Cardiño, provincial police director, said Bondoc succumbed to blunt traumatic injury in the head based on the autopsy report.

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Reforms

Investigators said Gloria admitted to punching Bondoc when they were holding a “traditional recognition” of underclass cadets from Mindanao.

Citing statements made by Gloria and some witnesses, police said the tradition was in time for the cadets’ school break after their yearlong stay inside the PMMA campus in this town.

Investigators said Gloria told them that Bondoc’s death was an accident and that he punched the victim in the chest and not in the head.

Rep. Lawrence Fortun of the first district of Agusan del Norte said Bondoc’s death happened around “suspicious circumstances” and “[should] not be allowed to pass without a truly independent, fair, impartial and comprehensive investigation.”

Fortun, a former vice mayor of Butuan, said Bondoc’s family was seeking not only justice but also reform of the system at the academy.

“[We want] to ensure that other cadets will not suffer the same fate in the hands of abusive upperclassmen and neglectful school officials,” Fortun said.

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TAGS: Jonash Bondoc, Neglect of Duty, Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, PMMA
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