MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said fraternities cannot be completely banned because they are part of Filipinos' constitutional right to form associations.
Aguirre said the right to organize and the fight against violence should be taken into consideration in discussing the issue.
"But of course dapat makita rin natin na itong frat is part and parcel of our constitutional right to form associations kaya dapat pag-timbang timbangin mo 'yan, right to form associations at saka 'yung avoid violence against students," Aguirre said on Tuesday, September 19, when asked to comment on the death of a University of Santo Tomas (UST) freshman law student due to alleged hazing.
(But of course we should all see that this frat is part and parcel of our constitutional right to form associations, that's why we should weigh that – right to form associations and avoiding violence against students.)
Aguirre is a member of the Lex Talionis fraternity based at the San Beda College of Law, together with President Rodrigo Duterte.
Amid calls to amend Republic Act (RA) 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Act of 1995, Aguirre said the law was already strengthened.
"Actually pinatibay na and actually the law was strengthened and sa San Beda nga, meron kaming 3 victims na doon talagang ina-outlaw na ang frat sa amin. I don't know with respect to other schools," Aguirre told reporters.
(Actually that law has been strengthened already. And in San Beda, we had 3 victims there and fraternities are already outlawed. I don't know with respect to other schools.)
Some lawmakers, however, do not share Aguirre's view. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, a proponent of the measure, said the 22-year-old RA 8049 should be updated. (READ: What's happening to hazing cases in the Philippines?)
Aguirre acknowledged that while San Beda has banned fraternities, students may still form groups or associations.
"As a matter of fact there [are] so many frat officers convicted already. 'Yung experience naman sa (As for the experience in) San Beda, despite the fact [that] the formation or registration of frat [has] already been outlawed eh hindi mo maiiwasan ang pag-form ng association (you cannot avoid the forming of associations)," the justice chief said.
"Palagay ko naman tama rin na hindi mo completely i-outlaw ang pag-form ng association kasi constitutional right ng lahat ng indibidwal 'yan (I think it's just right that we do not completely outlaw the forming of associations because that's every individual's constitutional right)," he added.
On Sunday, September 17, the body of 22-year-old Horacio Castillo III was supposedly found wrapped in a blanket on a pavement in Tondo, Manila. He was declared dead on arrival at the Chinese General Hospital. (READ: Man who found Castillo's body now 'person of interest' in hazing case)
Castillo died due to injuries his parents believe were from fraternity hazing. The father said his son was recruited to the Aegis Juris Fraternity – a recognized organization based at the UST Faculty of Civil Law. (READ: Aegis Juris fraternity members barred from entering UST) – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org