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Frat members refused to bring Salilig to the hospital, says witness

by Leila Salaverria

ADAMSON University student John Matthew Salilig suffered a seizure after undergoing initiation rites of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity. Still, fraternity members rejected a suggestion to bring him to the hospital, a witness told the Senate Tuesday.

Salilig later died, and the members buried his body in Cavite.

Outraged senators called for more teeth for the five-year-old anti-hazing law. Sen. Raffy Tulfo said all fraternity leaders, even those not involved in initiation rites, should be penalized if hazing occurs within the organization’s ambit.

The lawmakers also want more accountability for schools so that they could not just easily claim that they did not know about the fraternities’ activities and would not fail to hold timely orientations to prevent students from joining fraternities.

The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights summoned the detained fraternity members and school officials to a hearing on Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent another tragic hazing death in the country.

Salilig’s final hours

Roi Osmond Dela Cruz, a Tau Gamma Phi neophyte, recalled that Salilig was already complaining of a stomach ache and diarrhea when they joined initiation rites on February 18 in Laguna.

After the rites, during which they were hit with a paddle, they rested for a bit and were brought to a house in Parañaque owned by “Scotty,” a fraternity member. Salilig appeared groggy while they were in the vehicle for the trip.

When they reached Parañaque, Salilig remained in the vehicle while Dela Cruz went up to the house. 

Later, he went down from the house and saw Salilig having a seizure. The fraternity members were poking his mouth, he recalled.

He asked the fraternity members to bring Salilig to the hospital, but they got angry at him and rejected his request, he said. 

“Nung nag se seizure sa baba, nag request ako sa kanila baka pwede dalhin sa ospital. Nagalit sila sa akin, yung Bones at saka si Thugs, kasi bawal daw po yun,” he said. 

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The members then brought Salilig up to a room in the house.

Salilig’s body would later be found buried in Imus. 

“Bones” and “Thugs” are among the suspects still at large, said police.

More teeth for anti-hazing law

Even though the anti-hazing law is only five years old, Senators want to strengthen it further to be more effective in preventing hazing.

Tulfo said it has been hard to hold people liable because hazing rites are usually shrouded in secrecy.

He said all fraternity or sorority officials, whether or not present at the hazing rites, should be held accountable for the deaths and face the penalty of reclusion perpetua, “no ifs or buts.” At present, only those who knew about the hazing activity are held responsible. 

He further said that owners of the place where hazing and death occurred should already be presumed to be an accomplice. Under the current law, it is easy for them to deny they didn’t know about the activities, he added. 

Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa broached the idea of holding schools accountable for failing to prevent hazing deaths.

Dela Rosa noted that the law requires schools to hold an orientation program relating to membership in a fraternity, sorority, or organization at the start of every semester or trimester. Still, there is no penalty if they fail to hold these.

Schools need to step up 

Senators also grilled Adamson University officials about its alleged lack of action on fraternities.  

Adamson Student Affairs director Jan Nelin Navallasca said the university has a policy of not recognizing fraternities and sororities, save for those in the College of Law. Still, it is aware of the “alleged presence” of Tau Gamma Phi in the university.

This prompted Dela Rosa to ask why it did not regulate Tau Gamma Phi despite its awareness of its presence.

Tulfo said the university could have called the fraternity officials to remind them that hazing is prohibited, but it did not do anything.  

But Navallasca said university officials “don’t know them until they perform acts such as these.” 

Dela Rosa said the law would be useless if school administrations would always use the excuse that they did not know about or recognize the fraternities.

“So wala kayong due diligence sa pag observe ng locus parentis sa inyong mga estudyante, ganun ang mangyayari,” he said, using the latin term that means “in the place of a parent.” 

Since 2018, Navallasca said, the university has been holding orientations about fraternities, with first- and second-year students as their target audience.

Anna Maria Abad, the legal counsel of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities, said most of the schools have outlawed fraternities and sororities and informed students during orientation that these organizations are not recognized. 

But Abad said the schools could not stop students from joining these groups. 

“The locus parentis is in respect of academic and extracurricular activities that are recognized by the school,” she said. 

That is the limit of schools’ authority, she added.  

Tulfo said that even if schools don’t recognize fraternities, they could talk to them, ask them to behave, and inform authorities about the members of these groups in case something happens. 

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