When a hazing video can serve the public good

Lilibeth Frondoso

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Change starts with confronting the truth

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All you need is video. Where words may fall short, video again proves its power to burn an emotion into our consciousness.

In two videos that show the naked truth of hazing, we see the backs of boys hit by elbows and fists, their bodies kicked by booted feet and slammed against walls, their hands, whacked by helmets. We hear boys laughing in delight while they goad their peers.

Hazing and bullying: A police probe into the months and days before his death shows life was hell for Darwin Dormitorio in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). He was hospitalized several times – but authorities did not have the sense nor sensitivity to spot and intervene in the affairs of a cadet in danger.

Ritual hazing happens for a week, at most a month, in frats and organizations as a prelude to full membership. But for Darwin, every day was hazing season. He was maltreated, not only by upperclassmen but by his own classmates. He was tasered and called a faggot. The first time he was hospitalized, he was diagnosed with multiple soft tissue hematoma, abdomen and back pains, and burned shoulder. The next time he was hospitalized, his face was so swollen.


Why it matters: Why do we need to show these videos, despite the plea of the PMA spokesman not to share them? (READ: Hazing inside the PMA barracks)

These videos will help us understand the hell that cadet Darwin Dormitorio lived every day in that so-called honorable institution. Darwin looked forward to a better future as a graduate of the PMA. It’s a future he never woke up to after collapsing from internal bleeding after being beaten up by upperclassmen sworn to protect an honor code. (READ: Police probe shows Dormitorio’s life inside PMA was living hell)

Punching holes in the official narrative: These videos, and Darwin’s torture and death, show that hazing and bullying are not “isolated” cases in the PMA. In its latest statement on the videos, the PMA said rather lamely that it is “not a perfect organization.”

“A perfect organization” is not what this is all about, far from it. Beyond transparency and accountability in these cases, the public needs to be assured that our taxes are not subsidizing a torture academy where boys learn to be brutal while maintaining the veneer of honor.

Hopefully, these videos will lead us to act so that it never happens again.

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Lilibeth Frondoso

She currently heads Multimedia Strategy and Growth in Rappler.