16th Apr 2013

wooden canoe paddle

The recent death of a freshman law student on 19 February 2012 due to hazing compounded by the promulgation by the Supreme Court of its decision concerning the death of Lenny Villa on February 1991 due to a fraternity hazing, have sparked the interest of the public on the prevailing laws governing hazing. To be sure, there is in fact an Anti-Hazing Law or Republic Act No. 8049 which was enacted in 1995.

Contrary to popular belief, hazing per se is not prohibited but merely regulated. What is absolutely prohibited is the employment of physical violence in hazing. This is in view of the fact that hazing is broadly defined by RA 8049 as “an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury.”

Under RA 8049, in order for hazing to be valid, the following conditions must be complied with:

1. Prior written notice to the school authorities or head of organization seven (7) days before the conduct of such initiation
2. The written notice shall indicate the period of the initiation activities which shall not exceed three (3) days, shall include the names of those to be subjected to such activities.
3. The written notice shall contain an undertaking that no physical violence be employed by anybody during such initiation rites.
4. At least two (2) representatives of the school or organization should be present during the initiation. It is the duty of such representative to see to it that no physical harm of any kind shall be inflicted upon a recruit, neophyte or applicant.

Before the enactment of RA 8049, there was no law punishing the act of hazing. Hence, the courts had to look at the Revised Penal Code for the criminal liability of the accused. As such, in the Lenny Villa Case, the accused were held liable for reckless imprudence resulting into homicide.

With the advent of RA 8049, some acts of hazing have been criminalized and correspondingly punished as follows:

1. The penalty of reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) if death, rape, sodomy or mutilation results there from.
2. The penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period (17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years) if in consequence of the hazing the victim shall become insane, imbecile, impotent or blind.
3. The penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period (14 years, 8 months and one day to 17 years and 4 months) if in consequence of the hazing the victim shall have lost the use of speech or the power to hear or to smell, or shall have lost an eye, a hand, a foot, an arm or a leg or shall have lost the use of any such member shall have become incapacitated for the activity or work in which he was habitually engaged.
4. The penalty of reclusion temporal in its minimum period (12 years and one day to 14 years and 8 months) if in consequence of the hazing the victim shall become deformed or shall have lost any other part of his body, or shall have lost the use thereof, or shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance on the activity or work in which he was habitually engaged for a period of more than ninety (90) days.
5. The penalty of prison mayor in its maximum period (10 years and one day to 12 years) if in consequence of the hazing the victim shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance on the activity or work in which he was habitually engaged for a period of more than thirty (30) days.
6. The penalty of prison mayor in its medium period (8 years and one day to 10 years) if in consequence of the hazing the victim shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance on the activity or work in which he was habitually engaged for a period of ten (10) days or more, or that the injury sustained shall require medical assistance for the same period.
7. The penalty of prison mayor in its minimum period (6 years and one day to 8 years) if in consequence of the hazing the victim shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance on the activity or work in which he was habitually engaged from one (1) to nine (9) days, or that the injury sustained shall require medical assistance for the same period.
8. The penalty of prison correccional in its maximum period (4 years, 2 months and one day to 6 years) if in consequence of the hazing the victim sustained physical injuries which do not prevent him from engaging in his habitual activity or work nor require medical attendance.

The officers and members of the fraternity, sorority or organization who actually participated in the infliction of physical harm shall be liable as principals. The presence of any person during the hazing is prima facie evidence of participation therein as principal unless he prevented the commission of the acts.

Furthermore, the officers, former officers, or alumni of the organization, group, fraternity or sorority who actually planned the hazing although not present when the acts constituting the hazing were committed shall also be liable as principals. A fraternity or sorority’s adviser who is present and failed to take action to prevent the same from occurring shall likewise be liable.

Third parties are also punished by RA 8049. In fact, the owner of the place where hazing is conducted shall be liable as an accomplice, when he has actual knowledge of the hazing conducted therein but failed to take any action to prevent the same from occurring. If the hazing is held in the home of one of the officers or members of the fraternity, group, or organization, the parents shall be held liable as principals when they have actual knowledge of the hazing conducted therein but failed to take any action to prevent the same from occurring. The same goes for the school authorities who consent to the hazing or who have actual knowledge thereof, but failed to take any action to prevent the same from occurring.

Some camps advocate for the amendment of RA 8049 to better address the recurring problem of hazing. In fact, the Supreme Court proposed to include the fact of intoxication and the presence of non-resident or alumni fraternity members during hazing as aggravating circumstances that would increase the applicable penalties. However, let us not lose sight of the fact that the problem also lies in the enforcement of the law. Furthermore, the various institutions involved in this problem should also take an active role in educating the youth and dispelling the tradition of violence.

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