Last May 15, Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Honorario Guanlao dismissed the case against 12 members of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity involved in the death of Guillo Servando, a sophomore student of De La Salle – College of St. Benilde (CSB).
In his resolution, Guanlao stated that the prosecution failed to provide evidence that supported the claim that Servando was hazed for admission into the aforementioned fraternity. “Failure to aver this crucial ingredient would prevent successful prosecution of the criminal responsibility of the accused,” it read.
On the side of the proponents, Atty. Leo Benedicto, lawyer of the Servando family, claimed that the Judge’s decision rested on technical conditions, such as the words used. In his statement, Benedicto noted that the judge was looking for the words used in a previous Supreme Court decision in December 2015 that stated, “The action that led to the death must be a prerequisite for membership in a fraternity, sorority, etc.” However, the proponents instead used the phrase “in the final initiation of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity of St. Benilde,” which Benedicto believed implies the same meaning.
Aurelio Servando, father of the victim, expressed his disappointment with the decision of Judge Guanlao. “I was very heartbroken. Imagine the agony of seeing your son die because of this useless tradition of hazing. This clearly shows how difficult it is to prosecute hazing cases despite the Anti-Hazing Law,” he said in a report from The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
On June 27, 2014, Servando died in what is believed to be a hazing ritual for admission into Tau Gamma Phi. Three other students were harmed during the same incident.
After a complaint from Aurelio, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Makati City Police filed a case against 20 suspects for violating the Anti-Hazing Law or Republic Act (RA) 8049.
Passed in 1995, RA 8049 was enacted after the death of Leni Revilla, a student from Ateneo de Manila University.
On the fight against hazing
As defined by RA 8049, hazing is an initiation rite for admission into a fraternity, sorority, or other similar organizations. The law states that no physical or psychological harm may be inflicted upon applicants to the said organizations during initiation rights.
Shall the applicants suffer from any injury or even death, all persons involved in such activities will be liable to imprisonment ranging from four years to life imprisonment.
Likewise, the University condemns hazing and initiation rites, as stated in Section 4.2 in the student handbook. Hazing is considered a major offense in the University, and is punishable by expulsion. The Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO) also requires all undergraduate and graduate students to submit a Non-Fraternity Contract (NFC), an agreement prohibiting students from joining fraternities and sororities not recognized by the University, upon admission. Violation of the NFC is also a major offense.
Similarly, DLS-CSB also imposes similar policies on hazing to its students.
ROTC and the Lasallian community
In support of the Anti-Hazing Law, the University continues to implement practices and impose school regulations in order to prevent more hazing cases to occur.
In academic year 2015-2016, DLSU’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was suspended after allegations of hazing. The ROTC was previously being offered to students for the National Service Training Program (NSTP), mandated by RA 9163.
The suspension of the said program was due to an incident that allegedly involved hazing during an application process for the corps commander. The program is currently being evaluated, as recommended by the Philippine Naval Reserve Command, who had also helped manage the training sessions and program proper of ROTC.
The ROTC Program Evaluation Committee (ROTC-PEC) handled the meetings and discussions of the issues related to the past hazing case. Included in the meetings were representatives of the University Student Government, the administration, members of the ROTC program and related personnel, faculty, and parents. The ROTC-PEC is currently awaiting the decision of the University on whether to continue with the program with applied revisions to its system, or further suspend the said program until the next academic year.