Murder at camp

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    IT is a fact in our society that the surviving family members of victims of heinous crimes have to undergo the ordeal of seeking justice in an obviously inhospitable environment.

    The list is long and still getting longer: the Sarmenta and Gomez families, the Evangelistas, the Chiongs in Cebu City, the Bernabe and Castanos families, the Barramedas, the Castillos, etc. Names that soon to become familiar are added from time to time, the latest being the family of Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio of the Philippine Military Academy, a victim of hazing.

    Seven cadets are now under AFP custody for the killing of Dormitorio. A general court martial will be convened against the seven accused for violating Articles of War 97 or Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline. The seven cadets are Shalimar Imperial, Felix Lumbag Jr., John Vincent Manalo, Julius Carlo Tadena, Ray David John Volante, Christian Zacarias and Rey Sanopao. They are also charged with murder and violations of the Anti-hazing Law before the Baguio City prosecutor’s office.

    The case of Cadet Dormitorio is unique, for he did not die in an ordinary fraternity hazing incident, just like UST law student Horacio Castillo III. Dormitorio was a cadet who would not be silenced in the face of what he perceived as petty injustices inside the academy. He was given to telling the truth, which was misinterpreted by his upperclassmen as complaining to the higher ups. The other cadets thought he was not a team player, because he refused to look the other way.

    It took only a missing pair of boots owned by a senior cadet to start the hazing attack on Dormitorio that led to his death. The attackers had bias and an ax to grind against him. It was not a spur of the moment.

    To die of disease, a well-placed bullet, the heart stopping to pump, or an air or road accident is unfortunate, but may still be considered acceptable. After all, we know all of us will die someday, and the natural causes of death are many. But to die in the hands of your colleagues, beating you to a pulp and receiving verbal assaults and mockery and vitriol to boot is just not acceptable in a civilized society.

    We are more interested in the progress of the murder and anti-hazing law violations filed by the Dormitorio family at the prosecutor’s office in Baguio against the seven attackers, along with five of their tactical officers. The court martial proceedings, despite their high-sounding name, may just degenerate into an administrative case and not a felony, for we see here men in uniform who were steeled in military tradition that includes hazing, passing judgment on cadets wearing the same uniform.

    The spokeswoman of the PMA said the convening of the general court martial is proper as the seven accused were part of the cadet corps of the AFP and are subject to military rules and regulations.

    We agree, and dare to go farther than that, as we push for the highest punishment for this monstrous killing the civilian and military courts combined can muster.

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