Bill on hazing ban approved by House sub-committee

MANILA, Philippines – Legislators – many of whom were themselves members of fraternities and sororities – approved a proposed House bill that would repeal an existing anti-hazing law and replace it with a measure that would ban hazing outright.

Mere hours after the Senate began its probe into the death of University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio Tomas Castillo III, believed to be due to hazing, the House subcommittee on prosecutorial reforms deliberated on and approved a unnumbered bill authored by Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy.

It will substitute House Bill 3467 or “An Act Prohibiting Hazing And Regulating Other Forms Of Initiations Rites Of Fraternities And Sororities And Other Organizations And Providing Penalties For Violation Thereof, Repealing For The Purpose Of Republic Act No. 8049.” It will repeal the earlier law that was passed in 1995. 

Herrera-Dy, who admitted to being part of a sorority herself, said the key difference in her proposed measure from existing laws is that it “[proposes] to completely prohibit any form of hazing.”

Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the justice committee, noted the timeliness of the bill but emphasized that Tuesday's hearing would not specifically deal with the Castillo’s death but will instead focus of the proposed bill. Umali also happens to be a fraternity member. 

The bill, as proposed by Herrera-Dy, expands the list of prohibited acts under RA 8049. It also adds as mitigating circumstances the use of motor vehicle, the consumption of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs, the use of a dangerous weapon, and the presence of non-member or alumni of the organization.

It lists as “impermissible defenses” the following:

Under the bill, defendants may also be held liable “as party for conduct committed by the person hazed, or any offense caused in the course of the hazing that the defendant commits against the person who is hazed.”

If the defendant is part of a police, military, or citizen’s army training organization, he or she may also face administrative sanctions ahead of conviction.

Representatives from the Commission on Higher Education, Philippine National Police, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Public Attorney’s Office, the National Youth Commission, and the military and police academies, among others, were invited to give their feedback on the proposed law.

As it stands, the bill provides that “if a person subjected to hazing or other forms of initiation rites suffers any physical and psychological injury or dies as a result thereof, the officers and members of the fraternity, sorority or organization who actually participated in the infliction of physical harm shall be held liable as principals.”

Schools or the heads of the organizations must be given written notice of hazing or initiation rights at least 7 days prior. At least two representatives of the school or organizations should also be there to witness the rights and make sure there is no violence.

“Likewise it requires all existing fraternities, sororities and other organizations otherwise not created or organized by the school but have existing members, who are students, or plan to recruit students to be their members, shall be required to register with the proper authorities of the school before they conduct activities whether on-or-off campus, including the recruitment of members,” according to a release from the House.

Herrera-Dy also noted that the bill will cover not just fraternities and sororities but also “community-based” organizations that do not have roots in a particular school or university. Community-based organizations will also be required to submit a written application to local government units and the barangay at least 7 days before a scheduled initiation. –