Zubiri mulls stricter anti-hazing laws

SENATOR Juan Miguel Zubiri expressed the belief that the government and school authorities must work hand in hand to solve hazing menace that has killed innocent lives over the past years.

Admitting his dismay with fraternity members killing their own brothers, Zubiri said he will make sure that the existing anti-hazing law will be amended.

According to Zubiri, it is important that school authorities act on this matter to protect students who are joining fraternities.

Zubiri also said it is high time that the law imposes stricter rules to make sure that those who will be joining the hazing activities will be facing the full force of the law.

"Walang mabigat na kaparusahan sa mga involved dito. Gagawin natin reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment ang batas na aamyendahan natin para masiguro na magbabayad ang sinumang may kasalanan," Zubiri said.

Lawmakers start discussing about possible amendments to the Anti-Hazing Law following the brutal killing of Horacio Castillo III, a freshman student of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Civil Law.

Castillo was declared dead in the hospital after overnight initiation rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, an academic based fraternity at the UST. The university, however, said the group is not accredited and recognized this year after it failed to comply with some requirements.

For his part, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III cautioned that fraternity violence will persist if schools do not use "vise-like" regulatory policies and stricter monitoring of Greek letter societies in campuses nationwide.

"It's been more than twenty years since the Anti-Hazing Law was enacted in 1995, but the recent death of UST law student Horacio Castillo III shows us that the law itself has failed to fully deter frat members from committing acts of physical violence against neophytes," said Pimentel.

"What's the solution then? Do we strengthen the law, or do we take a different approach and demand that schools take a tougher regulatory stance vis-a-vis these fraternities?" Pimentel asked.

Pimentel, who took up law at the University of the Philippines -- where fraternities and sororities are officially recognized -- stressed that school authorities should recognize fraternities and exert efforts to ensure that all school organizations comply with the provisions of Republic Act 8049, or the Anti-Hazing Law, as a prerequisite to recognition.

For example, Pimentel said that Republic Act 8049 allows the conduct of "initiation rites" only if there is prior written notice addressed to school authorities seven days prior to the activity.

It likewise requires the presence of at least two school representatives during the ceremonies to ensure that no violence is used.

Pimentel said that school officials should not hesitate to crack down on organizations that fail to comply with the law.

"University and college officials should recognize fraternities and similar organizations so they can be subject to regulation. They should then be extremely strict about requiring fraternities to submit a list of their officers and members, as well as their activities for the semester or school year. They should also be required to name a faculty adviser who will help the schools monitor the frats' activities," said the Senate chief

"If fraternities do not meet these requirements, then they should not be recognized and should have no business operating inside the campus. If school authorities receive information that these groups continue to defy their rules and regulations, then they should not hesitate to sanction erring students with the suspension--or even heavier penalties," he said.

Pimentel emphasized that there is a contract between students and schools, wherein the latter is obliged to ensure the safety and security of its students, apart from providing quality education.

"Students, in turn, need to follow and abide by school regulations. If they do not, and they violate that sacred contract with the school, then they should be subject to severe penalties such as expulsion, and even criminal and civil prosecution," Pimentel added. (SunStar Philippines)
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