December 3, 2023

Two former Philippine Military Academy cadets involved in the maltreatment of then Fourth Class Cadet Darwin Dormitorio, who died in 2019, have been found guilty for slight physical injuries.

In a decision released on Aug. 4 by the Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 1, former PMA Third Class Cadets Julius Carlo Tadena and Christian Zacarias were found guilty for inflicting injuries on Dormitorio.

Tadena was the one who tasered Dormitorio’s scrotum which resulted in second degree burns and required medical attendance for no more than 10 days, while Zacarias used “personal violence” on Dormitorio by repeatedly kicking him on the right portion of his body, which required medical attendance of not more than nine days.

Tadena and Zacarias were sentenced to 30 days imprisonment and were also required to pay the late cadet’s family P100,000 each for moral damages and P50,000 each for attorneys fees.

Lawyer Jose Adrian Bonifacio, counsel for the Dormitorio family, said the main case of hazing which also involves both cadets and two other upper class cadets is pending before the Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 5. Decision on the case is expected to be released next year.

In their defense, Tadena and Zacarias denied inflicting injuries on Dormitorio.

Court records show that Tadena claimed the supposed taser was attached to a flashlight and was not working. Assuming that said device working, he said he will not use it on Dormitorio whom he considers a friend as they both hail from Cagayan de Oro City.

His voluntary surrender of the device to the police, instead of disposing it, shortly after announcement of Darwin’s death on Sept. 17, 2019 is also an indication the device was not used to inflict injuries, Tadena said.

Zacarias denied harming Dormitorio. In his defense, he merely nudged the cadet to move out from his part of the bunk bed to instill discipline as it is part of their training as soldiers not to touch or use the things of other cadets.

The court said the autopsy reports plus the testimony of fellow cadets who saw on separate occasions that Dormitorio was harmed added credence to the eviden-ces presented by the prosecution.

“There is no other evidence or reasonable explanation how Dormitorio was inflicted with second degree burns in his scrotal region other than he was tasered by Cadet Tadena,” the court, presided by Judge Roberto Mabalot said. 

For Zacarias, the court said a mere nudge would not have resulted in a contusion at the upper right portion of Dormitorio’s body.

Meanwhile, the same court decision has cleared Cpt. Flor Apple Apostol, Maj. Ma. Ofelia Beloy, and Lt/Col. Cesar Candelaria for recklessness imprudence resulting in homicide.

Apostol and Beloy are the doctors assigned at the PMA Fort del Pilar Station Hospital and who attended to Dormitorio on the many instan-ces he sought consult. Candelaria is head of the PMA Hospital.

Apostol and Beloy are said to have committed negligence when they diagnosed Dormitorio of only minor illnesses when the series of consults should have raised their suspicion and could have ordered additional diagnostic tests on the cadet.

The prosecution said Dormitorio’s death could have been prevented had the doctors been more diligent in examining their patient.

The doctors did not present any witnesses or evidences to refute the allegations.

The court relied on the testimony of expert witnesses of the prosecution who said that while the cadet’s constant consults would have prompted any doctor to recommend more tests instead of relying on just the complaint of the patient, the process to undertake will still be the physician’s judgment call.

“Whether or not the attending doctors committed negligence is to be measured by the yardsticks observed by other members of the medical profession under si-milar circumstances,” the court said.

The court said the doctors acted based on Dormitorio’s laboratory results and there is no proof that they neglected their patient. 

It could also be that Dormitorio had been hiding what he was feeling and did not completely reveal his condition to the attending doctor resulting in the latter giving a diagnosis based only on what was relayed by the patient.

The PMA cadets testified that Dormitorio declined to be brought to the hospital on the eve of his death when he began to vomit and complained of acute abdominal pain because he was masking his pain, the court said.

Dormitorio was diagnosed of acute urinary tract infection. But the abdominal pain he was complaining about turned out to be due to severe injuries he sustained in his abdominal ca-vity, which contains organs such as the spleen, intestines, pancreas, and the kidneys.

Dormitorio died on Sept. 18, 2019 due to blunt traumatic injuries to the abdomen.   

The doctors, however, are not completely off the hook as they have a pending case of maltreatment at the Professional Regulation Commission.

Dormitorio was a member of the PMA Madasigon Class of 2023. He would have graduated last May along with 300 other cadets.

His classmates paid tribute to him by giving his parents class mementos such as the class bull ring. – Rimaliza A. Opiña