Brother hood
SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

The sight of the parents grieving over the brutal killing of their son is made more heartbreaking by the thought that they might never get justice. This has been the fate of many other parents who have lost their children to fraternity hazing, or who grapple with the continuing trauma of those who were lucky to survive.

The Anti-Hazing Law, Republic Act No. 8049, was passed way back in 1995, four years after Ateneo de Manila law student Lenny Villa was murdered by members of the Aquila Legis fraternity in a Caloocan safehouse.

RA 8049 “regulates” but does not ban hazing. The law must have been crafted by persons belonging to fraternities with a tradition of violent initiation rites. And like many laws in our weak republic, RA 8049 is just an empty threat.

It describes “hazing” as “an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury.

Why are such acts merely regulated rather than banned? Now you know why hazing continues.

The law does prohibit inflicting “physical harm” on any fraternity or sorority neophyte or applicant. And the law imposes stiff sanctions on violators: at least four years for physical injury that does not lead to any form of temporary or permanent impairment; six to 20 years for injuries that cause such impairments including insanity, blindness or impotence; and life in prison in case of a neophyte’s death, rape, sodomy or mutilation.

Under RA 8049, the dean of the University of Sto. Tomas Faculty of Civil Law may be held liable as an accomplice in the hazing death of Horacio Tomas “Atio” Castillo III at the hands of Aegis Juris fraternity members. The law student’s dad Horacio II said he was reassured by dean Nilo Divina that Atio would not suffer physical harm during the hazing rites. Divina has said he has been on leave from Aegis Juris (Shield of Justice) for eight years.

RA 8049 states: “The school authorities including faculty members who consent to the hazing or who have actual knowledge thereof, but failed to take any action to prevent the same from occurring shall be punished as accomplices for the acts of hazing committed by the perpetrators.

The officers, former officers, or alumni of the organization, group, fraternity or sorority who actually planned the hazing although not present when the acts constituting the hazing were committed shall be liable as principals.

Tough provisions. Now if only the law could be enforced…

* * *

All three branches of government have conspired to ensure the survival of hazing. The vile tradition lives on in both the Philippine Military and National Police Academies. Perhaps those who suffered violent hazing as plebes can’t stand the idea of the younger generations being spared from the same barbaric treatment.

Congress “regulated” hazing instead of prohibiting it. Members of fraternities and sororities in the prosecution service and judiciary make sure their “brothers” and “sisters” remain beyond the reach of the law.

How many Aquila Legis members actually paid for Lenny Villa’s hazing death? This is a rare case where conviction was obtained. As the case went through the judicial process for two decades, 26 of the 35 fraternity members tagged in the hazing were convicted by a regional trial court, but 19 were cleared by the Court of Appeals. Cases against three others were dismissed by the CA ostensibly for undue delay in their trial. The Supreme Court itself was not remiss in doing its part for brotherhood; it downgraded the offense against five of the remaining convicts, from homicide to reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

Some of the young barbarians, now in middle age after 26 years, were even allowed to practice law. No doubt their parents moved heaven and earth to sell the argument that their children didn’t know what they were doing, and it wasn’t fair to deprive them of a bright future in the legal profession just for a little bit of youthful torture and murder.

It’s intriguing that law students think violence and inhumanity and breaking the law are needed for initiation into the legal profession. This has to be one of the reasons for the weakness of the rule of law in our country, and for our broken criminal justice system.

I wish I could say it must be a guy thing, but the madness has also spread to sororities. The girls must be spending too much time with pet dogs; they feel the need to assert alpha status in the worst ways they can think of on their sorority “sisters” – by burning initiates with cigarettes and melted wax, beating them with paddles, and even having them raped by fraternity “brothers.”

* * *

Such initiation activities are expressly prohibited under the law. But how many have been sent to prison for such offenses since 1995? How many fraternity and school supervisors were even indicted?

Atio Castillo was 22 years old; like him, other law students are legally of the age of discernment. They know exactly what they are doing when they break the law and inflict violence on those applying to be their fraternity “brothers.”

No one deserves the fate that befell slain teenagers Kian delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman. But a common comment about the latest hazing death is that the forces of Tokhang and Double Barrel should put in their crosshairs the murderers of Atio Castillo.

If at least one of the murderers turns up with 30 stab wounds and his head wrapped in packing tape, the public reaction is likely to be the same as in the killing of members of the Parojinog clan: demons deserve to be sent to hell.

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