EXPLAINER: Hazing death of student raises questions on responsibilities of Cebu school under amended law. Secrecy shrouded Dec. 10 hazing, causing failure to treat victim and delay of investigation.

EXPLAINER: Hazing death of student raises questions on responsibilities of Cebu school under amended law. Secrecy shrouded Dec. 10 hazing, causing failure to treat victim and delay of investigation.

WHAT'S KNOWN SO FAR: [1] The initiation must have been conducted somewhere in Mambaling, Cebu City as it is the Mambaling police station that's investigating the death.

[2] The hazing related to the initiation held by Tau Gamma Phi fraternity occurred last December 10, 2022. Ronnel Masamoc Baguio, 20, from Balanga, Bataan, was a marine engineering student of University of Cebu. He was taken to the hospital only one week later, on December 18, after calling and telling his mom the day before that he had stomach pain, headache and vomiting. He died the following day.

[3] The death certificate said he suffered injuries in the lung and kidney. His mother Leny Baguio said Ronnel had many wounds in his legs and his feet were swollen.

[4] The incident was publicized Wednesday, March 2, when Leny Baguio, at a press-con arranged by the Public Attorney's Office, appealed to the police to speed up the investigation. Leny had flown from Bataan to Cebu.

[5] The police said Thursday they have a suspect, an instructor of the school who allegedly encouraged Ronnel to join the fraternity and was present during the hazing. But their witness -- who, like Baguio, was also beaten up while blind-folded -- was still in Negros Oriental, thus delaying the filing, police said.

AT LEAST 65 HAZING-RELATED DEATHS were reported from July 18, 1954 -- with Gonzalo Mariano Albert, a UP Diliman student and Upsilon Sigma Phi recruit as the first victim -- to February 18, 2023 -- with John Matthew Salilig of Tau Gamma Phi as the latest casualty of a hazing in Biñan, Laguna (his body was found in Imus, Cavite).

Baguio's death in Cebu last December was not yet included in that list. The last two incidents involved the same fraternity, Tau Gamma Phi.

INITIATION, HAZING DISTINGUISHED. The initiation is the ceremony that aims to give the would-be member a "sense of accomplishment," with the "shared experience fostering friendship and bonding."

Hazing is when the ceremony is taken too far, moving it from the "slightly embarrassing prank or challenging task" to become injurious, even fatal. Under the law, hazing is defined as act or acts that result to "physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on the recruit, neophyte, applicant or member as part of the initiation or requirement for continuing membership in the fraternity, sorority or organization."

The initiation is allowed but confined within the school campus and requires prior application and approval and the presence of a school representative who shall enforce the guidelines.

Hazing, where the brutality can harm or kill, is prohibited. The association is committed to an "undertaking" that the initiation shall not cause physical or psychological injury.

MAMBALING HAZING WAS ILLEGAL, from the facts known so far. Hazing is prohibited under Republic Act (RA) 8049 of 1995, as amended by RA 11053 of 2018. The hazing of UC student Baguio, which led to his death, was part of an initiation to the fraternity he wanted to join.

A school-based initiation, or ceremony, is regulated under procedures (promulgated within 60 days after the law was passed), which include a written application posted on bulletin boards and offices, a list of participants, a guarantee that no harm will be done, a cap on the activity -- not more than three days -- and the mandatory presence of a school representative.

It was not yet ascertained if (a) Tau Gamma Phi was registered with UC and (b) an application for a university-based initiation was submitted and approved. It's possible, Explainer learned, that the organizers did the university-based initiation paper work and yet held a part of it outside the campus, which turned out to be a fatal hazing.

SHROUD OF SECRECY. The mother said she didn't know about the extent of her son's injuries when she sent money to Ronnel after he complained of body aches. She didn't know he had joined a fraternity and the symptoms resulted from a hazing. The son didn't tell his mom and didn't complain to the police, which knew only after the hospital informed it about Ronnel's condition.

UC, in a public statement, said it was "not aware of the incident," it "does not tolerate any form of hazing and does not recognize any fraternity or sorority." And it said UC has "coordinated with and assisted" the police, even as the school is conducting its own inquiry.

It's not known if Tau Gamma Phi had informed the school about the initiation. What seems obvious is that its leaders didn't take them to the hospital immediately after Ronnel and another recruit fainted "amid the blows." The other would-be member, still unidentified, told police they were just made to rest before they were allowed to return to their boarding house.

SCHOOL'S DUTIES. Check boxes -- provided by Republic Act 11053, also known as the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, and its implementing rules -- may be looked into by authorities looking into the Mambaling crime. Did the law work on the part of the school's responsibilities? That could also help legislators decide whether the anti-hazing law needs further changes.

The school already told the public that the incident happened off-campus and it was "not aware" of the incident.

Under the amended hazing law, which was prompted by hazing deaths at the time, the school has the duty to carry out (a) mandatory registration of fraternities, sororities and other groups, (b) guidelines on university-based initiation, (c) information dissemination to students and parents about hazing and (d) orientation to the student groups at the start of the semester.

The school may be held criminally liable if it has no authorized representative present during the initiation rites or fails to act on the case of violation.

In the Cebu City case, UC couldn't have supervised the Mambaling activity. Being outside the campus and thus prohibited, the hazing would hardly be announced, much less reported to school authorities. The school is expected to disown the school instructor who was allegedly present during the hazing. He was there probably as a fraternity member and not as UC's representative to the initiation.


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