By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Wednesday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing into law Republic Act 11053 or the Anti- Hazing Act of 2018, strengthening the country’s anti-hazing policies.
The law gives teeth to the previous 1995 version of the law as it now outrightly prohibits and makes hazing a criminal act while providing more substantial penalties for those who would be proven guilty.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, seeks to prevent future hazing deaths by imposing harsher penalties against persons involved in hazing activities that resulted to the death of an individual during initiation rites.
With the law, Lacson expressed hopes there would be no more repeat of the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas (UST) freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III in September 2017.
The law imposes penalties such as reclusion perpetua and up to P3 million in fines.
“Atio Castillo sought to join a brotherhood in search for his purpose in life. Since there’s no more life to speak of, let his death serve the purpose of ensuring that the misery of hazing and the employment of appalling rituals will no longer be imposed in the name of brotherhood,” Lacson said.
“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,” Lacson said in his sponsorship speech for the measure earlier this year.
The higher punishments stemmed from the recommendation of the Senate committee on public order chaired by Lacson.
Lacson’s panel found that Castillo died while undergoing hazing rites of the UST-based Aegis Juris fraternity with several fraternity members trying to cover up Castillo’s death.
The investigation also showed the school was lax in observing the anti-hazing law.
The definition of hazing under the new law has been expanded to include “physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte, or applicant” as a prerequisite for admission or for continued membership in an organization.
The law specifically bans “all forms of hazing” not only in fraternities, sororities or organizations in schools, but also those in communities and even businesses and uniformed service learning institutions.
Under the law, schools are required to be “more active and proactive” in regulating school-based initiation rites. Schools are also required to exercise reasonable supervision and take proactive steps to protect students from danger of participating in activities that will involve hazing.
“We are positive that this landmark legislation will change the way we view brotherhood and other kinds of associations especially in academic institutions and communities,” Sen. Joel Villanueva said in a statement.
“Indeed, violence is unjustifiable and shall never be equated to one’s loyalty. Ang tunay kapatiran ay kailanman hindi masusukat sa karahasan (True brotherhood cannot be measured through violence),” Villanueva stressed.