MANILA – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will be looking into the death of another neophyte of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity, a second-year University of Cebu- Maritime Education and Training Center engineering student.
Ronnel Baguio, 20, passed away on Dec. 19, 2022 more than a week after allegedly undergoing initiation rites.
His death certificate indicated as cause “severe acute respiratory distress syndrome secondary to indirect lung injury and acute kidney injury secondary to rhabdomyolysis”.
He complained of stomach pain, headaches and vomiting with blood, according to his mother, Leny Baguio, who sought assistance from the Public Attorney’s Office.
“Sabay po ‘yung naging instruction ni SOJ (Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin Remulla) to conduct an investigation with regards to the Cebu incident and the incident here in Manila (The simultaneous investigation was ordered by the SOJ for the NBI to conduct an investigation with regard to the Cebu incident and the incident here in Manila),” Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano IV, Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson, told the media.
The Manila case involved 24-year-old John Matthew Salilig, an Adamson University chemical engineering student who was found dead in Imus, Cavite province on Feb. 28, or 10 days after he informed his elder brother that he was attending a welcome party for Tau Gamma’s new recruits in Biñan City, Laguna province.
Clavano said discussions are also ongoing to provide inputs on how to strengthen the anti-hazing law.
“We’ve been discussing on how we can further put teeth na palakasin ‘yung law na ito dahil (to strengthen this law because) ever since, we’ve seen this law for 30 years, meron pa rin nangyayaring mga ganitong klaseng (and we still have this kind of) senseless death,” Clavano said.
Republic Act (RA) 8049 or the Anti-Hazing law was passed in 1995 following public uproar over the hazing-related death of Ateneo Law student Lenny Villa four years earlier.
The law was subsequently amended in 2018 as RA 11053 to include “physical or psychological suffering, harm, or injury inflicted on a recruit, neophyte, applicant or member as part of an initiation rite or practice made as a prerequisite for admission or a requirement for continuing membership in a fraternity, sorority, or organization including” and not just limited to “paddling, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical and psychological health of such recruit, neophyte, applicant, or member.”
Hazing also includes “any activity, intentionally made or otherwise, by one person alone or acting with others, that tends to humiliate or embarrass, degrade, abuse, or endanger, by requiring a recruit, neophyte, applicant, or member to do menial, silly, or foolish tasks.”
The law prohibits all forms of hazing “in fraternities, sororities, and organizations in schools, including citizens’ military training and citizens’ army training” and applies to “all other fraternities, sororities, and organizations that are not school-based, such as community-based and other similar fraternities, sororities and organizations.”
On Wednesday, six male Tau Gamma members implicated in the death of Salilig, a native of Zamboanga City, voluntarily submitted themselves for investigation at the Biñan City police station.
They were originally set for inquest proceedings to allow prosecutors to rule whether to charge them immediately before the courts or release them immediately.
The suspects opted to sign a waiver of detention, asked for a preliminary investigation and will thus remain under police custody.
Meanwhile, the case of obstruction of justice filed against’ Gregorio Cruz, the father of one of the suspects in the Salilig killing, was dismissed “for lack of probable cause with reasonable certainty of conviction,” according to Clavano.
Cruz’s son was allegedly one of the 15 fraternity members who participated in the initiation rites.
“Ang message na lang po natin sa mga (Our message for the) school(s), school authorities, the barangay (village) officials is to cooperate in the hunt for the rest of the respondents who have been identified already. We encourage the school authorities to help our law enforcement agencies if ever there are requests for any information sa (from the) school(s), to please cooperate so that we can get to the bottom of this as soon as possible,” Clavano said. (PNA)