Lenny Villa's family dismayed with 21-year wait

by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2012 10:56 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2012 10:13 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The family of Leonardo "Lenny" Villa is thankful but still dismayed with the decision of the Supreme Court on Monday in connection with the death of an Ateneo de Manila law student who passed away in 1991 during the initiation rites by members of the Aquila Legis Fraternity.

In a 68-page decision written by Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, the Court declared that all the accused, namely Fedelito Dizon, Artemio Villareal , Antonio Mariano Almeda, Junel Anthony Ama, Renato Bantug, Jr., and Vincent Tecson are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

The court, however, excluded Villareal who died during the pendency of the case.

The mother of Lenny, Gerarda Villa, said she she is dismayed for 2 reasons, with the first being the courts taking 21 years to hand down a decision.

She said the long period discourages other families of hazing victims of fighting for justice.

She said the penalty rendered to the accused was not commensurate to the crime. T

The SC imposed a prison term of a minimum of 4 months to a maximum of 4 years on the accused.

"Hindi ako masyadong happy, masyadong maigsi ang four months to four years, hindi ito magiging deterrent sa mga fraternities, kaya marami pang namamatay eh," Villa said.

"Masyadong mahaba ang proseso, imagine 21 years, sinong magulang ang makakahintay tulad ko," she added.

She, however, expressed her gratitude to the Supreme Court for finally issuing a decision that her family waited for a very long time.

"Nagpapasalamat pa rin kami sa justice system dahil at last after 21 years, up to now naghintay kami dahil naniniwala pa rin kami sa justice system," she said.

She believes, however, that families of many hazing victims are just accepting out-of-court settlements because the justice system is too slow to act on cases.

"Karaniwan ida-drop na lang yung kaso kaysa maghintay ng ganun katagal, kaya yung mga fraternities lumalakas ang loob," she said. "Ganun lang kasi ang parusa, sasabihin malalakad naman natin yan, ina-areglo na lamang."

Villa said no one among the 6 accused were jailed during the 21-year wait for justice, since they were able to post bail for just P1,000.

She is hopeful that the authorities will still be able to find the suspects and put them to jail.

She, however, worries that the suspects will be in jail for only 4 months, the minimum penalty set by SC, because "good behavior" can be used as a reason to free them within the given period.

Villa currently heads Crusade Against Violence, a victims' organization that she and her husband established after the death of Lenny in February 1991.

They lobbied for the enactment of the Anti-Hazing Law, which now sets a penalty of life imprisonment on those proven to have violated it.

A case involving 6 more suspects in the death of Lenny Villa is still pending at the Caloocan Regional Trial Court.