Justice is being served… but only “partially” and “selectively.” This is the assessment of the bereaved relatives of Cadet Fourth Class Darwin Dormitorio, who was pronounced dead on arrival at the Philippine Military Academy Station Hospital at dawn on Sept. 18 last year. Investigators said the 20-year-old PMA plebe died of internal injuries after periodic beatings and torture at the hands of his upperclassmen.
PMA Cadets Third Class Shalimar Imperial Jr. and Felix Lumbag Jr. face charges of murder and hazing for the beatings suffered by Dormitorio beginning in August last year. Also charged with them are three PMA doctors, who are accused of failing to provide appropriate treatment to Dormitorio during the four times in two months that he was hospitalized: Lt. Col. Ceasar Candelaria, Maj. Ofelia Beloy and Capt. Flor Apostol.
Cadet Second Class Christian Zacarias faces charges of serious physical injuries for allegedly kicking Dormitorio on the head the night before the plebe lost consciousness and died. Cadet Third Class Julius Carlo Tadena, who is accused of inflicting second degree burns with a taser on Dormitorio while other cadets watched, faces charges of hazing.
To the dismay of Dormitorio’s relatives, however, Baguio prosecutors dismissed the charges against three other cadets – Axl Rey Sanopao, Rey Volante and John Vincent Manalo – as well as former PMA superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista and former commandant of cadets Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro. The two generals were accused of dereliction of duty. Also cleared were Maj. Rex Bolo and Capt. Jeffrey Batistiana.
While Dormitorio’s relatives welcomed the filing of the charges in court, his brother Dexter expressed dismay over the clearing of the other respondents, saying, “We only yearn for fair justice, but at this juncture, we feel like we are already being deprived of it.”
By numerous accounts, hazing has become an ugly tradition that the PMA has been hard-pressed to eradicate. The passage of Republic Act 11053 or the Anti-Hazing Law in 2018 puts more pressure on the PMA and other educational institutions to eliminate the inhuman and often lethal practice.
Eliminating hazing, however, can be achieved only if potential perpetrators are deterred by the certainty that justice will be served – fully and without selectiveness. The case of Darwin Dormitorio is expected to serve as an example of the full and fair implementation of the law.