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Drilon admits he underwent fraternity hazing

MANILA, Philippines – During the Senate probe into the fatal hazing of freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon admitted that he himself underwent a similar initiation rites during his younger years.

Drilon has been a member of the University of the Philippines-based Sigma Rho fraternity since 1966.

“Ako po aaminin ko, kami ni Senator Gordon kami po na-haze eh. We were subjects of hazing. But we’re willing to admit it. [It] was more than 50 years ago so it has prescribed. ‘Di na puwedeng sampahan yung nag-haze [sa amin],” Drilon said during the hearing on Monday, September 25.

(I will admit that Senator Gordon and I underwent hazing. We were subjects of hazing. But we're willing to admit it. It was more than 50 years ago so it has prescribed. Cases can no longer be filed against those who hazed us.)

Asked if he ever participated in initiation rites, Drilon said he participated but claimed he never used the paddle on anyone.

Di ako pumapalo, di ako marunong mag-paddle (I didn't hit anyone. I don't know how to use the paddle),” he told Rappler in a separate interview. 

During Monday's hearing, Drilon told UST Law Dean Nilo Divina about the challenges of banning hazing and yet still allowing initiation rites to go on, after the latter pushed for such a set-up.

“It’s a dangerous slope. You know, enforcement of that rule becomes questionable in my mind. Like you Dean, Senator Gordon, like Senator Lacson, we all went through this in our younger days. We all know what happens in initiation rights when you go through hazing. It's a slippery slope when you allow initiations that could lead precisely to incidents such as this,” Drilon said.

Senator Richard Gordon is a member of another UP-based fraternity, the Upsilon Sigma Phi. Both Gordon and Drilon are graduates of the UP College of Law.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy. He also earlier admitted undergoing such rites in the PMA.

All 3 organizations have been implicated in hazing, with some incidents leading to deaths.

Drilon then urged lawmakers to strengthen Republic Act 8409 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995. (READ: What you need to know about the Anti-Hazing Law)

"I hear your plea to strengthen the anti-hazing law and indeed with all due respect to Mr Joey Lina, the author, I think there is really a need to examine Republic Act 8409," the senator said.

"Hazing that happens is punishable but the initiation itself is allowed if nothing happened. What we need to discuss is if we prohibit outright initiations which include hazing. Sana po (Hopefully) we strengthen the law so that this would not be repeated," Drilon said.

On September 17, the body of 22-year-old Castillo was found wrapped in a blanket on a pavement in Tondo, Manila. He was declared dead on arrival at the Chinese General Hospital.

Castillo died due to injuries his parents believed were from fraternity hazing. The father said his son was recruited to the Aegis Juris Fraternity – an organization based in the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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

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