By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
with LITO RULONA
PHILIPPINE Military Academy Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio’s body took so much pain that his family abandoned a plan to have him cremated.
The idea of cremation was broached but most of members of Dormitorio’s family were against it, and so they opted to have a traditional burial.
“Cremation was the first option, but because it was too painful for the family and we realized that he had suffered too much already, it was agreed that there will be no cremation. He died brutally, and then we burn his body after? He will be buried so his body can rest,” said the hazing victim’s aunt Michelle Usman.
Usman said the 20-year-old cadet’s family was devastated, and the country lost a potential leader to hazing last week.
Usman said Dormitorio was strong-willed and wasn’t a “crybaby,” qualities that may explain why the plebe had chosen to take all physical pain inflicted on him than confide to family members what he had been going through inside the PMA.
“Darwin was not a quitter. He was very strong. He was the kind of person who stood for what he believed in,” said Usman said.
She said Dormitorio did not quit because he really wanted to become a soldier, and so, “he did not tell his parents what he went through. He just said, ‘I’m okay.’”
In a handwritten letter that has now become viral on social media, Dromitorio told his parents he was in the hospital but assured them there was nothing to worry about. There was no mention of the beating he got.
His main concerns were his lack of sleep, ironing, and his studies. In the same letter, he asked his parents to send him some money so he could buy another pair of uniform.
Dormitorio wrote that he sorely missed “Brando,” his Doberman pet, and that he was craving for some pizza and donuts.
Underneath that outward appearance of boyish pettiness and strength was a young man who wanted to serve and lead.
Usman recalled how proud they were when Dormitorio announced to them that he was going to the PMA.
“When he informed us he was going to PMA, we were all excited for him,” Usman said. “He was full of dreams, and he dreamt of becoming one of our leaders. That was his objective in going there.”
She said the family supported him because his objective was clear to them, and that was for him to serve the country.
Dormitorio’s relatives decried the perpetuation of painful rituals plebes have to go through while training to become future soldiers in spite of the Anti-Hazing Law.
“It’s not good to know that cadets who are willing to serve our country die during their training,” said Mayor Omaradji Pizarro of Kalilangan town in Bukidnon.
Pizarro is the hudband of one of Dormitorio’s aunts.
Pizarro said the Dormitorios trace their roots in Kalilangan but moved to Cagayan de Oro where the hazing victim spent much of his youth. The fallen cadet was a Xavier University high school graduate.
“What we demand to know is why his upperclassmen are so sadistic, barbaric, very cruel,” Pizarro told reporters at the Cosmopolitan funeral homes here on Saturday night.
Dormitorio suffered “blunt force trauma,” and was admitted to the PMA hospital before he died on Sept. 18.
The young man’s coffined body was brought back to this city late Saturday.
Speaking on behalf of the Dormitorio family, Pizarro said there was a need to review the Anti-Hazing Law, a law that would have prevented the cadet from getting killed if only it was followed in the PMA.
“The Anti-Hazing Law has long been implemented. But I don’t think it has been fully implemented. If it was, this would not have happened,” Pizarro said.
Dormitorio became the first known fatality due to hazing since President Duterte signed RA 11053 into law last year.
The Anti-Hazing Act was enacted in 2018 following the death of University of Santo Tomas law student Horatio Castillo III during an initiation rite conducted by some members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity in 2017.
Any move that would totally eradicate the culture of hazing at the PMA, Pizarro said, would be welcomed by the Dormitorio family.
“We hope this would be the start of reforms in the PMA, but at the expense of Mr. Darwin Dormitorio,” he said.
Pizarro said the Academy must do away with the “cycle of cruelty and violence.”
“We are creating leaders, and if they are trained to be cruel, they will become cruel leaders someday,” Pizarro said.
He said Dorimitorio’s father William, a retired colonel and a member of the PMA Class of 1974 has been in touch with some former military officials now holding key positions in the Duterte administration.
“I hope that this will be the start because [Dormitorio’s father] was able to talk to the Secretary of National Defense [Delfin Lorenza] and the DILG secretary [Eduardo Año],” Pizarro said.
Meanwhile, a congressman from Bicol yesterday formally asked the Lower House to start a congressional investigation into the Dormitorio’s death.
Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. of Ako Bicol party-list, one of the authors of RA 11053, otherwise known as the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, urged the House leadership to task one of its committees to conduct the investigation.
Garbin said the House committee should scrutinize PMA protocols and its policies on handling plebes.
He also said the Duterte administration should make those running the PMA and its faculty, who had a hand “before, during or after” the hazing, accountable.
Gabrin expressed disappointment that since the Anti-Hazing Law was passed, there was only one court conviction, and that was in 2006 in the hazing that resulted in the death of University of the Philippines-Los Baños student Marlon Villanueva. Two members of the Alpha Phi Omega were found guilty in the case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.