PMA chief resigns over death of cadet Darwin Dormitorio

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (6th UPDATE) – Citing “command responsibility,” Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Superintendent Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista on Tuesday, September 24, announced his resignation from his post following the death of Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio.

Evangelista announced his resignation, along with  Commandant of Cadets Brigadier General Bartolome Vicente Bacarrro, in a hastily-called press conference in Fort del Pilar in Baguio City on Tuesday.

"All the reports for administrative and criminal cases are now finished, prosecution procedures have commenced. The last act that this great military institution demands is for the leadership to take responsibility over what happened. In the military tradition of command responsibility, it is now the proper time for me, as the head of the institution, along with the Commandant of Cadets, to relinquish our respective positions," Evangelista said.

A 1986 graduate of the PMA, Evangelista belongs to the Army’s elite Special Forces and once commanded the Special Operations Command of the armed forces. As a battalion commander, he led the counter-terrorist Light Reaction Brigade that operated in Mindanao.

Bacarro was awarded the Medal of Valor in 1991. (READ: Living heroes: 5 Filipino soldiers who won the Medal of Valor)

Evangelista said he and Bacarro submitted their resignations to Armed Forces chief General Benjamin Madrigal. 

"I will do what is left to be done while I wait for official orders," he said.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said Madrigal has accepted the resignation of Evangelista and Bacarro. There is no word yet as to who would replace them.

Evangelista said that as the PMA is the primary training ground for leadership roles in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its officials should be role models in terms of command responsibility.

"We have to show the Filipino people what command responsibility should be. I did not leave my post in the midst of crisis. I faced the problems squarely, and we have finished the investigation," he said.

"We have the resolve, determination, and inspiration to ascertain that Cadet Dormitorio did not die in vain. PMA will take this opportunity to cleanse its ranks and further professionalize every aspect of education and training [at the academy]," Evangelista added.

Justice for Dormitorio

Evangelista said the PMA has undertaken "extensive measures" to ensure the health and well-being of cadets, especially plebes' and a review of the health care system at PMA, the "leadership behavior" of cadets, and the training culture "that will eradicate any possibility of maltreatment to happen again."

He said the  PMA has also attended to the Dormitorio family, and provided for the transport of the cadet's remains to his hometown, Cagayan de Oro City.

The PMA has also invited authorities to investigate the case along its PMA investigation teams, which allowed an inpedendent police probe; and directed all concerned to cooperate in the investigation.

"While these actions will not bring back the life of our cadet, it is PMA’s sworn responsibility to serve for the truth, work for justice, hold people accountable, and prevent the occurrence of maltreatment in the future," he said.

Evangelista also said that "all that is right, legal and moral must be learned, experienced and inculcated in every lesson, interaction and relation in every cadet’s  4-year journey in PMA."

Asked whether he was pressured to resign, Evangelista said it was just the "right time" for him to step down. "Nobody pressured me to do this," he said.

“Whether you like it or not, kami 'yung commanders. ‘Yung pag-resign naman namin it’s not an admission na may mali kami, na nagkulang kami,” said Bacarro, who also emphasized the principle of command responsibility. 

(Whether you like it or not, we are the commanders. Our resignation, it’s not an admission that we were wrong or we fell short.)

Evangelista said the PMA leadership would ensure that Dormitorio gets justice.

He added that as the PMA is the primary training ground for leadership roles in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its officials should be role models in terms of command responsibility.

At the beginning of his statement at the news conference, Evangelista reiterated that the institution does not condone the maltreatment of its cadets. 

"It was wrong for a cadet to die in this manner. It was a wrong for a cadet to die in the hands of a fellow cadet. Maltreatment is wrong in PMA," he said.

PMA officials also announced the PMA cadets who were either expelled, suspended, or received other punishment over the incident. (READ: PMA identifies suspects in cadet's hazing death)

Malacañang on Saturday welcomed the resignations of the PMA officials "as a right step towards upholding the integrity of the PMA as the country's premier military institution and recognize the same as a form of genuine delicadeza on the part of Lt Gen Evangelista."

"Investigation is currently ongoing. The Office of the President guarantees that there will be no whitewash and expects that justice will be rendered for those responsible for the PMA plebe's fatal death," added Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.

Dormitorio died on September 18, after suffering stomach pain and vomiting.  The investigation showed that he died due to "blunt force trauma."

PMA officials called his death an "isolated incident," and that was the first case of "maltreatment" of a cadet in 18 years. – With a report from JC Gotinga/Rappler.com