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Editorial

Torture, not hazing

/ 05:08 AM October 04, 2019

You know,” Gen. Oscar Albayalde told reporters, “hazing is a matter of personal perception,” like an “accusation” that depends on “how you will accept it as a person and how you will accept it as a cadet.”

The chief of the Philippine National Police, in an apparent effort to airbrush the death of a plebe at the Philippine Military Academy, was suggesting a subjective dimension to the savage practice that precedes entry into an exclusive organization and is said to be particularly brutal in the military and police institutions—a murderous ritual in the eyes of “outsiders,” yet mere par for the course for those seeking admission into the “brotherhood.”

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But how to perceive the terrible punishment that Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio endured in the hands of his upperclassmen at the PMA other than what it is—hazing so violent it amounted to torture? As pieced together in a report by Baguio City police from their investigation that included taking eyewitness accounts, starting in August the 20-year-old was, among other things: punched and kicked for more than 20 minutes during which he fell down a number of times; hit in the face causing a severe nosebleed; almost asphyxiated with thick plastic sprayed with rubbing alcohol pressed on his face, with his hands tied behind his nape and his upper body and legs held firmly to keep him motionless on the floor; kicked at least five times on the right side of his body while lying where he had fallen; kicked on the forehead; and tasered on his genitals.

At certain times he was ordered to report to his upperclassmen’s quarters from which he emerged “shivering and in pain,” and at one point was observed unable to stand, “noticeably in pain” and “holding on to his stomach.”

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Cadet Dormitorio was taken to the PMA Military Station Hospital four times, during which he was found with multiple soft-tissue hematoma and burns on his left shoulder, as well as respiratory tract infection and soft-tissue contusion in the chest. On one occasion he was diagnosed with urinary tract infection; upon discharge, he was noted by his roommates as “weak” and “pale.”

Nearing the end, he vomited a number of times. Yet, accused of pretending to be ill in order to escape work assignments, he was ordered to do squat thrusts the number of which he was unable to fulfill.

Cadet Dormitorio’s final night at Room 209 was a lingering agony. From 12:30 a.m. to past 2 a.m. he alternated between fitful sleep and throwing up. He was seen at 3 a.m. “kneeling with his head resting on the floor” and, at 3:20 a.m., “sitting on the floor, his back and head resting against a study table.” At 3:20 a.m. a duty sentinel came by. Cadet Dormitorio’s two roommates rose but he stayed on the floor unmoving. The sentinel ordered that he be awakened, to no avail. At 3:50 a.m. an ambulance came to take him to the PMA hospital, where attempts to revive him proved futile.

Cadet Dormitorio, son of a retired Army colonel and PMA alumnus, was pronounced dead at 5:15 a.m. of Sept. 18.

From this outrage that cries to the heavens for justice has arisen a rarity: the resignation of Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista and Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, PMA superintendent and commandant of cadets, respectively. The upperclassmen responsible for the plebe’s death—Lumbag, Imperial, Manalo, Sanupao, Tadena, and still others, their names literally leaving a bad taste in the mouth—are detained and facing trial preparatory, it should be obvious, to life imprisonment.

Other officials are clearly complicit in this young man’s slow killing and should be dealt with according to the full force of the law, including the medical personnel—the physician Flor Apple Apostol, for example—who, having perfected the perverse art of looking away, did nothing and sent him back to his tormentors.

The rookie senator and PMA alumnus Bato dela Rosa, as always blind to the bright glare of irony, said hazing had made him the man he is today. Dela Rosa’s claim not only acknowledges the perpetual cycle of violence animating the academy but also the cowardice patent in upperclassmen beating a plebe who, as dictated by the hierarchy of command, cannot fight back. Imagine this creed perpetuated in the mandatory ROTC training that he is pushing.

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The heart bleeds for the parents who had sent their bright-eyed boy to the Philippines’ premier military institution and then months later received his battered remains in a box.

But it was also the nation’s loss. “Napakalakas po ng batang ito, napakatibay ng loob, at napakatibay ng katawan,” the Baguio City police chief, Col. Allen Rae Co, said of Cadet Dormitorio. Who knows what this vigorous young man of remarkable inner strength and physical stamina could have become?

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TAGS: Baguio City, Darwin Dormitorio, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, hazing, Philippine Military Academy
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