UST urged to review frat policies

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A lawyer has called on the University to review policies on fraternities following the death of a UST law freshman in hazing rites, saying non-accreditation of a fraternity didn’t mean UST no longer has a liability.

Marwil Llasos of the University of the Philippines Law Center said UST was still liable for the death of Horacio Castillo III despite the statement of Student Affairs Director Socorro Guan Hing that the fraternity he joined was not accredited by the University for Academic Year 2017-2018.

“[Washing hands] will avail them nothing because the law does not distinguish between a registered and a non-registered [organization]… They cannot resort to that subterfuge,” Llasos told the Varsitarian.

Last Sept. 25, Guan Hing told senators during a probe into the death of the UST law freshman that Aegis Juris Fraternity was not an accredited fraternity this year. Non-accreditation prohibits any organization in the University from recruiting members.

Llasos said a solid and well-proportioned set of policies and the involvement of administrators of a university would help in preventing hazing deaths.

“‘Yung education [at] awareness talaga ang makakatulong, [pati] ‘yung buong university system para ma-avoid ‘yung mga ganitong karahasan na nangyayari,” he said.

In the UST Student Handbook, hazing is mentioned under the Maintenance of Peace and Order section. Republic Act (RA) 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law is attached to the handbook as an appendix.

Last Feb. 24, the Civil Law Student Welfare Development Board released a memo ordering all fraternities and sororities in the Faculty not to recruit freshmen, and to “strictly follow the Anti-Hazing Law.”

“Freshmen students must be given the opportunity to reasonably and intelligently determine the status of the organizations they would like to become members of,” the document read.

Violators of the guidelines are subject to disciplinary action and sanctions based on the UST Student Handbook.

Lorna Kapunan, lawyer of the hazing victim’s family, said the University’s policies lacked provisions on the monitoring and implementation of rules on initiation rites.

“Obviously, [something] like this happened, [and it] should indicate to them that there is a need to modify their policies or modify how they are implementing the policies,” Kapunan said in an interview.

School admins as principal accused?

In a roundtable discussion on hazing and fraternities, Llasos proposed to increase the liability of school authorities in hazing incidents; the penalty should be principal liability instead of the current accomplice liability.

“Kapag nilagyan mo ng mas mataas na penalty, seseryosohin nila [ang disciplinary action against hazing]. At least kapag tinaasan mo, lagi silang on the lookout. They will do anything possible to prevent it,” he said during the discussion.

A person is considered a principal when he or she is primarily responsible for a criminal offense. An accomplice is someone who assists, aids, or encourages an individual or group to commit a crime.

Under Section 4 of the Anti-Hazing Law, the adviser of the organization who had knowledge of the hazing but failed to take action would have principal liability while school authorities who also had knowledge would only be punished as accomplices.

“Kasi hindi ka talaga matatakot kung dean ka o president ng unibersidad dahil ang treatment sayo, bagama’t alam mo pero wala kang ginawa, accomplice pa rin. So dapat gawing principal,” Llasos said.

The Anti-Hazing Law punishes violators with a minimum of prison correccional (four years, 2 months and one day to six years) up to lifetime imprisonment.

Last Oct. 9, the parents of Castillo filed a supplementary affidavit before the Department of Justice, charging Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina and Faculty Secretary Arthur Capili as accomplices to the hazing rites that killed their son.

‘Beware of hazing’

Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano stressed the importance of educating the youth on hazing to prevent deaths caused by initiation rites. He said it was important for students who plan on joining fraternities to be wary about hazing and its dangers.

“[D]apat magkaroon ng awareness. Ano nga ba ang hazing na ‘to, ano ang epekto sa mga bata? Kaya sa mga eskwelahan, napaka-importante na ma-educate yung mga sumasama dito,” Alejano said.

Alejano, who underwent brutal hazing rites in the Philippine Military Academy, said that without awareness and strict school policies, no law could end hazing.

“Kasi kahit na [ipatigil] mo yan, kahit ano pang batas na [isulat at ipasa], gagawin ito nang patago. Hahanapan nila ng kaparaanan yan,” he said.

Llasos echoed Alejano, saying the promise of powerful connections was one of the reasons students join fraternities.

“Isa sa pang-amo ng recruitment, ituturo ‘yung mga alumni, eto si senador, si congressman, si governor, kapatid natin ‘yan. So merong pangako na in the future baka kailanganin mo yung mga tulong ng mga ‘to,” he said.

The roundtable discussion on “Fraternities/Sororities and Campus Violence,” was organized by Catholic media organization Aeropagus Communications in partnership with Lido Cocina Tsina.

‘Stop violent traditions’

An official of the University of the Philippines-Diliman had a different take and urged members of fraternities and organizations to discontinue violent traditions and change “harmful cultures” altogether.

“[Violent] culture can only be changed by [fraternity members] not by the school authorities … The solution really lies in [their] capacity as social agents, human beings [and] young student leaders to change the organizational culture,” Sylvia Claudio, dean of the UP College of Social Work and Community Development, said in a forum.

Aspiring members of organizations and fraternities must not be harmed for them to be accepted into a group, she added.

“The reason why they want to break people is [that] they want this brutish, obedient, ‘tayo-tayo lang’ sort of organizational culture. Lalo na sa [fraternities]…pero ang nakakatakot [dito], pati ‘yung hindi mga frats, may mga ganyang emerging [culture],” Claudio said.

She said members of an organization should not “blindly follow” the practices being imposed on them just because these were part of the tradition.

“Your role is not to follow blindly. Your role is to try it and…say [the tradition is] not working [anymore], let us tweak it,” Claudio said.

“[Fraternities] are supposed to be the expression of your joyful passion or things that interest you. [It’s] supposed to make you better leaders,” she added.

The forum, titled “Haze in Hazing: Assessment on the Controversies of Initiation Rites in the Philippines,” was organized by the Initiative for Genuine Involvement, Transparency and Empowerment of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance. A.A.D. Suarez, I. G. S. Agus and L. C. H. Cruz

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