MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) appointed new top officials for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), following the fatal hazing of Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio.
AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Noel Clement announced on Thursday, September 26, that Rear Admiral Allan Cusi will replace Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista as PMA superintendent on October 1.
Brigadier General Romeo Brawner Jr, meanwhile, replaced Brigadier General Bartolome Bacarro as PMA commandant of cadets on Thursday.
Cusi is currently the chief of the Naval Education, Training, and Doctrine Command.
Brawner was the commander of the Philippine Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City.
President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to approve their appointment.
Evangelista and Bacarro resigned on Tuesday, September 24, citing "command responsibility" for the alleged hazing of Dormitorio and 3 other cadets despite the prohibition of the practice in the academy.
The deposed PMA officials will temporarily be transferred to the Office of the Chief of Staff, Clement told reporters on Thursday.
The PMA Station Hospital’s commanding officer, Colonel Cesar Candelaria, has been replaced, too, by Lieutenant Colonel Nerio Zabala.
"The focus here actually is to make sure that we will be able to...make sure that the unfortunate incident [involving] Cadet Dormitorio will no longer happen from here on, and that whatever systems and policies that have to be revised will actually be reviewed," Clement said.
The military chief, who took office just last Tuesday, has sent Inspector General Antonio Ramon Lim to the PMA campus, Fort General Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City, to lead an investigation of the academy's "systems and processes," and to help Cusi ease into his new role as the academy grapples with the incident's aftermath.
Clement vowed "no whitewash" of the probe's results.
The death of the 20-year-old plebe Dormitorio on September 18 exposed the persistence of hazing in the country's premier military school.
Three other cadets were brought to the AFP Medical Center in Quezon City for injuries apparently sustained from hazing. One of them was afterwards brought to St Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City. Clement said they are "in stable condition."
Cadets directly involved in Dormitorio's hazing have been expelled, others with some degree of responsibility have been suspended, and officers under whose watch it happened were relieved of duty.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered the physical examination of every cadet, particularly plebes, for signs of "maltreatment" or hazing.
Clement said this is underway.
"Let me just emphasize that the incident of Cadet Dormitorio and the 3 cadets is not an institutional incident, it is not a cadet-corps-wide incident that involves all our 4th class members," Clement said.
"We are looking at this as an isolated incident and hopefully we can address possible future violations of policies in as far as maltreatment is concerned," the military chief added.
War on hazing
In a statement on his appointment as PMA commandant of cadets, Brawner lauded Evangelista and Bacarro for stepping down "in a very honorable fashion."
"Sana ganito rin ang ibang government officials natin – may delicadeza at integridad," he added. (I wish our other government officials were like this, too – with a sense of propriety and integrity.)
Brawner, a member of the PMA Makatao Class of 1989, said he was "declaring a war on hazing," and will set about changing the "culture of violence and silence" in the academy into a "culture of peace and understanding."
The veteran of the 2017 Marawi siege warned: "If you are not willing to wage a war against hazing, then you better leave…. And I mean business."
"[What] we need to do is to change the mindset of our cadets. This may take several years or even decades, and across several generations, but we have to start sometime. And now is the time to start," Brawner added. – Rappler.com
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.