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Aguirre wants more teeth in anti-hazing law

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II wants more teeth in the implementation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law following the recent fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III. File

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II wants more teeth in the implementation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law following the recent fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III.

Aguirre has supported moves in Congress to amend the 22-year-old law that regulates initiation rites and prohibits physical harm and violence against applicants in fraternities and sororities.

“The law needs more teeth for better regulation of fraternities and sororities. It could be made more stringent through amendments as being proposed in Congress,” Aguirre told The STAR yesterday.

Aguirre believes that deaths from initiations of fraternities could be prevented through better regulations not only from the government but from schools as well.

“Fraternity violence could be avoided if the school could strictly supervise the initiation rites by legalizing and allowing their registration,” he suggested.

Aguirre himself is a member of a fraternity, the Lex Talionis of San Beda College of Law where President Duterte is also a member.

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Aguirre lamented that in their alma mater, “fraternities are outlawed,” which he said “is not good.”

Aguirre revealed their fraternity already banned hazing after the death of three neophyte members during initiation rites in 1991, one of whom he identified as Raul Camaligan.

“We were really very sorry for that. We even put up a foundation for them,” he recalled.

Aguirre said their eight frat brothers involved in the incident led by sacked Immigration deputy commissioner Al Argosino pleaded guilty to a lower charge of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide instead of the original charge of homicide during trial.

While Aguirre supported additional regulatory measures, he has opposed calls for a total ban on fraternities due to deaths from hazing, citing the constitutional right of citizens to assembly.

“We should strike a balance between the right of assembly and the right against violence. We don’t need to ban fraternities just to stop hazing,” he argued.

Among the proposed amendments of Republic Act 8049 are Senate Bill 223 filed by Sen. Vicente Sotto III and SB 199 filed by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.

SB 223 seeks to impose maximum penalty in instances when hazing is committed under the influence of illegal drugs and liquor and when there is a presence of non-resident or alumni fraternity members during hazing.

SB 199, on the other hand, seeks to prohibit all forms of hazing and allow only initiation rites or practices which do not inflict physical or psychological suffering or injury to the applicant.

Gatchalian’s bill also proposes stiffer penalties on those involved in hazing. Aside from life imprisonment, a fine of P3 million will be imposed if hazing results in death, rape, sodomy and mutilation.

A similar measure, House Bill 3467 was filed in the lower chamber by Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy.

RA 8049 was enacted in 1995 after the death of Ateneo law student Leonardo Villa in 1991.

The law mandates that no hazing or initiation rites shall be allowed without prior written notice to the school authorities or head of organization seven days before the activity.

It requires at least two representatives of the school or organization to be present during initiation to ensure that violence will not be employed.

The law also states that “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, sorority or organization who actually participated in the infliction of physical harm shall be liable as principals.”

Life imprisonment will be imposed on individuals involved if initiation rites result in death, rape, sodomy or mutilation.

Amending the law

Lawmakers from the House of Representatives have expressed willingness to amend the 22-year-old Anti-Hazing Law following the death of Castillo.

“The intent of the probe is to cure defects in the Anti-Hazing Law that regulates fraternity rites but has failed to stop hazing which continues to rear its ugly head almost yearly resulting in gruesome deaths such as that of Castillo’s,” Quezon City Rep. Winnie Castelo said.

Castelo also filed a resolution calling for a congressional inquiry into the fatal hazing of Castillo.

Castelo lamented that after 22 years of the Anti-Hazing Law and its “long list of victims,” only one has been convicted, citing the case of two members of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity in the death of UP Los Baños student Marlon Villanueva in 2006. – Delon Porcalla, Helen Flores

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