LATELY in September 2017, we were disturbed by the death of a 22-year old freshman law student of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) who was believed to have died of hazing injuries inflicted by members of a fraternity.
In view of this, the Senate and the Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted separate investigations into the incident involving 17 persons facing criminal complaints. Likewise, more than three years ago, the whole country was shocked by the death of an 18-year old BS Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management sophomore student of De la Salle-College of Saint Benilde (CSB) in a fraternity hazing rite on June 28, 2014. The student died inside a unit of condominium on Taft Avenue in Manila after suffering multiple injuries from the initiation rite.
In 1991, a freshmen law student also died in initiation rites inside a house in Caloocan City. After his death, six more hazing-related deaths took place. This led to the enactment of Republic Act 8049, otherwise known as the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.
However, in November 2009, another fraternity-related incident happened when a 15-year-old girl, believed to be a confraternity neophyte, was accidentally shot to death during initiation rites in Biñan, Laguna.
And in 2012, the deaths of two more law students in separate hazing incidents again rocked the whole country. In view of these incidents, some legislators proposed amendments to give teeth to the existing Anti-Hazing Law. However, the proposed amendments remained proposals to this day.
The death of the UST freshman law student again ignited calls to strengthen laws against hazing and other violent activities of organizations, including fraternities.
Fraternities were founded to promote brotherhood and camaraderie among groups of people, including students in colleges and universities. Hazing is an initiation rite or practice which is a prerequisite for admission into a fraternity by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations like forcing him/her to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or subjecting him/her to physical or psychological suffering or injury.
According to RA 8049, if the person subjected to hazing or other forms of initiation rites suffers any physical injury or dies as a result thereof, the officers and members of the fraternity who actually participated in the infliction of physical harm shall be liable as principals.
The person or persons who participated in the hazing shall suffer a penalty to a maximum of reclusion perpetual if death, rape, sodomy or mutilation results there from. The responsible officials of the school or of the police, military or citizen’s army training organization, may impose the appropriate administrative sanctions on the person or the persons charged under this provision of the law even before their conviction.
On the other hand, in order to deter violence among fraternities in colleges and universities, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) imposed sanctions of automatic expulsion on any fraternity member for starting or taking the offensive action which clearly provokes violence; for carrying of knives, sticks, pipes, guns and other deadly weapons in schools; and for extortion.
Students join fraternities to establish “kinship”, gain more friends and to avail of available benefits, such as tips during bar or board examinations and immediate employment after graduation.
In joining the groups, they have to undergo hazing, leaving their fates in the hands of fraternity members who might be barbaric and reckless. Banning fraternities in schools will only result in driving these groups underground, which makes monitoring their actions more difficult.
Hence, the CHED again reminds all private and public higher education institutions (HEIs) to be vigilant and institute measures to regulate recruitment and initiation activities.
HEIs should be aware of their serious responsibilities and duties to strictly comply with the provisions of Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.
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