Zubiri: Anti-hazing law never banned hazing. Now we will

September 25, 2017 - 11:10 PM
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Atio hazing outrage
Hazing death of Horatio Castillo sparks outrage, prompts lawmakers to move for banning fraternity and sorority hazing.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri wants a total ban on hazing, and is seeking the repeal of Republic Act No. 8049, or “An Act Regulating Hazing and other forms of Initiation Rites in Fraternities, Sororities, and other Organizations and providing penalties thereof,” in favor of a new law which will prohibit hazing altogether.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV Philippines’ The Big Story anchor and InterAksyon Editor-in-Chief Roby Alampay, the legislator pointed out that RA No. 8049 merely “regulated” hazing. The new law, he said, would ban “all forms of physical, mental, and psychological torture on students or anyone who applies in organizations, sororities, or fraternities.”

The piece of legislation is being proposed in the wake of the death of University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio Tomas “Atio” Castillo III, 22, who was pronounced already dead when brought to Chinese General Hospital on September 17, allegedly at the hands of the Aegis Juris fraternity.

Zubiri was asked if he was a fraternity man, to which he replied he was not, although he acknowledged being “adopted by some,” being a senator. But he did mention that during his time at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, he joined the oldest laboratory in the school, Rancho’s Lab, where he was paddled in order to get in. There was no anti-hazing law yet, at the time.

Alampay pointed out that many of Senator Zubiri’s colleagues in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government were members of fraternities, and asked whether he expected resistance from them when the new proposal is debated on.

“You’re correct,” the senator replied. “A lot of lawyers are fraternity members, prosecutors, you have judges, even members of the Supreme Court are members of fraternities. So you’re up against a big influential group … That’s why since 1995, there’s been only one successful conviction, in the case involving UPLB’s Marlon Villanueva whose perpetrators are found guilty.”

Villanueva died during initiation rites by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity in January 2006. He was 21.

Zubiri stressed that the conviction rate for hazing was only 3.8 percent, which he hoped to rectify by simplifying the law.

“And by simplifying we mean total ban on hazing, and those who participate in hazing, whether you are just watching and not stopping the hazing.

“It’s automatic reclusion temporal which is basically 12 to 20 years. And when you take the further step, which is actually participating in the hazing, it is now reclusion perpetua.

“And we also now put a provision that all officers of the fraternity, sorority, or organization at the time the hazing was conducted, whether the victim dies or not, whether the victim suffers death, even if he just gets hurt and he complains, that’s automatic reclusion perpetua. So, mabigat (it’s a stiff penalty),” Zubiri said.

Asked if faculty advisers and school officials should be liable, as well, given that fraternities are mostly student organizations and recognized by schools, Zubiri said that part of the proposed law was a section on the liabilities of the schools and even companies that host such organizations.

“These usually are registered in their campus within the university system and they should definitely be involved. And they should definitely be liable,” Zubiri said.

He stressed that they did not plan on banning initiation rites, as there were organizations where such events were “very solemn, very somber.” What they wanted to ban were violent acts that lead to hazing, whether mental or physical torture.

“And, you know, we have to have a wide definition of hazing or violence during hazing because what they’ll say para makalusot lang ay ‘yung maliit na paddle, papaluan mo lang nang isang beses, ‘yan na po ay hindi bayolente kasi you know, they might say, ‘yung bayolente ‘yung binubugbog mo, bina-boxing mo yung bata, sinusunog mo ‘yung bata (to get out of it is they’ll use a small paddle, use it once, and say that’s not violent, and you know, they might say violent means beating someone up, boxing the neophyte, burning the neophyte). But we want to make a bigger definition of terms, a bit wider for violence during hazing. Physical violence to include all forms of pain inflicted to the participant or the neophyte,” Zubiri said.

As to how the current law could break the code of silence that prevented fraternity members from divulging what they knew, and what Castillo’s family could count on, Zubiri said that the law penalizes the death of a hazing victim with reclusion perpetua.

“And what we need to do is get the statements of (fraternity member John Paul) Solano, who already surrendered, and another witness who surrendered to the DOJ, and get their statements to see who were actually there, who perpetuated the crime,” Zubiri added. “As a matter of fact, I believe two or three members of the fraternity already left the country. As you know, in many circles, the legal circles, flight sometimes is a sign of guilt. So, we hope we can cancel their passports so they can be deported back home. They should man up to their actions.”

He lamented that, indeed, the members of the fraternity were law students and law graduates – people who took or would take an oath to protect and uphold the law, but, ironically, would also perpetrate crimes such as hazing.

“We have to stop this for our children’s future. We gotta make sure that we pass the new hazing law that will totally ban all forms of physical and mental violence,” Zubiri said.