BY VICTOR REYES and RAYMOND AFRICA
THE Philippine Military Academy has discovered more hazing cases of fourth class cadets based on a recently-concluded physical examination ordered by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a PMA official said yesterday.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, meanwhile, said a seventh cadet has been identified by witnesses as having direct involvement in the death by hazing of Fourth Class Cadet Darwin Ordinario. He declined to name the seventh suspect pending completion of sworn statements of witnesses.
Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commandant of the PMA Corps of Cadets, would not give an exact number of the new hazing cases and just said there were “only a few” more and the perpetrators are now at the PMA holding center facing investigation.
He also said hazing is not as rampant as some quarters are thinking.
“It’s not really the case. It’s not really rampant, it’s a wrong idea,” he said.
The hazing cases discovered after the physical examination of the fourth class cadets are on top of four earlier reported — that of Dormitorio who died on September 18 and three others who were brought to the AFP Medical Center on September 17, 21 and 24. One of them was later transferred to a private hospital.
Lorenzana ordered the PMA to subject all fourth class cadets to physical examination three days after Dormitorio’s death to determine if there were other victims of hazing or maltreatment by their upperclassmen.
He also said the victims should be asked to identify their attackers.
Brawner said he was told by the PMA physician yesterday that the physical examination of the cadets has been finished.
“We found out there are markings (on the body of the other cadets),” he said.
He said there was no need to confine the new hazing victims because they are in “okay” condition.
“We saw contusions (on their body). There is no need for them to be confined but we are investigating,” he said.
Brawner said the perpetrators were put at the PMA’s holding center for further investigation. He also would not say the number of perpetrators which he said were also a “few.”
Brawner said the new victims admitted being hazed and identified the perpetrators who he said are being given the chance “to defend themselves in the investigation.”
Brawner also asked parents not to pursue plans to pull out their children from the academy because of the hazing incidents, saying measures are already in place to stop hazing and “we’ll take care of them (cadets).”
Brawner replaced Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro as Corps of Cadets commandants on Thursday last week. Bacarro and PMA superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista (to be replaced by Rear Adm. Allan Cusi) resigned for command responsibility.
In his assumption speech, Brawner declared a war on hazing. He has said cadets who refuse to take part in the effort should leave the academy.
In an interview yesterday, Brawner said he has twice spoken to fourth class cadets and their upperclassmen and they have pledged their commitment to his war on hazing.
He also said he told the fourth class cadets that he is authorizing them to report any hazing case.
Año said Col. Allen Rae Co, Baguio City police chief, reported to him that seven cadets will be charged in connection for the Dormitorio’s death.
Año, in an interview with radio dzBB, also said what the cadets have done to Dormitorio was a use of excessive punishment.
Año, a member of PMA Class of 1983, admitted there was hazing during his time but what the seven suspects did to Dormitorio was too much.
“Pinapahirapan din ang plebo pero hindi naman nilalagay sa panganib ang buhay. Dito, wala silang paki-alam kung mamatay ang plebo or hindi lang nila alam na nakamamatay ang ginagawa nila (During our time, plebes also undergo hazing but not to the point that their lives will be put in danger. In Dormitorio’s case, they didn’t care if the plebe will die, or maybe they did not know that what they were doing could be is fatal),” Año added.
Año o said he has given recommendations to the PMA leadership so similar incidents will be avoided, including educating upperclassmen about the Anti-Hazing Law and having the PMA hospital manned by experts who can detect signs of hazing.
Dormitorio collapsed due to severe beatings he got from his upperclassmen after a pair of boots owned by Cadet First Class Axl Rey Sanupao, which was entrusted to Ordinario, went missing.
Last week, police identified Sanupao and cadets 3rd class Shalimar Imperial and Felix Lumbag as primary suspects. They were dismissed from the academy.
The list of cadets responsible for Dormitorio’s death rose to five after two more cadets were identified by witnesses as having direct participation in the hazing of the victim. One of them surrendered a taser flashlight which was reportedly used on Dormitorio’s private parts.
Last Friday, Co said a sixth cadet was also identified as suspect. The fourth to seventh suspects remain unidentified.
The PMA leadership has dismissed and suspended several other cadets and PMA officials.