Ex-senator and author of 1995 anti-hazing act defends law, says it bans hazing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — Despite its title, "An Act Regulating Hazing and Other Forms of Initiation Rites," Republic Act 8049 indeed bans hazing, the law's author said.

"You interpret the law not based on the title, but in the entirety," former Senator Joey Lina told CNN Philippines' "The Source" on Tuesday. "Hazing, per se [as it is], is banned. It's outlawed. It's a crime."

Republic Act (R.A.) 8049 is also known as "An Act Regulating Hazing and Other Forms of Initiation Rites in Fraternities, Sororities, and Other Organizations and Providing Penalties Therefor."

The presence of the words "regulating hazing" in the title of the law has prompted some lawmakers to file bills repealing the act, saying it does not expressly prohibit hazing.

Lina said R.A. 8049's title was carried over from the House's version of the anti-hazing measure, adding that the Senate version of the bill then was entitled "An Act Instituting the Crime of Hazing."

The measure arose after the death of Aquila Legis neophyte Lenny Villa in hazing rates in 1991.

"They were, perhaps, I can only second-guess them, looking at the initiation rites," the former legislator said when asked about the House version's title. "I don't want to second-guess why they put word "regulating" because the body of the law itself, when you interpret it in its entirety, makes hazing a crime."

Following public anger over the hazing death of Aegis Juris neophyte Horacio Castillo III on September 17, Senator Migz Zubiri filed Senate Bill No. 1591 on September 19. His bill called for the repeal of R.A. 8049 and the imposition of harsher penalties.

Read: Timeline: The case of Horacio Castillo III

Zubiri told CNN Philippines' "The Source" on September 25 that the current Anti-Hazing Law was misleading because it used the word "regulating" instead of "prohibiting" or "banning."

Read: Zubiri to UST law dean: What have you done about violent Aegis Juris members?

Lina also said R.A. 8049 recognizes a distinction between hazing and initiation rites.

"Cleaning the estero [canal], planting trees, doing medical-dental mission, literacy program, feeding program, these can be part of an initiation," he said. "What makes hazing a crime is the act of inflicting physical harm or psychological harm on a person."

 

No to repeal

Lina said he is against moves to repeal the measure, saying those who were already convicted under the law could be freed.

"There may be questions as to what you do with those already languishing in jail, already sentenced," he said. "There is a possibility the accused can use the repeal, depending on how the law will be crafted, that it will be favorable to them. The accused can say that there is no more law."

 

Since R.A. 8049 was implemented in 1995, hazing activities have resulted in 18 deaths, 393 suspects and only one conviction, which was for the death of University of the Philippines Los Banos student Marlon Villanueva in 2006.

Related: At least 18 frat-related deaths despite a 22-year-old anti-hazing law

Despite the low conviction rate, Lina added that the Anti-Hazing Law is already very strong because it made it easier to convict someone for hazing.

"Sa Revised Penal Code, kinakailangan homicide, serious injuries and even murder and you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt na itong taong ito talaga ang nag-paddle, ito ang sumuntok, ito ang tumadyak hanggang sa namatay yung neophyte," he said.

[Translation: Under the Revised Penal Code, you could only charge them with homicide, serious injuries and even murder and you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this person was really the only who paddled, punched and kicked the neophyte until he or she was dead.]

"Dito sa [Under the] Anti-Hazing Law, you just have to establish that the persons accused were present during the hazing and he did not do anything to prevent the commission of the crime," Lina added.

Lina said the statistics were a result of both poor enforcement and widespread disobedience of the law.

Related: Anti-hazing law author on death of UST student: Justice system must operate

"The law only sets a standard of human behavior," he said. "It does not automatically convert into compliance. Let us not immediately blame the law if the law is not being observed or it is being violated."

 

Lina added that proving "mere presence" is also a "big challenge" for investigators.

"You need testimonial evidence that these persons were present" he said. "So you have to have people or witnesses saying that, "I saw him there." But this is easier than proving the responsibility of a person who is accused."

However, Lina said he is open to amendments to the law, such as higher penalties or imposing fines on officers of organizations involved in hazing activities.

"The issue there is proportionality," he said. "Ang isang parusa ay dapat tugma sa bigat ng kasalanan [The punishment must fit the gravity of the offense]. The Congress must be extra careful in imposing penalties because under the Constitution, there is also a provision, no excessive fine or punishment shall be imposed."