SC affirms guilty verdict in Lenny Villa hazing

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2012 07:12 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2012 04:25 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Supreme Court has held 5 members of the Aquila Legis Fraternity at the Ateneo Law School liable for the brutal hazing of Leonardo "Lenny" Villa in February 1991.

In a Resolution penned by Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, the high court held that Fidelito Dizon, Antonio Mariano Almeda, Junel Anthony Ama, Renato Bantug, Jr. and Vincent Tecson were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

“[T]he collective acts of the fraternity members were tantamount to recklessness, which made the resulting death of Lenny a culpable felony. It must be remembered that organizations owe to their initiates a duty of care not to cause them injury in the process. With the foregoing facts, we rule that the accused are guilty of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. Since the NBI medico-legal officer found that the victim’s death was the cumulative effect of the injuries suffered, criminal responsibility redounds to all those who directly participated in and contributed to the infliction of physical injuries," the Resolution read.

They were sentenced “to suffer an indeterminate prison term of four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum.”

"The appealed Judgment... finding petitioner Fidelito Dizon guilty of homicide is hereby modified and set aside in part. The appealed Judgment…finding Antonio Mariano Almeda, Junel Anthony Ama, Renato Bantug, Jr., and Vincent Tecson guilty of the crime of slight physical injuries – is also modified and set aside in part,” the SC ruling stated.

“In addition, accused are ordered jointly and severally to pay the heirs of Lenny Villa civil indemnity ex delicto in the amount of ?50,000, and moral damages in the amount of ?1,000,000, plus legal interest on all damages awarded at the rate of 12% from the date of the finality of this Decision until satisfaction,” the Resolution read.

In 2002, Court of Appeals held Vincent Tecson, Junel Anthony Ama, Antonio Mariano Almeda and Renato Bantug Jr.  liable for slight physical injuries ; Fidelito Dizon and Artemio Villareal were convicted of homicide as  the appellate court ruled that they were "motivated by ill will" in reopening the already concluded initiation rites.

Villareal has already passed away and so in its ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed the case against him while modifying Dizon's conviction by the appellate court to reckless imprudence resulting to homicide.

In the case of  Almeda, Ama,  Bantug, Jr. and  Tecson, the Supreme Court modified the ruling of the appellate court and found them guilty instead of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

The high court also urged Congress to push for the amendment of the Anti-Hazing Law.