‘Somehow, I failed’: PMA chief resigns after cadet’s hazing death

By Eimor Santos, CNN Philippines

The head of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) has quit his post as the institution wrapped up its investigation into the suspected hazing death of Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio.

PMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista on Tuesday said he has submitted his resignation to outgoing Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal this morning.

“Just this morning, all the investigations are done already. The criminal case [is] being prepared now by the [Philippine National Police],” Evangelista told CNN Philippines’ Balitaan.

“I think this is now the right time for me and the commandant and others to step down to pave way for the impartial investigation if still needed,” he added.

BGen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro also relinquished his post as Commandant of Cadets. The Armed Forces said the resignations of Evangelista and Bacarro have been accepted.

Evangelista said a total of seven individuals will now face administrative charges, including the senior tactical officer and the company tactical officer who were earlier relieved. The head of the PMA Hospital and the physician who attended to Domitorio will also be sacked.

Dormitorio’s older brother, Dexter, said he visited the cadet on August 25 after reading a letter written by Dormitorio from the hospital. Dexter said his younger brother assured him he was okay. He also found no bruises on Dormitorio’s body.

However, the 20-year-old cadet was brought back to the PMA Hospital on September 17. He was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and discharged after a four-hour observation. Hours later, he was back at the barracks where he started vomiting. He was found unconscious early morning the next day. He was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Blunt force trauma was ruled as the cause of the death of Dormitorio. Three cadets have been identified as prime suspects, with two other trainees eyed as persons of interest, authorities said. Nine other cadets are considered witnesses to the crime.

Military: Two more cadets in hospital for suspected ‘maltreatment’

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a separate inquiry.

‘Somehow, I failed’

Evangelista stressed that no one presured him into resigning, adding that it was something he had to do “by virtue of command responsibility.”

“We did practically everything. But you know accidents happen. This is an isolated one,” Evangelista said.

“But whatever the reason is, may namatay talaga and somehow, really, I failed,” he added.

Evangelista earlier said only President Rodrigo Duterte can ask him to vacate his post, after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo questioned his leadership. Panelo said Evangelista should have known that hazing still persists in the training camp for aspiring military officers.

Panelo on Tuesday commended Evangelista for quitting, saying it is “a right step towards upholding the integrity of the PMA as the country’s premier military institution” He added that it shows the lieutenant general had delicadeza, or was doing the right thing.

Meanwhile, Bacarro stressed that their resignation is not tantamount to an admission of shortcomings, but was done to “save the organization.”

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