MANILA - The Senate on Wednesday pushed for a law banning hazing as it reported findings in its inquiry into the death of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio "Atio" Castillo III last year.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, presented the proposed Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, which aims to prevent the waste of young lives in brutal initiation rites among fraternities and sororities.
The measure, the result of a joint inquiry of Lacson's committee and the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights. seeks to improve on the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995, which has failed to prevent hazing deaths.
"As a result of our Committee’s inquiry in aid of legislation, we came up with the proposed amendments to the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995. The misgivings of the said law in protecting future recruits necessitate these amendments," Lacson said in his sponsorship speech.
"Mr. President, hazing needs to stop now. Awareness must be raised as to the fact that there is no unity, no brotherhood, no strength, no honor, no dignity and no respect in hazing. Hazing is merely violence and abuse," he said.
The proposal expands the definition of hazing to "any physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte or applicant" as a requirement before he or she can admitted to an organization.
Acts under the definition include "paddling, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of food, liquor, beverage, drug and other substances."
It also considers "any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical and psychological health of such recruit, member, neophyte or applicant" as a form of hazing.
Fraternities and sororities under the proposed law are also required to register with the school, university, or in cases of community-based organizations to the barangay.
The proposal also seeks to hold school officials more accountable for activities of fraternities and sororities.
"For a more active and proactive participation of schools in regulating school-based initiation rites, fraternities, sororities, and organizations are required to submit and post a written application not later than seven days prior to the scheduled date, indicating pertinent details regarding the initiation rites. In addition, we add the obligation by school representatives to monitor, record and report initiation rites so as to ensure that no hazing shall be conducted," said Lacson.
The organizations are also required to have an adviser who will be responsible in monitoring the members' activities. The fraternity or sorority adviser should be an active member of the school faculty and in good standing.
Any person, member of the fraternity or not, who has knowledge of hazing but failed to inform authorities will also be penalized under the proposed law.
The Committee's bill substitutes those filed by Senators Gregorio Honasan, Sherwin Gatchalian, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Bam Aquino, and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, which all sought a total ban on hazing.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who called for the probe on Castillo's death in September last year, said this proposed measure no longer leaves room for grey areas in the anti-hazing law and effectively bans hazing in all forms.
"The illegal acts constituting hazing are now explicitly stated without room for gray areas; unlike the old law which accepted and merely regulated fatal hazing rites," he said in a statement.
A similar bill has been approved on the final reading at the House of Representatives.
Several Aegis Jvris fraternity members are facing criminal charges over his death following initiation rites on Sept. 17, 2017.