By: Victor Avecilla (www.tribune.net.ph)
Another plebe, or fourth class (freshman) cadet in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), is dead.
Last Friday, 8 November 2019, PMA plebe Mario Telan Jr. reported for his 11 a.m. to 12 noon swimming class at the PMA swimming pool, and was not heard from thereafter. His lifeless body was later found in the 15-foot deep end of the PMA swimming pool. Rescuers’ attempts to revive Telan proved futile. He was pronounced dead when he was brought to the academy’s station hospital.
PMA spokesman Capt. Cheryl Tindog said an investigation will be conducted, and that swimming classes have been suspended indefinitely. Tindog also came up with the usual promise to deal with any possible irregularity which may have caused the death of Telan.
Capt. Tindog said security videos at the pool area reveals that 22 other cadets were inside the pool with Telan, and that there were two instructors in charge of the swimming class. Tindog said he treaded in the deep end of the pool and that nobody noticed that he did not surface anymore.
The autopsy done on Telan indicates that he drowned. Baguio City police investigating the incident see no foul play in his death.
Last September, the PMA was in the news when another plebe, Darwin Dormitorio, died inside the academy, apparently a victim of hazing. Media reports disclose that Dormitorio once got a brutal beating from an angry upperclassman allegedly because he misplaced the upperclassman’s combat boots — a beating that contributed to the death of the cadet.
PMA officials have since then resigned and criminal charges have been filed against them by the Dormitorio family. Physicians of the academy who countenanced his maltreatment by their alleged inaction on the cadet’s injuries are also facing administrative charges that may lead to the revocation of their professional licenses.
Despite the initial findings made by the police regarding Telan’s death, many questions arise.
In most swimming classes, the “buddy system” is strictly enforced. Under the “buddy system,” two classmates are assigned to each other as buddies, and they are expected to look out for each other’s safety. That way, when a “buddy” is missing or is drowning, the incident can be reported immediately to the lifeguard for remedial measures.
The “buddy system” obtains in almost every military academy in the world. Like in the swimming pool, the “buddy system” in the military academy is an efficient way of monitoring the well-being of every cadet.
Why did Telan’s “buddy” or classmates leave him in the pool to drown? Didn’t his “buddy” or classmates even notice that he was missing at the end of their swimming class? Why didn’t his “buddy” report to any of the instructors that he was missing? They could have looked for Telan and possibly saved his life.
How come none of the two instructors bothered to check the pool right after the class? If they did, they would have certainly noticed Telan’s body inside the pool, and perhaps they could have revived him.
A lifeguard must be present at a pool site each time there are people using the pool. That is a standard operating procedure everywhere.
It looks like there was no lifeguard at the PMA pool area during the swimming class attended by Telan. Had there been a lifeguard present, and if that lifeguard did his job, Telan may still be alive today.
Telan’s death could have been avoided if PMA officials and swimming instructors observed due diligence in conducting the swimming classes in the academy. They should resign immediately for criminal negligence. The PMA does not need careless personnel who constitute a threat to public safety.
PMA authorities ought to be reminded that parents send their sons and daughters to the PMA to become soldiers, not corpses.