SC clears 2 ‘frat’ members in student’s death

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the charges filed against two suspected members of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity in connection with the death of an 18-year-old college student allegedly due to hazing in Cavite in 2009.

In a 26-page decision penned by SC Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting and released on Tuesday, the high tribunal granted the petition filed by Carlos Paulo Bartolome and Joel Bandalan to reverse the Aug. 30, 2016 decision and Oct. 26, 2016 resolutions of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the Sept. 4, 2014 decision of a local court convicting them for the death of John Daniel Samparada.

The SC ordered the director of the Bureau of Corrections to immediately release the two from detention unless they are being held for other violations of the law.

“After a careful review of the case and the body of evidence adduced before the RTC (regional trial court), the court is not convinced that petitioners are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of hazing,” the SC ruling read.

The high court said Bartolome and Bandalan were convicted based on circumstantial evidence. The two were sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

The SC said the prosecution failed to establish the elements of hazing under Republic Act 8049.

“The failure of the prosecution to prove that Samparada was a recruit, neophyte or applicant of Tau Gamma Phi fraternity prevents the court from concluding that the injuries he sustained were due to the fraternity’s hazing-related activities,” it said.

During investigation, it was learned that Bartolome, Bandalan and an unidentified man brought Samparada, a student of the Lyceum of the Philippines in Cavite, to the Estrella Hospital.

The hospital staff said the victim died of hazing, citing the bruises on his thighs.

Police concluded that the suspects were members of Tau Gamma Phi based on a document recovered from them.

In their defense, Bartolome and Bandalan said they met Samparada at the house of a certain Ivan Marquez in Silang town, where they went for night swimming.

The two said they left the house to buy provisions and when they returned, Samparada lost consciousness and hit his head on the pavement.

They claimed police forced them to admit that they inflicted injuries on Samparada that led to his death.

However, the SC said the mere presence of Bartolome and Bandalan when Samparada fell unconscious as well as their act of accompanying him to the hospital ”fall short of proving that they, to the exclusion of all others, are the persons responsible for the injuries sustained by Samparada.”

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