MANILA - A senator is pushing for a total ban on hazing rites, saying the current Anti-Hazing Law passed in 1995 only regulates the initiation rites of fraternities.
"I think this law allows hazing per se. It just regulates hazing. It makes hazing illegal if the person dies or if the person becomes incapacitated," Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said in an ANC interview.
Under Section 4 of the 1995 Anti-Hazing Law, those who participated in hazing will be penalized or jailed "if the person subjected to hazing or other forms of initiation rites suffers any physical injury or dies as a result thereof."
"Paano kung hindi siya namatay o hindi siya nagkaroon ng physical injury? Mapaparusahan lang 'yung gumawa ng hazing pag namatay 'yung victim o nagkaroon ng physical injury," he told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.
In cases of injury, the law, too, passes the burden to a surviving victim to prove that he has been incapacitated for work which he was "habitually engaged" for a particular time period before the culprit can be penalized.
"Dapat ikaw biktima, you will have to prove na ikaw ay nasaktan at di ka makatrabaho araw-araw. Siyemrpe ilalaban 'yan ng mga gumawa ng hazing na 'e hindi naman 'yan araw-araw'," he said.
In a 2012 column entitled "Death and Brotherhood" written by Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te, who was then a human rights lawyer, hr pointed out the even the title of the law shows that it does not totally ban hazing.
"An Act regulating hazing and other forms of initiation rights in fraternities, sororities and other organizations and providing penalties therefor," the title reads.
Te also pointed out that a provision in the Anti-Hazing Law even "encourages the conduct of hazing" as long as it was approved. In case the hazing does not have approval, the law does not provide any penalty for this, he added.
"No hazing or initiation rites in any form or manner by a fraternity, sorority or organization shall be allowed without prior written notice to the school authorities or head of organization seven (7) days before the conduct of such initiation.
"The written notice shall indicate the period of the initiation activities which shall not exceed three (3) days, shall include the names of those to be subjected to such activities, and shall further contain an undertaking that no physical violence be employed by anybody during such initiation rites," the law's Section 2 reads.
Gatchalian said Senate Bill 199, which he filed, does not only seek to ban hazing, but also puts more responsibility on the schools who are supposed to accredit organizations, as the current law does provide penalties for them in case a fraternity in their jurisdiction figures in a hazing incident.
"It's important for the school to participate in this advocacy and make sure that they are accrediting the right organizations," he said, stressing that schools need to be proactive in these matters.
Under the bill, Gatchalian also said anyone present during a hazing incident will be considered a suspect as mere presence is construed as "an unspoken agreement to the act of hazing."
207 hazing victims, 12 deaths in 15 years
The 1995 Anti-Hazing Law defines hazing as "any physical and psychological suffering, harm, or injury inflicted on a recruit"—a definition adopted in Gatchalian's bill.
Since 2002, Philippine National Police data show there have been 207 hazing victims, with at least 12 incidents that led to a recruit's death. Despite this, the conviction rate is only 3.8%.
Just recently, Horacio Castillo III, a University of Santo Tomas law student, died in a hazing incident. Police autopsy confirms he died of a heart attack due to "massive injury" consistent with hazing.
The 22-year-old victim's dad, Horacio Jr., said his son suffered extreme pain during hazing, as shown by his hematoma and burn marks.
"He went through extreme pain and suffering. I don't know why they did this when it is a legal fraternity in UST and they are lawyers," the elder Castillo said.
Gatchalian described the hazing done to Castillo as a "barbaric act" and "pure torture." He called fraternity members to denounce the act of hazing and join the advocacy to stop the cycle of violence.