Senators score Adamson exec over inaction on Tau Gamma Phi, unrecognized groups in campus

Senators on Tuesday, March 7 took turns castigating an Adamson University official over the school’s perceived negligence in preventing hazing practices committed by fraternities and sororities not officially recognized by their institution.

During the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights hearing on the reported death of John Matthew Salilig allegedly due to hazing, Adamson Student Affairs director Jan Nelin Navallasca admitted that the school is aware of Tau Gamma’s “alleged presence” in the university. 

This prompted Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa to criticize the Adamson executive for failing to observe and implement Republic Act (RA) No. 11053 or the Anti-hazing Act of 2018.

“So alam pala ninyo na meron niyan, bakit hindi ninyo ni-regulate (So you were aware that they are there, why didn't you regulate them)?” Senator Ronald dela Dela Rosa asked Navallasca.

Sen. Rafael “Raffy” Tulfo also scored the official for not having done anything to stop the initiation rites from happening.

“You should have done something, kaso wala kang ginawa (but you didn't do anything),” Tulfo said.

In defense, Navallasca reiterated that the Adamson University does not accredit fraternities and sororities and that they would inform students of the school’s policy during their annual freshmen orientation.

The lawyer also said Adamson only recognizes three organizations that are under their College of Law, but they had encountered no problems with these organizations. 

Anna Maria Abad, Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities legal counsel, also defended Adamson, and said students are informed when a school does not recognize fraternities and sororities. 

Abad also pointed out that since the enactment of Republic Act 11053 or the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, many schools have already banned fraternities and sororities in their respective campuses.

“The fact of the matter is that most of the schools have actually outlawed fraternties and sororities. These organizations have not been recognized by a lot of schools,” she said. 

Abad also pointed out that the school’s role as the “second parent” is also limited to academic and extracurricular activities within the school. In the case of Salilig, the hazing activities were done outside of the school.

Salilig, 24, a chemical engineering graduate, was found in a shallow grave in Imus, Cavite days after he was reported missing. Fellow fraternity members who are now suspects in the case confirmed the initiation rites were done at the residence owned by the father of their members in Biñan, Laguna.  The house is reportedly still under construction.

“The ‘loco parentis’ is in respect of the academic and extracurricular activities that are recognized by the school… yun po ‘yung limit ng aming (that’s the limit of our) authority. This is part of the academic freedom of the universities,” Abad said.

“With all due respect, your honor, the schools have been trying to balance this delicate situation. It is very painful for the administration (of the school)…We do not condone nor tolerate violence; in fact we actually condemn it,” Abad said responding to a question posited by Tulfo.

However, Tulfo insisted that the school has an obligation to inform law enforcers of the existence of unrecognized groups within their campuses.

Abad stressed that the school regularly conducts seminars about the school policies and regulations, especially for transferees.  However, Dela Rosa said it is not enough.

“Established yan. Alam namin na may ginagawa kayo pero kulang pa rin ang ginagawa niyo. Dahil may namatay (That’s already established. We know that you are doing something but it’s not enough. Because somebody died),” he said.

Roi Dela Cruz, one of the resource persons, and who underwent the initiation rites together with Salilig, for his part, claimed that Adamson University did not orient them about fraternities and hazing rites. 

This pushed members of the Senate panel to call for the punishment of reclusion perpetua for school administrators, house owners, and all fraternity officials who did not do anything to despite having knowledge of the ongoing hazing rituals.

“But if we will amend the law again, I believe stiffer penalties should be imposed on schools that will fail to implement it, as well as on fraternities, sororities and other organizations that will continue with hazing practices,” said Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

“Unfortunately, the anti-hazing law is not enough. We have to provide it with more teeth to make the fraternities, sororities, and organizations involved in hazing liable and more responsible,” Tulfo, likewise, said.

“Another provision that could be amended is to make the owner of the place where hazing is being conducted liable as an accomplice, if he or she has actual knowledge of the initiation ritual but has failed to take any action to prevent the same from occurring,” Tulfo added. 

Sen. Francis Tolentino, chairman of the justice and human rights panel, suggested the need to fine-tune RA 11053 to “give more teeth to the law.”

“The current law that we have is stricter than the old anti-hazing law.  It prohibited all forms of hazing. It made everyone present at initiation rites punishable by reclusion perpetua, whether actually taking part in hazing or not,” Tolentino said. 

And yet, the senator noted, the hazing of Salilig still happened “all in the name of acceptance to the brotherhood."

Tolentino also mentioned the case of University of Cebu student Ronnel Baguio who also died due to hazing last December 2022. Five fraternity officials who were suspected of committing the crime, have been identified and arrested.

 “Words cannot express how much the families are grieving now, and we are well aware that the outcome of this hearing will no longer bring back the life already lost.  So, to give justice not only to the death of Mat-mat Salilig but the other victims of senseless death due to hazing, the goal of this committee is to craft a policy and come up with a legislation that will ensure that no more senseless death like this will ever happen again in the future,” Tolentino said.