Ex-PMA head suggests separating plebes from cadets to end hazing cycle

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 11 2019 08:01 PM


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MANILA - The fatal hazing of Darwin Dormitorio at the Philippine Military Academy is "very remote" and extraordinary, said a former superintendent of the academy who sought changes in the system to eradicate this subculture of violence. 

Dormitorio, a fourth class cadet, was 20 when he died last month after complaining of stomach pain. He was confined at the hospital twice in the month leading to his death and had bruises on his stomach consistent with hazing. He revealed in his journal that he had to endure beatings from his upperclassmen.

"The cases of hazing that is on the level of Cadet Dormitorio is very, very remote. Dito, you are dealing with differences in human nature, in human thinking, in human experiences, et cetera," said Rodolfo Biazon, a former senator who also served as superintendent of the PMA from 1986 to 1987.

"This thing is not an ordinary, a run-of-the-mill experience for a cadet," he told ANC's Early Edition.

Hazing, he said, is "not the day-to-day issue in the academy" and "unauthorized hazing of inflicting harm, physical harm to a junior, especially the plebes" happens very seldom.

One factor in Dormitorio's case was that his father was a graduate of the PMA, said Biazon, adding that he also had to discourage his own son from attending the academy.

"When you are the son of a former graduate, medyo nakatingin sa’yo ang maraming upperclassmen, especially kung ang tatay mo ay senior," he said.

When he was plucked out of Davao to head the PMA during the term of former President Corazon Aquino, he was tasked to eradicate hazing but he told the then-chief executive that he would need 5 years to accomplish the job "because we need to deal with a subculture that has been implanted through the years since 1947."

This traced its roots to the post-war times, when undergraduate cadets who had served as tactical officers during World War 2 returned to the academy and "thought that they would effect some measures to toughen the cadets."

During his stint at the helm of the academy, Biazon said he wanted to separate the plebes from the cadet corps except for a few chosen senior cadets, like the first class men. He wanted these seniors to be given the "mission to remove hazing" and be treated as officers.

"The first class men should be given the responsibility, accountability in the removal of hazing because as I said, you are dealing with a subculture and that is going to take time and special measures," he said.

Seven PMA cadets, 2 tactical officers, and 3 doctors have been charged with hazing, murder and torture over Dormitorio's death. His family is also planning to charge the former commandant of cadets.