Time for a proactive anti-hazing commission
MANILA, Philippines — The sensational hazing death of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III on Sept. 17, 2017, and the subsequent signing into law of Republic Act No. 11053, the amended Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, gave hope that the new law eliminated the weaknesses of the the Anti-Hazing Act of 1995. The equally sensational hazing death of Darwin Dormitorio on Sept. 18, 2019, two years after Castillo’s death and just a year after the new law was passed, dashes those hopes. We may have relied too much on legislation to automatically do the job.
The mixed reaction of top officials to the Dormitorio case speaks volumes about what needs to be changed to reduce, if not entirely eliminate, fatalities due to hazing. Hazing begins in the minds of persons. But they also exist in the institutional minds and memories of organizations.
In many of these organizations, there is an ambivalence about the status of hazing as a practice. Sen. Ronald dela Rosa demonstrates this ambivalence when he says “Just imagine, kung itong mga civilian universities mayroong hazing, mas more ang military academy. Imagine-in ninyo. Tine-train ang mga tao diyan para maging warriors.” Dela Rosa said he himself underwent hazing when he was in the Philippine Military Academy, and that
he is the leader he is today because of that experience.
Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde seemed to share this ambivalence when he said that “hazing is a matter of personal perception.” But he has taken a more hardline approach. “I think hazing is a heinous crime,” he added, and that it is “basically plain and simple murder.” Albayalde considers hazing “a planned event.”
The new anti-hazing law adds teeth to the previous version. Under the new law, those who plan or participate in hazing that results in death, rape, sodomy or mutilation will suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and a fine of P3 million. Unlike the old law, the new measure also penalizes individuals who attempt to cover up hazing activities.
So, what needs to be done? Perhaps the most significant provision which has not been activated is the law’s mandate to schools to “take more proactive steps to protect its students from the dangers of participating in activities that involve hazing.” In the current case, schools have been unusually silent about how they have taken anti-hazing measures.
The PMA case may be illustrative of challenges in the proactiveness strategy. The mental readiness of the PMA to take substantive steps to protect its students, as the law requires, may take some effort.
Col. Claro Unson, deputy dean for academics, has denied that there is a “culture of retaliation” among PMA cadets. He also denies that hazing events are planned.
“Actually, most of the cases (of maltreatment) were not planned. Maybe these are spur of the moment,” he said.
Unson also pointed to a “supervision gap” that may give a hint of the ability and readiness of the PMA to proactively reduce hazing deaths and injuries. Hazing is done in secret, he said, and the PMA has a thousand cadets managed by 50 tactical officers. These officials cannot keep tabs on the movements of all the students inside the country’s top military training institution.
To trigger a more systematic, proactive and robust anti-hazing campaign, President Duterte should form an anti-hazing commission that would hold consultations and recommend ways by which universities, colleges, military and police academies can create a campus environment that reduces the risk of hazing fatalities and deaths.
Among the proactive measures the commission may consider are 1) the use of faculty advisers, university offices and resources to provide proactive advice and interventions; 2) procedures by
which a plebe or neophyte might, at any time, opt out of initiation or hazing procedures; 3) systematic warning videos,
e.g., showing how incremental injuries can add up to a tipping point that can damage kidneys and other internal organs; 4) internal mechanisms by which fraternities and sororities may institute internal accountability measures; 5) use of CCTV cameras and surveillance equipment to control hazing on campus premises; and 6) whistleblower mechanisms.
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