By FORMER SENATOR ATTY. JOEY D. LINA
Last Tuesday’s episode of Talakayan sa Manila Hotel, a weekly roundtable in-depth discussion on hot issues facing the country which I co-host with former Sen. Sonny Alvarez, was quite melancholic.
Two grief-stricken mothers, Gerarda Villa and Carmina Castillo, shared their insights on our hot topic that day which was about hazing and how best to fight this seemingly unstoppable social evil that has ruined so many lives and distressed many families – both of the victims and perpetrators.
The panel of discussants included Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who filed a resolution in Congress to investigate the death of the latest hazing victim, Philippine Military Academy cadet Darwin Dormitorio. Also with the panel was Sen. Migz Zubiri, author of RA 11053, the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018 which amended RA 8049, the original anti-hazing law I authored in the Senate in 1995.
It was the death on February 10, 1991 of Villa’s son, Ateneo law student Leonardo “Lenny” Villa, during initiation rites of the Aquila Legis fraternity, which led me to push for the enactment of RA 8049 that aimed to make it easier for police investigators and prosecutors to prove their case in court.
At that time, the consequences of hazing — whether it led to slight, less serious, or serious physical injuries, homicide, or murder — had to be proven beyond reasonable doubt amid the extreme difficulties investigators faced from an innate conspiracy of silence among perpetrators. Under the anti-hazing law, quantum of evidence may only be circumstantial, does not have to show intent to commit a wrong because the act of hazing itself is punishable, and mere presence during the hazing makes one liable.
But the public uproar over the 2017 death of Castillo’s son, University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III who succumbed to injuries inflicted by members of the Aegis Juris fraternity, prompted the enactment of a RA 11053 which meted stiffer penalties – including a fine of up to P3 million, aside from life imprisonment – for those found guilty of hazing.
At the Talakayan, both Villa and Castillo reflected on the shattered dreams of their sons, their aspirations for them, the agony they had to endure from the senselessness of hazing, as well as their frustration over its continued occurrence despite the stiff penalties at present.
It has become imperative that more stringent measures must be put in place against hazing. Among the proposed measures is to legislate hazing as a “heinous” crime, to which both Zubiri and Rodriguez are amenable.
Other measures would be: Declaring February 10 of every year as Anti-Hazing Day to serve as a reminder on the evils of hazing and to forewarn young people, creating a website and Facebook accounts containing updates on hazing and cases filed, and putting up a Wall of Remembrance depicting hazing victims and reminding all to shun hazing and the organizations that resort to such despicable acts.
Also needed are measures to reorient fraternities and sororities on how to conduct initiation rites without hazing, tapping cultural groups to spread awareness against hazing, strengthening the active participation of schools, media, parents, and other stakeholders in efforts to ensure that hazing does not occur.
Indeed, pulling out all the stops, using all the resources and forces at one’s disposal, and resorting to all sorts of necessary measures is imperative to fight hazing.
Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner, the newly designated Commandant of Cadets at PMA, has declared a war against hazing. Aside from strengthening the so-called “honor code” at the premier military academy, he will put in place regular physical inspection of cadets, to be handled by doctors on the lookout for signs of hazing like hematoma. I think installing more cameras in various places to monitor more efficiently the activities of cadets would be also a good idea.
Another vital measure to combat the evil practice would be to gather all stakeholders to a National Anti-Hazing Summit to formulate more action plans aimed at primarily saving the precious lives of young people at risk of being inflicted with senseless violence and psychological suffering during initiation rites.
To spearhead the national summit, I intend to revive the Solidarity for Anti-Hazing Via Education (SAVE), a multi-sectoral movement I helped organize in 2007 during a conference held at the University of the Philippine National College of Public Administration.
It is indeed necessary to find more ways, leaving no stone unturned, to put a stop to this social evil that has claimed the lives of so many Filipinos in the prime of their youth. More than ever, now is the time to go all out against hazing.
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