Police probe shows Dormitorio’s life inside PMA was living hell

Frank Cimatu

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Police probe shows Dormitorio’s life inside PMA was living hell
(UPDATED) Darwin Dormitorio was barely 21 days at the Philippine Military Academy when his ordeal – which would lead to his death – started

BAGUIO, Philippines (UPDATED) – The late Cadet Fourth Class Darwin Dormitorio knew he was destined to be a soldier. His father was a retired colonel and a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumnus.  

When he passed the PMA examination in 2018 and was incorporated with 400 others last July 27, he knew he would be in good hands.  

But based on the updated chronology of Dormitorio’s hazing until the time of his death presented by Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) chief Colonel Allen Rae Co on Monday, September 30, the plebe’s life at the premier military academy was a living hell.  

Not only was he maltreated by his upperclassmen, even his classmates and roommates were accomplices in cutting short his life.


Beaten up for spending allowance

Twenty-one days after incorporation, at about 9 pm on August 19, in Dormitorio’s Room 209 at Mayo Hall Barracks, Cadets Third Class Shalimar Imperial, Felix Lumbag, and a certain Manalo (probably John Vincent Manalo, according to the roster) ordered him to do some exercises as punishment. Apparently, Dormitorio had used up half of their P4,000 monthly allowance.

After he had done the exercises, Lumbag punched him several times. Then Lumbag and Imperial punched and kicked him again. This went on for 20 minutes. Dormitorio reportedly fell several times during the ordeal.  

Because of this and probably other succeeding punishments, Dormitorio landed in the PMA Station Hospital for 8 days. He was diagnosed of multiple soft tissue hematoma, abdomen and back pains, and burned shoulder. 

According to Co, the PMA summoned Lumbag about the August 19 incident and the hospitalization of Dormitorio. He was given the administrative sanction of a one-year suspension. 

The BCPO was at a loss as to why Lumbag was still around to torment Dormitorio. 

Second hospitalization 

A few weeks later, his roommates said Dormitorio was again brought to the hospital for toothache/, which caused his jaw to swell. However, the diagnoses at the hospital were respiratory tract infection, soft tissue contusion, and pain in the chest area. Allegedly, Imperial hit him on the face, causing his nose to bleed profusely. 

On the night of September 14, Imperial, Lumbag, and Manalo covered Dormitorio’s face with the plastic of the dress cap cover soaked in rubbing alcohol. They then tied his hands behind his nape and a soft broom was inserted between his hands and neck. They laid him down and held his body and legs. According to the witnesses, Dormitorio was screaming so loud that Manalo told the two to stop, but they continued. Another cadet told them from the window to stop, and that cadet was declared off limits from Room 209 from then on. 

In the morning of September 17, Dormitorio joined the rest of the corps in their duty exercises at 4:30 am, and then had breakfast at the Cadet Mess at Yap Hall. 

Before 7 am, Cadet First Class Axl Rey Sanopao called on Dormitorio thrice at Mayo Hall Barracks to look for his combat boots, but the young fellow couldn’t find it. 

“We are still looking for it,” said BCPO chief Co.

Apparently, Sanopao endorsed him to Lumbag and Imperial as Dormitorio was seen calling for the two in their room, and then the 4 (with Sanopao) entered Sanopao’s room. Lumbag and Imperial then brought Dormitorio inside their room. They were inside from 7:05 to 7:30 am.   

It was not known what happened there, but, according to one witness (a plebe like Dormitorio), Lumbag and Imperial took a video of what they did and showed it to him later that evening. They said that Dormitorio was just “malingering.” 

Kicked several times while sick

At 7:30 am, Sanopao called him out of the room, and witnesses said that Dormitorio was shivering and clearly in pain.

Sanopao asked, “Ba’t parang cool na cool ka (Why do you look so cool)?” and then ordered him to do squat thrust. Dormitorio could only perform 5. 

Another witness asked what was happening to him, and Dormitorio answered that he was not feeling well. The witness asked Dormitorio who his squad leader was. It was Cadet 2nd Class Zacarias, Dormitorio said, and so the witness told him, “Mag-inside bunks ka dun” – meaning, he could sleep in Zacarias’ bed, and he did. 

At 8:30 am, Zacarias and the other classmates entered their room and were surprised to see Dormitorio sleeping in his bed and using his blanket. Zacarias asked him why he was there, but Dormitorio was not answering. A roommate answered for Dormitorio, and said that a Cadet First Class told him to sleep there. Zacarias pulled Dormitorio out of the bed and told him to stand up, but the plebe could not and was clutching his stomach. He fell on the floor. Zacarias then kicked Dormitorio 5 times on the right side of his body while he was down. 

Dormitorio was apparently brought to the hospital and arrived at their barracks at 5 pm. A witness said that he looked pale and weak. Another asked him if he was in pain, and Dormitorio answered in Bisaya, “Ikaw ba kabugin, suntukin at suntukin na naka-hang nang di mayhap?” (Try getting struck and hit countless times.) 

Threatened with false accusation 

The other plebes left for mess, and when they returned at 6:20 pm, Dormitorio was sleeping. 

Cadet Third Class Ray David John Volante arrived and saw Dormitorio on the floor slowly pulling his pants down. He slightly kicked him in the forehead to make him move faster, unaware that Dormitorio was in “sick in quarters” status.  

Dormitorio remained inside Room 209 even at 6:35 pm, their evening call to quarters (ECTQ).

At 7:32 pm, Dormitorio reported to Capt. Jeffrey Batistiana, his tactical officer, together with the plebe who saw the video. At 7:40 pm, Dormitorio was seen vomiting at the first floor of their barracks and, according to the witness (the same one who advised him to sleep on the bed of Zacarias), Dormitorio said that he was maltreated by Lumbag and Imperial. Dormitorio used the term “nakatay” (butchered).  

It was at 7:45 pm when the plebe told him about the video that Imperial had and that Dormitorio would soon be accused of “deception.”

Dormitorio said: “Hindi naman agad eepekto yung kabog. Siya kaya pagkakabugin ko?” (The strikes will not have an immediate effect. What if I strike him like that?)

At 9:45 pm, Dormitorio was seen at the hallway wearing the study uniform and told to change into the general athletic uniform. Witnesses said that he was already listless at that time and was not acting normally, Co said. 

On the way, he met Sanopao who observed that he was not wearing the proper uniform. “Go ahead, hindi na kita endorse, back to room ka na,” he said. 

But the day in hell was still not over for Dormitorio. 

Tasered and called faggot

At 10:40 pm, a plebe and Cadet Third Class Tadena (Julius Carlo Prepotente Tadena, according to the roster) entered Room 209. Tadena tasered one of the plebes while the others were made to exercise. 

Five minutes later, Dormitorio entered the room. Tadena tasered him. Tadena also told them that they shouted like girls while being electrocuted, which made them “faggots.”

The two plebes who turned witnesses reported to their squad leader, Nickoel Termil, about Dormitorio, but he just reminded them of their compliances. 

He finally went to sleep – in pain 

Back to Room 209 at 11 pm, they said Dormitorio complained of stomach pain and could not lie down. He couldn’t find a comfortable position for himself.

Past midnight, Dormitorio vomited, and Zacarias was called in. He gave Dormitorio medicine, toasted bread, and water. Zacarias returned at 1 am to give wafer and water to Dormitorio. 

At 2 am, Dormitorio finally slept. But not for long, as he was seen kneeling with his head on the floor an hour later. He was later seen resting his head on the study table. 

When the duty sentinel turned on the lights at 3:40 am, Dormitorio remained seated on the floor. When the plebes were asked to wake him up, they found him without a pulse. 

The ambulance arrived 10 minutes later. At the hospital, the medical team tried to revive Dormitorio. By 5:15 am, Dormitorio was declared officially dead. 

During the press conference at PMA last September 24, Cadets Third Class Shalimar Imperial and Felix Lumbag were identified as those directly involved in his death. Cadet First Class Axl Rey Sanupao was also separated from service for encouraging his maltreatment. Separated from service for command responsibility is Dormitorio’s squad leader, Cadet Second Class Nikoel Termil.

Also included in the initial list of persons of interest was Cadet First Class Irvin Sayod, floor inspector, who was meted Class 1 punishment, which includes demerits and several hours of touring and confinement.

The officers relieved from service are Major Rex Bolo, Tactics Group senior tactical officer, and Captain Jeffrey Batistana, the tactical officer of the Echo Company.

But with these new revelations, Cordillera Police Chief Israel Dickson said cadets Tadena, Volante, Zacarias, and Manalo would also be criminally charged.

The 7 accused cadets are in the PMA stockade, with 3 prime suspects (Imperial, Lumbag, and Sanopao) kept in isolation. – Rappler.com 

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously identified one of the witnesses as Cadet Third Class Rey Matthew James Dadiro Volante.  This has been corrected.

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