PMA fires swimming instructors of cadet who drowned during class

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) has sacked two swimming instructors and recommended banning them from civil service after it found them guilty of negligence that led to the drowning of a freshman cadet on November 8.

“This Command has determined that Mr Robert S. Bete and Mr Antonio B. Catalan were found negligent and imprudent in the conduct of the course, ‘Fundamentals of Swimming,’ which led to the death by drowning of Cadet 4th Class Mario Telan Jr,” the PMA said in a statement on Friday, November 22.

Bete had been a regular employee of the academy, while Catalan was a “job-order” or contractual hire. The PMA said it has completed its investigation of both instructors’ involvement in the incident, and sent its results to the military’s Higher Headquarters.

The academy said Bete and Catalan, both civilians, have been recommended for “cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and barred from taking civil service examinations.”

The sanctions were based on Rule 10, Section 46 of the “Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service” or in other words, “gross neglect of duty,” the academy added.

Meanwhile, the PMA is still studying what sanctions to impose on two 4th class cadets who were “marchers” assigned to run a head count of their classmates before and after their swimming class, and on the chief of the academy’s Sports and Physical Development Unit.

Swimming classes in the country’s premier military school remained suspended “until all safety measures have been covered and are in place.” The academy plans to bring in a team from the Philippine Navy’s elite Special Operations Group “to be part of all water-borne training activities of the cadets.”

On Friday, November 8, the plebe Telan was found dead in the 15-foot deep end of the swimming pool at the academy’s campus, Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City, at 2:44 pm – nearly 3 hours since his swimming class ended at noon.

Police investigators have ruled out foul play in Telan’s death, which came in the wake of two other PMA cadets' deaths in a span of two months.

On September 18, Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio died at the campus hospital from injuries he sustained from hazing and torture in the hands of fellow cadets.

On October 28, Cadet 2nd Class Cedrick Gadia died of cancer at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center in Quezon City.

Dormitorio’s case put the spotlight on the lingering practice of hazing in the PMA, and led to the resignation of its Superintendent and Commandant of Cadets.

The academy’s new Superintendent, Vice Admiral Allan Cusi, vowed an impartial investigation of hazing cases, as well as of the drowning of Telan.

“I offer no excuses,” he told a congressional panel during his confirmation hearing at the Senate in Pasay City on November 13.

“The PMA is committed to leaving no stone unturned in the case of Cadet 4th Class Telan, and will continue to institute measures for the safety of all cadets so that this tragic incident will not be repeated,” the academy’s latest statement read. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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