LAWMAKERS on Tuesday said there was a need to enact a law that will criminalize all forms of hazing following the death of University of Sto. Tomas (UST) freshman law student Horacio Castillo III in initiation rites.
The recommendation came as the House sub-committee on prosecutorial reforms began deliberations on a revised anti-hazing law.
House Bill 3467, authored by Bagong Henerasyon Party-List Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, prohibits hazing and previously regulated initiation rites of fraternities, sororities, and other similar organizations.
The Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 regulates hazing, whereas the new bill would prohibit all forms of it, Herrera-Dy said during a hearing of the committee on justice headed by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali.
Umali emphasized the need for Congress to pass a law to strengthen the current Anti-Hazing Law.
“We hope that this bill will address many ailments of the existing law towards making the law more strict and difficult to violate,” Umali said.
Herrera-Dy’s bill also expands the definition of hazing to include not just physical but also psychological injuries inflicted on students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority or similar organizations.
The bill declares all kinds of hazing illegal.
The bill mandates that at least two representatives of the school must be present during initiations and prohibits unscheduled or impromptu initiations.
Like the existing law, the bill provides a penalty of life imprisonment for individuals involve in hazing that results in death, suicide, rape, sodomy or mutilation.
Senators on Tuesday also vowed to amend the Anti-Hazing Law.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Richard Gordon, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros said they are inclined to strengthen the Anti-Hazing Law.
As a member of the University of the Philippines-based Sigma Rho fraternity since 1966, Drilon admitted he underwent similar initiation rites during his younger years.
“I will admit that Senator [Richard] Gordon and I underwent hazing. We were subjects of hazing. But we’re willing to admit it. It was more than 50 years ago so it has prescribed. Cases can no longer be filed against those who hazed us,” he said.
Asked if he ever participated in initiation rites, Drilon said yes, but claimed he never used the paddle on anyone.
“I hear your plea to strengthen the anti-hazing law and indeed with all due respect to Mr. Joey Lina, the author, I think there is really a need to examine Republic Act 8409,” said Drilon as he urged lawmakers to strengthen the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.
“Hazing that happens is punishable but the initiation itself is allowed if nothing happened. What we need to discuss is if we [can] prohibit outright initiations which include hazing,” Drilon said.
Senator Richard Gordon is a member of another UP-based fraternity, the Upsilon Sigma Phi. Both Gordon and Drilon are graduates of the UP College of Law.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, also admitted undergoing such rites in the PMA.
Zubiri said a lot of senators have gone through hazing, including himself.
“As my Org in UPLB would do paddling as their initiation rites in the eighties. At that time, there were no laws governing initiations or fraternities,” Zubiri said.
“And as we’ve seen and experienced the violence that goes in the initiation process and seen the evil that is inculcated to the neophytes that creates a culture of violence. This through the years had injured, maimed, tortured ang killed hundreds or maybe thousands of young men and women and this should stop. Im’ confident that my colleagues will fully support the strengthening of the Anti-Hazing Law which will prohibit all forms of physical, mental and psychological violence on any new recruit for any organization, fraternity or sorority,” he said.
Aquino said he expects all senators to come together to amend the law.
He said these senseless and needless deaths must be stopped and no other young life should be wasted on a barbaric, cruel and heartless practice.
Hontiveros called on school administrations to improve their risk management capabilities to eliminate hazing and other forms of violence and abuse from fraternities.
She said schools should be pro-active in investigating and addressing “under the radar” cases of violence before they escalate into an incident wherein a student is seriously injured or worse, killed.
She also urged schools to be on the lookout for cases of fraternity-related sexual assault or harassment. She also called on schools to recognize all legitimate fraternities so they can be easily subjected to school regulations and “remove the shroud of secrecy surrounding their initiation rites.”
Castillo, 22, told his parents he was going to “welcoming rites’ at the Aegis Juris fraternity on Sept. 16, Saturday. His parents found the boy dead at the Chinese General Hospital the next day, with extensive blood clotting on both arms and cigarette and candle wax burns in different parts of his body.
An autopsy showed Castillo died from a heart attack due to injuries he suffered during hazing.
Senator Grace Poe also supported amending the Anti-Hazing Law.
“Fraternal ties should not be formed through pain or injury,” Poe said.
The Catholic Church also called for a concerted effort to stop hazing.
Nueva Ecija Bishop Roberto Mallari, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, said that the hazing as part of initiation rites must end in fraternities, especially those in Catholic schools such as UST.
“It would be better for fraternities to focus on academics and concrete acts of fraternal love instead of physical abuse,” the bishop said.
At the Senate, the Aegis Juris member who brought Castillo to hospital, John Paolo Solano, named at least six members of the fraternity linked to the fatal hazing of the UST freshman law sutdent.
Solano, who was initially named as a principal suspect in Morales’ hazing, revealed the identities of the six fraternity members in an executive session that followed Monday night’s Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs hearing on the hazing incident.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was among the senators present in the executive session, told reporters that the six fraternity members were with Solano when Castillo was taken to Chinese General Hospital in Manila.
He said Solano also divulged to them that one of these fraternity members told him to lie to police about the incident, particularly the place where the victim was found after the hazing.
Solano intially told police he found the victim’s somewhere in Balut, Tondo, Manila, but retracted his statement during the Senate hearing.
Admitting that he lied and seeking for an apology, Solano said he round the victim half-conscious when he arrived at the fraternity library.
Since he is a registered medical tehcnologist, Solano said, he was the one that his fraternity brothers called to attend to Castillo.
But Solano has repeatddly insisted he has nothing to do with the hazing. In fact, he did not know there was a hazing, he said. He said he took a leave from law school as he has been working in his father’s clinic.
Zubiri said he finds Solano a credible witness based on his accounts of the incident.
He added that Solano had CCTV footage from his barangay that showed he was there in the morning, then leaving in the evening, presumably to go to the library.
Zubiri said with the names Solano provided, the police can now start a manhunt for the other suspects.
Zubiri said he advised Solano to come up with an affidavit as soon as possible.
The senators also shared the information they obtained from Solano with Castillo’s family.