No foul play in death of PMA cadet; 2 swimming instructors under questioning

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
No foul play in death of PMA cadet; 2 swimming instructors under questioning
This file photo shows soldiers lifting the casket of PMA cadet Darwin Domitorio who died due to hazing in September. Col. Allen Co, chief of Baguio City Police said that deceased cadet Telan was not a strong swimmer based on initial findings, according to a DZBB report on Nov. 9, 2019.
The STAR / Gerry Lee Gorit

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 4:11 p.m.) — Following suspicions of hazing and institutional violence, the Philippine Military Academy and police investigators in Baguio City said they found no apparent foul play in the death of a cadet Friday upon investigation.

Cadet 4th Class Mario Telan Jr. on Thursday drowned in PMA's swimming pool. He attended his swimming class from 11 a.m. to noon and was not seen in his following subjects.

A search was conducted for the student, who was discovered in the 15-foot deep end of the pool. Rescuers attempted to revive Telan and brought him to the Fort del Pilar Station Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

Drowning accident

PMA spokesperson Capt. Cheryl Tindog said that evidence shows that what happened is a drowning accident caused by “glaring irregularities.”

“Based on the footage of the CCTV…we have found out that there was no foul play. During that time, Cadet Telan was with a group of fellow cadets and they jumped on the deeper part of the pool,” Tindog said.

“Unfortunately, nobody around him noticed that he no longer came out of the water.”

Tindog said that among the infractions observed in the footage is the failure of authorities to observe existing protocols.

“Part of our standing operating procedures is that all the cadets should be accounted before and after every activity. But based on the CCTV footage, that accounting procedure was not really properly done by the class marcher, the cadet-in-charge of the class for the day and the instructor,” the spokesperson said.

“Another is while other cadets are performing their technical exam, some of the cadets were also practicing on the other side of the pool…which shouldn’t be because there are only two instructors so other cadets should just be on the side of the pool and watching others perform their practical exams.”

Tindog said the academy is also reviewing its standing operating procedures to determine if any other protocol was violated. She reiterated that the death was not found to be deliberately caused by foul play. 

The autopsy by PNP Baguio confirmed that the cause of death was indeed drowning.

“Right now we have identified the personnel involved and we are questioning them. They are providing us with their explanation and of course we have to reconcile all these things so that we can come up with a decision as to what administrative processes or actions we should take in this particular incident.”

Col. Allen Co, chief of Baguio City Police said that Telan was not a strong swimmer based on initial findings, according to a DZBB report.

He also said that possible lapses of instructors will be investigated.

Philstar.com has asked the offices of the Baguio City mayor and police for comment but has not received a response as of writing.

“PMA deeply grieves for this unfortunate loss of one of our sons. All necessary assistance will be extended to the bereaved family and loved ones,” PMA said in a statement released to the media.

Telan is the third PMA cadet reported dead this year. Cadet 2nd Class Cedrick Gadia in October died from cancer under the care of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Hospital, while Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio in September died due to injuries sustained during hazing.

'Check physical, medical condition of cadets'

Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin (AKO BICOL), in a Friday statement, said that the drowning incident warrants the check-up of PMA and Philippine National Police Academy cadets.

“We urge the PMA to fully disclose the physical and medical condition of every PMA cadet now at the Academy. We ask the Public Attorney's Office and Philippine General Hospital to go to the PMA now to render legal and medical assistance. We implore upon the PMA to give the PAO and PGH unfettered access to the cadets, especially the Fourth Class Cadets,” the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018 author said.

Garbin also called on Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong to “do everything he possibly can to make sure no stone is left unturned and that the PNP investigation is conducted with utmost professionalism and integrity.”

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