Families of victims shed tears as Congress OKs bill banning hazing

Camille Elemia
Families of victims shed tears as Congress OKs bill banning hazing
'I was teary-eyed. I’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time,' says Corazon Icasiano, whose son Alex died due to hazing in 1998

MANILA, Philippines – In front of victims’ families, the Senate, voting 19-0, passed on third and final reading the bill banning all forms of hazing, making the measure one step closer to becoming a law.

The families of young victims – 22-year-old Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, 18-year-old Guillo Servando, and 19-year-old Alex Icasiano  –could not help but shed tears as they witnessed the approval on Monday, February 12. The House earlier approved a similar measure on January 22.

Atio’s parents Horacio Jr and Carmina, his sister Nicole, Guillo’s father Aurelio, and Alex’s mother Corazon also gave white roses to each senator as a sign of gratitude.

“We’re very, very thankful we’re getting the support we can get to fight this case… We’re ready to fight this, ready to bring it wherever we can. Now at least there’s a law that will strengthen it. Sana matakot na. I want the schools to be involved,” Carmina told reporters.

Corazon, whose son Alex died in 1998 from the initiation rites of the Alpha Phi Beta fraternity, said she waited 20 long years for an anti-hazing measure that has teeth. She said that she has learned to forgive the men who hurt her son – some of whom spent time in jail.

Ang saya saya ko talaga. (I’m really happy.) Actually, I was about to cry nga. I was teary-eyed. I’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time. In the 20 years that my son died and everytime there is a victim, I cried because I always question myself: What’s happening to our anti-hazing law? Parang di naman nasusunod, parang walang nangyayari (It seems it’s not being followed. Nothing is happening),” Corazon told Rappler in na interview.

For Aurelio, whose son died in 2014 from Tau Gamma Phi hazing, the approval is “one step in the right direction.” He, however, said “there’s still a lot of things to be done.”

“It is important that the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) and the accompanying nationwide campaign to make the people aware of hazing. I’m telling senators nga, given the chance, id like to get involved in spreading awareness once it’s approved,” Aurelio told Rappler.

While generally positive, Corazon and Aurelio both admit that the passage of the law is not enough. Implementation, they said, is the key.

“Well we are hopeful. I don’t want to bet on anything yet. Our legal system in the Philippines still leaves much to be desired,” Aurelio said.

“I really don’t know pero (but) I hope this will be the answer. We cannot tell kasi parang di naman sinusunod ang batas. Kaya tama rin ung mag ano tayo sa schools, maghigpit sa ganun. Sayang yung mga batang nawawala eh. Sayang talaga (because it seems the law is not being followed. That’s why I think we should also involve schools, they should be strict. The lives of these children are wasted),” Corazon said.

Ban hazing

Senate Bill No. 1662, sponsored by Senator Panfilo Lacson and co-sponsored by Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Juan Miguel Zubiri, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8049.

Under the RA 8049, hazing is allowed as an initiation rite and can be practiced if there is a written notice addressed to the school prior to the event.

The bill seeks to ban all forms of hazing in school fraternities, sororities and organizations as well as those in the community or other associations, including those in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), and other uniformed service learning institutions.

It defines hazing as any physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte or applicant for admission or continuing membership into the fraternity, sorority or organization.

The measure also expands the coverage of hazing to include paddling, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of food, liquor, beverage, drug and other substance as well as any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity.

Under the bill, officers and members of a fraternity, sorority or organization who participated in the hazing would suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal and would be fined P1 million.

The school would also be held liable if officials would fail to prevent hazing from occurring during initiation rites and be fined P1 million, according to the bill. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com