Never again!

Republic Act (RA) 8049, or An Act Regulating Initiation Rites in Fraternities, Sororities and Organizations and Providing Penalties thereof, otherwise known as the Anti-Hazing Law, was enacted on June 7, 1995. Twenty years since its enactment, there has been only one conviction—two members of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity who were sentenced for the death of Marlon Villanueva.

There must be something wrong with the law, or if not the law, then its implementation, as it is honored more in its breach than in its observance.

Under RA 8049, “hazing” is defined as an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing a recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situation, such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury. (Section 1)

RA 8049, likewise, defines in Sections 2 and 3 thereof the requirements for hazing or initiation rights:

  • No hazing or initiation rites in any form or manner by a fraternity, sorority or organization shall be allowed without prior written notice to the school authorities or head of organization seven days before the conduct of initiation;
  • The written notice shall indicate the period of the initiation activities, which shall not exceed three days;
  • It shall include the names of those subjected to such activities;
  • It shall further contain an undertaking that no physical violence be employed by anybody during such initiation rites;
  • The head of the school or organization or their representatives must assign two representatives of the school or organization, as the case may be, to be present during the initiation; and
  • It is the duty of such representative to see to it that no physical harm of any kind shall be inflicted upon a recruit, neophyte or applicant.

In the case of 22-year-old Horacio Tomas Castillo III, the University of Santo Tomas law student who was apparently a hazing victim of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, were the above requirements complied with? The University of Santo Tomas cannot evade the issue because the fraternity implicated is a duly recognized organization. Nor can its Dean Nilo Divina claim lack of knowledge—because as Dean of the Law School and a practicing lawyer, he is presumed “to know or ought to know” the requirements of the Anti-Hazing Law. Nor can he claim that he does not know about the hazing and initiation rites of Aegis Juris Fraternity because he is senior member of the fraternity. Will Divina also claim ignorance of Commission on Higher Education Memorandum Order 4, series of 1995, which outlines preventive measures against violence and sanctions on fraternities and other organization and imposes automatic expulsion on any fraternity member for (a) starting or taking the offensive action that clearly provokes violence; (b) carrying knives, sticks, pipes, guns and other deadly weapons in schools; and (c) extortion. Fraternity officers found guilty of provoking violence will be suspended for 60 days. The fraternity found guilty is likewise penalized with a one-year suspension and permanent ban after the next offense.

The current penalties under the Anti-Hazing Law range from prison correccional (six months to six years) to reclusion temporal (12 to 20 years) depending on the gravity of the physical injuries, loss of speech or power to hear or smell, loss of an eye, hand, foot or leg or any member of the body incapacitating the victim for the work or activity in which he was habitually engaged in. In case the victim becomes insane, imbecile, impotent or blind, the penalty is Reclusion Temporal in its maximum period. If death, rape, sodomy or mutilation results from the hazing, the penalty is Reclusion Perpetua or Life Imprisonment.

The problem with the present law is that it regulates hazing instead of banning it totally. As long as it gets the approval of the school authorities or head of the organization, then it is not illegal. The law also penalizes only those who “actually participated in the infliction of the physical harm”. As no fraternity member will testify against a fraternity brother who directly participated in the hazing, it is not surprising why there is hardly any conviction. Philippine National Police data show “there have been 207 hazing victims with at least 12 incidents that led to a recruit’s death. Despite this, the conviction rate is only 3.8 percent” (ABS-CBN news, posted 9/20/2017).

Castillo is now among Lenny Villa, Mark Andre Marcos, Marvin Reglos, Noel Borja Jr., Glacy Monique Dimaranan and Elvin Sinaluan—all useless and senseless deaths from hazing.

Let us join the family of Atio in seeking justice for their son (#JUSTICE FOR HORACIO). Let there be a speedy, objective, impartial and fair investigation.

Let there be a law totally banning hazing. Otherwise, the culture of impunity now pervading our society will likewise infect and corrupt our school campuses and universities and destroy the moral fiber of our youth. One more death from hazing is one too many. Never again!