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Senators: Adamson student’s death shows weak implementation of Anti-Hazing Law

Several senators on Wednesday called for the full implementation of the Anti-Hazing Law after the death, allegedly due to hazing, of Adamson University student John Matthew Salilig.

The lawmakers lamented that while there are enough measures against hazing, this form of violence continues to happen.

Salilig's body was found in a shallow grave in Imus, Cavite on Tuesday. Police said it bore signs of hazing.

In a statement, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri called on law enforcement to ensure that the suspects are dealt with using the full force of the Anti-Hazing Law.

"Our laws are clear on this: any individuals who participated in hazing that leads to the victim’s death is punishable with reclusion perpetua," Zubiri said.

"Hazing should not be tolerated by any society and we have the laws in place to make sure that it should never happen to hapless young men and women only longing for friendship and camaraderie. Those barbarian perpetrators should all rot in jail for the rest of their lives," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III also emphasized that the penalties under the law "are already very stiff."

"Hence, if there are people still bold enough to violate the anti-hazing law then that means these people do not believe that the law will be applied to them. It is, therefore, a matter of law enforcement already. Our law enforcers should crack this case and solve it and then file airtight cases against those they have evidence against," he said.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian urged government agencies and partners in schools and communities to "ensure that the mechanisms provided under the Anti-Hazing Act are in place" to protect the youth.

"Nakakabahala at nakakagalit na bagama’t mayroon na tayong batas upang masugpo ang hazing, ang Anti-Hazing Act (Republic Act No. 8049, as amended by Republic Act No. 11053), nagpapatuloy pa rin ang ganitong karahasan," he said. 

For his part, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said holding those responsible for Salilig's death may be able to save other young people from a similar fate.

"Hindi man maibabalik ang nasayang na buhay ni John Matthew, maaaring makapagligtas tayo ng iba pa sa hinaharap at maisaisip ng mga miyembro ng mga fraternities, sororities at iba pang katulad na organisasyon na ang mga gawaing ito ng karahasan ay isang mabigat na krimen at wala silang kawala sa batas," he said.

Senator JV Ejercito expressed frustration that hazing still happens.

"Parang paulit-ulit na lang naipasa na ang anti-hazing law and yet nandito pa rin tayo. Probably, we have to hear it again on how we will be able to make it firm para talagang katakutan na," he said.

He suggested the blacklisting of fraternities who are involved in hazing.

"Definitely, those fraternities na involved sa hazing, dapat i-blacklist na, 'wag na payagan, 'wag na bigyan ng recognition in schools or in other organizations. Kapag nagkaroon ng record, I think those fraternities ang dapat ma-blacklist," he said.

Senator Nancy Binay also condemned "the vicious cycle of physical abuse," and pointed out the desire among some lawmakers to implement mandatory ROTC, where hazing incidents have occurred.

"Wala na ba talaga tayong takot o guilt na manakit ng kapwa? Until now—kahit meron nang RA 11053—naririyan pa rin ang vicious cycle of physical abuse, at ibang forms of abuse—tapos ngayon, gusto uli nating ibalik ang ROTC na kilala sa ganyang practices," Binay said in a statement.

"On- or off-campus, our schools are supposed to be safe spaces for our children. But sadly, schools, administrators and even law enforcement agencies fail to seriously check and monitor organizations na patuloy pa rin sa tradisyunal na initiation rites," she added.

In a forum, Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, a former national police chief, said that while the law enforcement might be lacking, the school administration should impose measures against hazing and fraternities should police their own ranks.

"I am not for banning fraternities... Fraternities themselves should police their own ranks and the school administration is very crucial. The police cannot be around everywhere. So ranks ng fraternities, ng sorority organizations, they have to police themselves and the school should come up with their own measures," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, a member of the fraternity that was implicated in the death of Salilig, said hazing and other forms of violence are not part of what they are fighting for.

"It saddens me as a member of Tau Gamma Phi because it's not part of what the fraternity believes and fights for. The strength of the organization and brotherhood can never be measured through hazing or other types of violence," Villanueva said in a statement.

He asked his fellow members of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity, the leadership of Adamson University and the authorities to ensure that those involved will be held accountable under the Anti-Hazing Act.

"In the midst of this new case of hazing, we need to be more proactive and revisit the law to ensure that it is being implemented properly," he said. — BM, GMA Integrated News