SEVEN Tau Gamma Phi fraternity members who allegedly conducted the hazing that resulted in the death of a college student were charged with criminal offenses before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

Witnesses have identified the suspects as either directly involved or having played a part in the death of Ronnel Masamoc Baguio, the second year student of University of Cebu-Maritime Education and Training Center who succumbed to injuries on Dec. 19, 2022 after undergoing initiation rites in Cebu City a week before.

Named respondents in the complaint for homicide and violation of Republic Act 11053, or the Anti-Hazing Law, were Philip Angelo Salapang, grand triskelion, a rank in the fraternity; Mark Einan Hernandez, master initiator; John Thirdy Anog, resident member; Lei Ruben Siao, deputy grand triskelion; and Kevin Muñoz, deputy grand triskelion.

Also charged were Rogelson Gesalago Getaruelas, the teacher of Baguio who recruited him to join the fraternity; and Aldrake Suan, owner of the house where the hazing took place.

Baguio’s mother, Leny, thanked the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) for filing the charges against the suspects three months after her son’s death. She was assisted by officials of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and the Public Attorney’s Office in Central Visayas.

Mother’s quest for justice

Baguio said that although she already forgave the defendants, she must still press charges to make sure the fraternity members are held accountable for their actions.

“Nahingi ko na po ng tawad sa Panginoon, pero hindi po ibig sabihin nuon na hindi na sila mananagot sa batas. Kung ano po yung batas bilang nakasaad sa hazing law, yan po ang dapat nilang harapin,” she said.

(I have asked the Lord for forgiveness, but that does not mean that they will not be held accountable to the law. What the law states in the hazing law, they should face it.)

The CCPO had said it would file criminal complaints against the suspects before the city prosecutor’s office on Tuesday, March 14, but it did not push through.

Last March 9, four of the seven suspects presented themselves to the CCPO, but they were not arrested because there were no warrants of arrest issued against them yet.

The complaints against the suspects will undergo a preliminary investigation wherein the prosecutor will require them to submit their counter-affidavits. The prosecutor will then evaluate the evidence from the police and the suspects’ statements.

The prosecutor may indict the suspects or dismiss the complaints entirely, depending on the evidence. If the suspects will be indicted, the court will issue warrants of arrest against them. They will undergo trial after they are arrested.

Lt. Col. Maria Theresa Macatangay, chief of the CCPO’s Investigation and Detective Management Unit, said their case is strong because they have evidence indicating that Baguio had died from hazing. /(AYB / TPT, KAL)