MANILA -- While condemning hazing, former Philippine military chief and current Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista said other factors could have played into the death of a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet.
Bautista, a PMA graduate, said the investigation into the death of Darwin Dormitorio should be allowed to run its course before determining what extent of reforms should be done in the academy.
"'Yung hazing malalaman natin sa imbestigasyon. Kasi ang alegasyon mahirap makita 'yan," he said.
"Kasi pwedeng mahina ang katawan mo dahil nag-exercise ka o masyado kang napuyat kahit sa pagpupuyat. So ayun ang sinasabi kong complication sa kadete sa PMA."
Police said Dormitorio, who complained of stomach pain before dying in the hospital, had bruises on his stomach, a possible sign of hazing.
Two upper-class cadets are being investigated by the PMA over the incident.
PLEDGE AGAINST HAZING
Bautista, a member of the PMA "Sandiwa" class of 1985, maintained his stand against hazing, having encountered it first-hand during his first year at the academy.
Bautista was a fellow plebe (first-year cadet) of Andres Ramos Jr., a Philippine Constabulary general's son, who died in November 1981 of traumatic shock after being beaten up by senior cadets.
The following year, cadet John Rualo Castriciones was sentenced by a military court to five years of hard labor, while another cadet, Gabriel Velasco, was suspended from the PMA for not reporting the incident.
Bautista said he only recalled enduring hardships together with his fellow cadets as part of their training, but that did not include hazing.
"Sa akin naman, lambing ng mga magkakapatid. Kung mayroon man kaming paghihirap, karamihan dito 'yung mga exercises talaga at ang intent ng mga exercises na ito ay palakasin ang bawat kadete," he said.
The former general noted that the PMA has already initiated policies and regulations against hazing in the succeeding years.
A stronger anti-hazing law was also signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 following the death of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III.
Bautista assured Dormitorio's family that the military would take action on the cadet's death.
"Sa pamilya ni cadet Dormitorio, nakikiisa po kami. Alam po namin ang nararamdaman ng mga magulang sa sabihin natin, 'di inaasahang pagkakataon," he said.
"Huwag po kayo mag-alala dahil gagawa na, paiigtingin ang polisiya at regulasyon ng ating Armed Forces of the Philippines to ensure natin na hindi na mauulit ang pangyayaring ito."