PMA officials relieved as cadet's hazing death probed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — Two officers of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) with "direct responsibility" over the fatal hazing of cadet Darwin Dormitorio have been relieved pending investigation.

The PMA and the Baguio police, in a joint statement on Monday, said this will ensure the probe will be impartial.

"It is in PMA and everyone's interest for the truth to be exposed, for all persons responsible to be identified, and for a solid case to be established," they said.

PMA spokesperson Major Rey Afan said a senior tactical officer and the company tactical officer were relieved. 

Malacañang lamented the negligence of PMA officials to prevent the incident.

"There is a failure in leadership as regards being negligent in not stopping this murderous ritual which has no place in a civilized society," presidential spokesperson Sal Panelo said in a statement.

More PMA cadets involved

Authorities said the ongoing investigation revealed that aside from the three cadets who have been previously identified as prime suspects, they are also looking into two other cadets as new persons of interest.

Meanwhile, nine cadets are considered witnesses in the fatal hazing of the PMA plebe.

"Maltreatment is never and will never be a part of the academy's mission to instruct, train, and develop the cadets," the PMA and PNP Baguio said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the three prime suspects in Dormitorio's death are all under PMA's tight watch. AFP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said six senior cadets will be facing administrative proceedings with four cadets to be discharged from the academy and two will be suspended based on their "possible liabilities" in violating PMA regulations. He added one cadet will be meted with the highest form of penalty, including demerits and suspension of privilege.

PMA chief won't resign over hazing death

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also ordered a strip search for all first year cadets to see who has fallen victim to hazing. He visited the PMA campus on Saturday and addressed both upperclassmen and plebes, saying that anyone who does not report or ignores physical and psychological abuses among their ranks are "as guilty as those who are perpetrators."

"Ngayon, ang utos ko sa superintendent is lahat ng mga first year o plebo, i-subject nila sa physical examination, all of them from head to foot. 'Yung mga may pasa diyan, tanungin kung sino ang gumawa para ma-identify natin kung sino talaga 'yung mga gumagawa and we are going to deal with them at the full extent of the law," Lorenzana told reporters.

[Translation: Now, I have instructed the superintendent to subject all first year or plebes to physical examination from head to foot. Those who have bruises, ask them who did it to them so we can identify who are behind this and we are going to deal with them at the full extent of the law.]

The ongoing investigation is also looking into the need to review the policies and systems on the healthcare management of the cadets following Dormitorio's questionable hospital discharge.

Two more PMA cadets in hospital after suffering suspected 'maltreatment' – AFP

On September 17, Dormitorio was brought to the PMA Hospital, where he was diagnosed with urinary tract infection and discharged after a four-hour observation. Hours later, he was back to the barracks where he started vomiting. He was found unconscious early morning the next day. He was rushed to the hospital, but was declared dead on arriival, Police Director Allan Rae Co of the Philippine National Police's Baguio unit said.

The Dormitorio family said they will file murder charges, in violation of the Anti-Hazing Law, against the cadets involved, saying they were assured by the PMA that the academy will shoulder expenses related to the incident.

Republic Act No. 11053 or the "Anti-Hazing Act of 2018" bans all forms of hazing and orders the regulation of initiation rites — physical and psychological — of fraternities, sororities, and organizations to make it safer for recruits. The law also covers the citizens' military and army training.

The law penalizes violators with life imprisonment and a P3-million fine if a hazing rite leads to death, rape, sodomy, or mutilation. The previous anti-hazing law did not include a fine.

Those who are present and were involved in the planning and conduct of a hazing incident, including the faculty adviser, will be imposed a fine.

Dexter, Darwin's brother, said the family will also file criminal charges against the involved PMA officials. He added they were told by PMA Spokesperson Major Rey Afan that the institution will also file administrative charges against the erring officials.

The Department of Justice on Monday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a separate investigation and case build-up on the incident. Two resolutions have also been filed in the House of Representatives calling for an investigation into the hazing.