By Rene Acosta & Marilou Guieb | Correspondent
The superintendent and commandant of cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) resigned from their posts on Tuesday as they accepted command responsibility over the death of cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio, which, investigators say, was the result of hazing.
Four cadets were also being expelled and another three were being suspended over the death, which prompted heads at the country’s premier military school to roll, including the relief from posts of two tactical officers and two military doctors.
Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista and Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro submitted their resignations to Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., which the Armed Forces chief of staff accepted just hours before he retires and would be succeeded by incoming chief of staff Lt. Gen. Noel Clement.
“All the administrative and criminal procedures are done already and we feel, I feel, being the one responsible as the head or superintendent, I think this is the right time that I have to step down to pave way for further investigation if it necessitates,” said Evangelista.
“Nobody actually pressured me, or looking at it on that aspect for me to resign. I think it is a, by virtue of command responsibility, it is by virtue of command responsibility, so me, together with the commandant of cadets will step down,” he added.
Evangelista’s resignation was the first for the highest leader of the PMA over a case of hazing and even by the cadets’ commandant, which in the case is Bacarro, a Medal of Valor awardee, the highest award in the military, an award only a handful of soldiers have so far managed to earn and receive.
“Although we have done everything, we volunteered to resign under the principle of command responsibility,” said Bacarro, whose records in the military were highly regarded until Dormitorio’s case arose.
“For me, my concern is to save the organization…whether you like it or not, we are the commanders. But our resignations were not an admission that we have done wrong, that we had lapses,” he added.
The resignation of the two highest leaders of the PMA comes with the separation from the academy of Cadet 3rd Class Shalimar Imperial and Felix Lubag, Cadet 1st Class Axl Rey Sanupao and Cadet 2nd Class Nickoel Termil.
Cadet 1st Class Irvin Sayud, Elbert Lucas and Christian Correa were also suspended.
Last week, the military school suspended Maj. Rex Bolo as its senior tactical officer and Dormitorio’s tactical officer, Capt. Jeffrey Batistiana.
The leadership also suspended Col. Cesar Candelaria, commanding officer of the academy’s hospital, and a certain Capt. Apostol, Dormitorio’s attending physician.
The Department of National Defense lauded the decision of Evangelista and Bacarro in resigning from their posts, saying they were the finest example of command responsibility.
“By choosing this course of action, Lt. Gen. Evangelista and Brig. Gen. Bacarro have shown the hallmark of true leadership as espoused by the military profession and the principle of command responsibility. We wish both gentlemen the best in their future endeavors,” the DND said through its Spokesman Director Arsenio “Popong” Andolong.
Dormitorio, a 20-year-old cadet from Cagayan de Oro started vomiting at 1 a.m. of September 18 and complained of stomach ache. He was found unconscious at the barracks and was rushed to the station hospital. He was pronounced dead at 5:15 a.m. due to cardiac arrest secondary to internal hemorrhage.
Medico-legal findings showed that he suffered blunt force trauma as bruises were found on his stomach and body. Evangelista assured that Dormitorio’s death will not be in vain. “PMA will take this opportunity to cleanse its ranks and further professionalize every aspect of education and training,” he vowed.
He added that the suspects are now held at the military stockade and administrative sanctions will be meted. But once the criminal charges are filed, they will be transferred to the Baguio City jail.
Violators of the anti-hazing act resulting to death will be sanctioned with reclusion perpetua with a fine of P3 million.