PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson Salvador Panelo yesterday called for the resignation of the head of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) following the death of a freshman cadet from hazing.
Panelo issued the call even as the PMA, led by Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista, vowed to charge and prosecute all those who will be found responsible for the death of 20-year-old Cadet Fourth Class Darwin Dormitorio.
“He should [resign]. If I were the superintendent and I will not know what is happening in the academy, then I have no business staying in my position,” Panelo said.
“How come there is still hazing there? I cannot even understand that. When you are the boss, then you should be telling your underlings, ‘I will not allow it. I’ll fire all of you, I’ll put you in jail.’ If you are a weak boss, then this will happen,” he added.
He said the hazing incident was a case of weak leadership.
“I think the superiors of that academy should be held accountable, from the top to the bottom who are supposed to know what is happening in their academy,” Panelo said.
“They should be charged administratively, if not criminally.”
In a separate statement, Panelo said Malacañang was “deeply saddened” and “outraged” when it learned about the Dormitorio’s “tragic death.”
He said the Office of the President condemns the “barbaric practice of hazing in all its forms.”
“With a heavy heart, we express our sincerest condolences to the bereaved family, friends, classmates, and loved ones of the young Darwin,” Panelo said.
Panelo also said hazing should be classified as a heinous crime. “The President is outraged by any kind of oppression. That is oppression,” he said.
In June last year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11053 which imposes a fine of P3 million aside from 20 to 40 years in prison for hazing rites that would result in death, rape, sodomy or mutilation.
Meanwhile Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año yesterday vowed no cover-up in the ongoing investigation into the death of Dormitorio.
“I gave instructions to the Philippine National Police Cordillera that no cover-up and that everybody who is liable, criminally and administratively should be charged and given appropriate disciplinary action,” Año told a press conference at Camp Crame.
“I believe walang magiging cover-up o whitewash diyan. ‘Yung kadete, they are now reviewing the system paano i-empower ‘yung mga fourth year... sila dapat nagbabantay diyan ng hazing,” he added.
Philippine National Police chief General Oscar D. Albayalde said that he was told by Cordillera police regional office director Brigadier General Israel Ephraim T. Dickson that criminal charges would be filed against the suspects today.
Albayalde’s hazing experience
The PNP chief said that although he is not espousing hazing in the Academy, he would be lying to his teeth if he would say he was not hazed by his upperclassmen.
“I would be lying to say I was not hazed,” he said as he identified his upperclassmen who hazed him as now retired General Isagani R. Nerez of PMA ‘Maharlika’ Class of 1984. Albayalde belongs to PMA ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986.
“However, I even would like to thank Gen. Nerez for molding me into becoming a much better officer,” he said without detailing the kind of hazing applied to him by his upperclassman.
Gen. Albayalde said that “hazing is a matter of personal perception” in the Academy. “It’s a matter of how you accept it as a person and a matter of how you accept it as a cadet,” he said.
The PNP chief said that Fort del Pilar is ‘hallowed ground’ where cadets stay in the same barracks, where 2nd year students have the tendency to take revenge on the fourth class cadets or the new ones since they themselves suffered some kind of physical and mental hazing during their first year in the academy.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a parallel probe into the alleged hazing death of PMA cadet Dormitorio.
Guevarra ordered the NBI to conduct a case build up, and to file the necessary charges if warranted.
Authorities have identified three suspects in dormitorio’s death.
The PMA “is ready to file appropriate charges, administrative and criminal charges against those who are involved,” said academy spokesperson Maj. Ray Afan.
Hazing incidents and frat-related violence have plagued the country’s premier military training institution and other law schools, some of which resulted in death.
President Rodrigo Duterte last year signed a stronger anti-hazing law, in response to the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III.
With, Alfred Dalizon, Hector Lawas