MANILA - Officials of schools, barangays, fraternities and sororities may soon be imprisoned for life as the revised anti-hazing bill takes a step closer to becoming a law.
This after the House of Representatives passed on final reading House Bill No. 6573, which does not only regulate hazing but prohibits such activities in all its forms, Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said.
Herrera-Dy, who authored the bill, said the measure requires all members of fraternities and sororities to register their membership with their respective schools.
For their part, schools must ensure that lists of memberships are updated and that each registered fraternity and sorority has a faculty adviser.
"Dapat meron nagmo-monitor na faculty adviser. Nakatutok siya, and this could be a fraternity brother or sister kasi may internal secrets din naman sila," the lawmaker said.
(A faculty adviser should monitor. He could be a fraternity brother or sister and they could have internal secrets as well.)
Barangay officials are also mandated to register all community organizations within their areas.
Officials of schools, barangays, and fraternities or sororities may face a minimum of 20 years in prison in the event that death or injuries occur during initiation rites and if they were present or were proven to have knowledge of such rites.
"Liable dapat kasi registered sa kanila, at may faculty adviser assigned. May 2 school officials na present dapat during initiation rites so hindi na excuse na hindi nila alam," Herrera-Dy said.
(Officials should be liable because it is registered with them and there is a faculty adviser assigned. There should be 2 school officials present during initiation rites so that there are no excuses.)
She added that officials present during initiation rites will be deemed "principally" liable even if they do not participate in such rites.
The measure also requires schools to conduct anti-hazing seminars and information campaigns every semester to dissuade engagement in such activities.
Fraternities, sororities, and other youth organizations are also discouraged from inflicting not only physical injuries but also psychological injuries under the measure.
Another major improvement in the proposal is the inclusion of the "impermissible defense," where consent of the victim does not exempt the perpetrator from liability.
Initiation rites for new members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are, however, exempt from provisions of the revised bill.
"They have their own rules and regulations, they have their own laws and guides," Herrera-Dy said, adding that the AFP and the PNP have officers and doctors present during initiation activities.
A renewed push to improve the country's anti-hazing law came following the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III during rites of the Aegis Jvris fraternity in September.
His death again put the spotlight on fraternities and their culture of hazing.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri has expressed hopes that Congress finalizes the measure by March even as the Senate has yet to approve its own version.
"Hopefully, by February matapos natin ito, we'll have the bicam (bicameral) version by first week of March" Zubiri said.