No foul play in pool death of PMA cadet

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 09 2019 02:07 PM | Updated as of Nov 09 2019 02:20 PM

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MANILA - The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Saturday discounted the possibility of foul play in the death of one of its cadets during a swimming session on Friday, even as irregularities were seen in the conduct of the training. 

"Based on the footage of the CCTV, we have found out there was no foul play and during that time Cadet Telan was with a group of fellow cadets when they jumped in the deeper part of the pool," said PMA Public Affairs chief Capt. Cherryl Tindog.

Police said 4th class cadet Mario Telan Jr. appeared to have drowned in the campus swimming pool. 

The incident came more than a month since the controversial death of another soldier in training, Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio, who experienced severe beating allegedly from upperclass cadets. Dormitorio died on Sept. 18 after sustaining hazing-related injuries. 

On ANC's Dateline Philippines, Tindog said the swimming session was part of the cadets' exercises.

"Unfortunately, nobody around him noticed that he no longer came out of the water," she said. 

 IRREGULARITIES IN SWIM TRAINING 

But Tindog said they also saw some infractions and irregularities in the manner the exercise was conducted.
 
One of these was the accounting of cadets before and after every activity.

"But based on the CCTV footage that accounting procedure was not properly done by the cadet in charge of the class for the day and the instructor," she said.

The other violation, she said, was that while cadets were performing their practical exams, some were also seen practicing on the other side of the pool "which shouldn't be because there are only 2 instructors."

"Those are the two glaring irregularities that we saw from the video and there are others that we're looking at and we're reviewing our standard operating procedures and other policies so we can determine if there are other infractions that might have been [committed]," she said.

Meanwhile, the PMA has identified the 2 instructors involved. They were supposed to be in charge of ensuring that the cadets were accounted for in the swimming class.

"We have to reconcile all these things so we could come up with a decision as to what administrative processes or actions we should take in this particular incident," said Tindog.

CADET WHO DIED A 'NON-SWIMMER' 

Tindog said swimming skills of cadets were first checked before they underwent the training. Telan, she said, was one of those classified as a non-swimmer.

The CCTV footage also showed him not performing well during an exercise on the freestyle stroke, she said.

"You could see that he's not really that good in swimming and that he's learning, and he was trying, we saw that from the footage and the swimming class is progressive in nature so if we had classified a particular cadet as [a] non-swimmer, we pay particular attention to them. The instructors are giving extra time for them to practice," she said.

Prior to the swimming practicals, Tindog said the footage showed Telan doing warm up exercises. He was smiling and even conversing with fellow cadets.

"There was no indication that he was having a difficult time but unfortunately, when he went into the deeper part of the pool for the floating phase of the practicals, it was the time that he was not able to come up," she said.

According to investigation, upperclass cadets started searching for Telan at 1:20 p.m. Friday. They proceeded to the PMA's Jurado Hall and found his belongings in the comfort room of the swimming pool.

After more than an hour-long search, the cadet was found at the bottom of the swimming pool at 2:44 p.m. He was rushed to Fort del Pilar Station Hospital but was declared dead upon arrival.

The PMA has suspended swimming classes until the incident has been properly addressed.

The academy is also assisting the cadet's family who are now in Baguio City, she said.