'Subjective' law, fratmen's 'sphere of influence' lead to few hazing convictions: Zubiri

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2017 03:38 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2017 04:37 PM

MANILA - The low conviction rate in the current anti-hazing law was because it was "subjective" and those who were convicted may not face stiff penalties due to judges' connection to fraternities, Senator Miguel Zubiri said on Monday. 

Zubiri, who proposed to repeal the 1995 law, claimed that out of almost 400 suspects who violated the law from January 2002 to September 2017, 296 remain at large, 30 were arrested, and 15 were convicted with various penalties.

"That’s a conviction rate of only 3.8 percent. There must be something wrong with the law...Ang daming nakalusot sa batas because the penalties are graduated. If you look at the original law, from the very minor punishment all the way to reclusion perpetua, it’s very subjective. The law was very subjective," he told ANC's Early Edition, citing data from the police.

"Our problem is we’re dealing with a lot of graduates of law here who are actually fraternity brothers and they have a sphere of influence," he said.

"No matter what you say, they have a sphere of influence. They can actually talk to the prosecutor, kaibigan ng brod nila or brod nila; they can talk to the judge up to the justices," he added.

The Senate is set to begin its legislative probe into the death of Horacio "Atio" Castillo III, a University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman allegedly killed in initiation rites, in hopes of coming up with a new law.

Castillo's father was Zubiri's high school classmate and his sister was an intern in the senator's office, so a probe into the 22-year-old's death was a "personal crusade" for the lawmaker.

Zubiri said his proposal would be a "a very simple, black and white law" that would be difficult for the judges or prosecutors to circumvent.

"The old law merely regulates hazing. The title alone is a regulation. What we’re going to do is to change it altogether—an act prohibiting hazing in fraternities, sororities, and other organizations," he said.

He is also eyeing simple penalties for the involved, such as up to 20 years imprisonment and P1-million fine for the witnesses who did nothing and reclusion perpetua to officers of the organization.

His version will also seek to make it "unlawful for any person to intimidate, threaten, or force or employ a person to join the hazing rites."

Watch the Senate hearing on ANC at 6:00 p.m.