MANILA - School officials should be held accountable in deaths or serious physical injuries that result from hazing activities, whether or not they knew of the initiation rites, said an official of the Supreme Court who attended the legislative hearing at the House of Representative on Tuesday.
Debates on the liability of the school dean or the university were buzzing after the death of a University of Sto. Tomas law freshman Horacio "Atio" Castillo III during initiation to the Aegis Jvris fraternity. Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva said this was because much can be done to prevent hazing "if the school authorities are actually very strict in implementing the law on anti-hazing."
"To my mind, your honors, perhaps it can be considered to make them accountable and responsible to prevent these kinds of death, unnecessary deaths," Villanueva told lawmakers.
"They should be held accountable whether or not they knew that the hazing happened when there is death or serious physical injuries that result from the hazing activity because at this point in time, the law requires that there should be knowledge on the part of the school authorities before they can be held accountable," he said.
In his opening remarks, Justice Committee Chair Rey Umali said the measure to review the 1995 Anti-Hazing Law was identified as a priority bill before Castillo's death.
"This extremely unfortunate event is in a way also fortuitous, since it is a testament to the timeliness of this measure and the pressing need to strengthen our laws to prevent such needless loss of a life full of promise and potential," he said.
He said the technical working group has met and refined the provisions of the bill.
Villanueva said if his proposal is included, it may enjoin school heads to make sure that these activities are regulated.
"Otherwise, they will not do anything and they will keep on pleading innocence to those activities and they will always go scot-free," he said.
Castillo, 22, died due to massive injuries consistent with hazing, according to an autopsy report. Suspect John Paul Solano was among those who rushed Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital early Sunday, but the latter was declared dead upon arrival.
The Senate also began its investigation into the student's death, hoping to repeal the decades-old law, which according to Senator Miguel Zubiri resulted in very few convictions.