questions Anti-Hazing Act, explores other factors to prevent hazing

CHEERS TO for a report that goes beyond the surface of developments which followed the death of John Matthew Salilig, a student of Adamson University, due to injuries sustained during initiation rites of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity.

Christina Chi in a March 7 report reviewed the Senate hearing on the case of Salilig’s death, articulating in its headline the crucial question: “Will stiffer, broader penalties on fraternity hazing prevent deaths?” 

She described the discussion in the Senate on March 7 which focused on imposing heavier penalties and expanding its coverage to include fraternity leaders who exercise authority over the rites, even if they themselves are not present during the hazing.

Reviewing the line of inquiry and the testimonies made during the Senate probe, the article traced the deaths and cases which had occurred despite amendments to the Anti-Hazing Act, the first version of which was passed in 1995. The latest amendment was in 2018, but since then, Police Brigadier General Jose Nartatez testified, the police have recorded 14-18 cases of hazing violence. 

Chi cited the testimony of Ana Marie Abad, legal adviser of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), who highlighted the constitutional protection of the right of citizens to form associations and societies and academic freedom. 

Meanwhile officials of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and of Adamson University cited lack of jurisdiction in regulating fraternities; their own rules dictate that fraternity activities are out of their control. Adamson University, for its part, has had an outright ban on fraternities for several years. 

Banning fraternities drive their activities under the radar, as recruiting for members is done in secrecy. Institutions discuss these concerns at the orientation for students. But students can only retain so much about the dangers of hazing. “Limited cohort memory” is short, and the awareness of most recent victim diminishes through time. 

Change beliefs, change culture 

Media can spotlight fresh perspectives on the difficult yet undoubtedly necessary conversation on the longstanding problem of hazing. The violence fostered and the loss of lives must be addressed. Chi’s report showed how the already-stringent Anti-Hazing Act, and even Adamson University’s outright ban on fraternities have failed to deter hazing violence. It tells us that hazing should be confronted in different ways, using different approaches, rather than relying on laws alone. Media can help re-frame the discussion by pointing to other areas where the public can participate in changing the culture of and beliefs about hazing.

The rush to legislate results in serial amendments. Some crises require more thought, more willingness to look at the failed measures and admit that other sectors must be involved if we are to create a culture less attracted to the ideals of fraternity culture, namely, proof of physical prowess and endurance. 

The media need to do their own soul searching on this one. Getting out of the box set by lawmakers is a step in the right direction.