Editorial: The least of our brothers-A A +A
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
THE law against hazing protects many, but not all. It does not seem to protect, for example, detainees at the mercy of jail guards or other prisoners.
That’s one of the things we learn from the story of a mother, Nemia Ong, who has written Malacañang for help in the case of her son, a Cebu City Jail detainee. She alleged that another inmate beat her son at least 110 times, as part of the “traditional” hazing. He was so badly injured that he bled every time he had to relieve himself shortly after the beating.
Seventeen years ago, Congress passed a bill that outlawed hazing, in response to some fatal initiations performed on fraternity recruits in universities. However, it narrowly defined hazing to include only acts performed before admitting anyone into a fraternity, sorority or similar organization.
The law does not punish, for example, tests given to prospective soldiers or police operatives to gauge their physical, mental or psychological fitness.
It certainly offers no protection for detainees or convicted prisoners who, it may be presumed, do not want to be admitted into any prison in the first place.
So what protection do detainees have then?
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) spelled out last Sept. 16, 2010 its standard procedures in the admission and release of inmates. On the day a detainee is first brought to prison, he or she is strip-searched for any “cuts, markings and bruises” that are then recorded in the jail booking report.
What happens to this clinical record next? That part’s not clear. The guidelines neglect to say which organization or authority reviews the jail management’s handling of its detainees. Prisoners can hardly be expected to complain for as long as they remain behind bars; that would make them easy targets. That is probably why, despite her anxiety about her son’s predicament, Ong repeatedly stressed she did not intend to embarrass the BJMP by making her appeal directly to Malacañang.
Hazing is one of those crimes that indict not only the individuals who commit it, but the communities that let it go unpunished. For at least two years now, some congressmen have spoken of the need to revisit the hazing law. How Malacañang responds to the Ong case will help set the tone for such a review. One hopes it will act in favor of protecting not just students or fraternities of the privileged, but also the so-called least of our brothers.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 20, 2012.