Press Release
September 25, 2017

Opening Statement - Investigation into Hazing Death of Atio Castillo
Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs
September 25, 2017 at 6 O'Clock in the Evening

Delivered by Hon. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Senator of the Republic:

Mr. Chair, distinguished peers in the Senate, my fellow Filipinos - good evening to you all.

I feel a strong sense of déjà vu today as we discuss yet another tragic death of an aspiring young man who met a cruel and senseless end at the hands of his supposed brothers-to-be. Three years ago, when I was a member of the House of Representatives, my colleagues and I came together to seek justice for the outrageous killing of another hazing victim: Guillo Servando, an 18-year old student of the De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde. As the truth of the horrible ordeal Guillo suffered during the last hours of his life began to surface, it became clear that existing anti-hazing legislation was simply not enough to deter hazing and properly punish its perpetrators. We were convinced that a complete revamp of Republic Act No. 8049, the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995, would be necessary to completely prohibit hazing and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.

In the end, the collective indignation of the Filipino people resulted in the crafting of House Bill No. 5760, known for short as the Servando Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation to replace RA 8049 and institute a stricter anti-hazing legal regime. The Servando Act passed the House of Representatives on third and final reading during the 16th Congress, but unfortunately, it did not make it through the Senate in time. Thus, the reforms we sought to achieve never materialized, and the anti-hazing advocacy faded once more into obscurity.

Mr. Chair, fellow senators, it is high time to revisit this legislation and make sure that the reforms necessary to protect our children from barbaric acts of hazing are finally passed into law. Certainly, it was admirable for Congress to pass the original Anti-Hazing Law back in 1995. However, according to updated data graciously furnished by the Case Monitoring Division of the Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management through the initiative of Director Augusto Marquez, it is evident that there is much room for improvement in the law that has penalized hazing over the past 22 years. The updated data shows that between January 2002 to September 2017, there were 117 reported hazing incidents involving 419 suspects. Only 15 of these suspects have been convicted, resulting in a measly conviction rate of 3.6 percent.

No less than the Supreme Court itself has urged its co-ordinate branch of government - the legislature - to pass reforms in the law. In Dungo v. People, the 2015 case that affirmed with finality the conviction of two men who participated in the hazing death of UPLB student Marlon Villanueva in 2006, the Court said that "the law is far from perfect" and proposed several amendments, including the imposition of penalties for non-compliance with requirements for filing written notice with the school and having school representatives present at the initiations, as well as taking into account the psychological harm to victims in penalizing hazing. Meanwhile, in Villareal v. People the Court also suggested for intoxication and presence of non-resident members to be considered aggravating circumstances, learning from lessons taught by the hazing death of Lenny Villa way back in 1991.

To address these issues and other needed reforms in the law, I filed Senate Bill No. 199, or the Anti-Hazing Law of 2016, as one of my priority bills at the start of the 17th Congress. Honestly, I did not expect the bill to get much attention this time around. Unfortunately, another innocent young person has lost his life to false promises of brotherhood, and once again the Filipino nation is clamoring for swift justice and sweeping reforms. As representatives of the People, we must answer this clamor with decisive legal action.

In closing, I would like to extend again my sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Atio Castillo. By all accounts, Atio was an exceptionally kind young man who pursued his dream of becoming a lawyer with passion and diligence. Unfortunately, his promising young life was cut short before he could even finish his first semester of law school. He will never have the opportunity to proudly show his parents his final exam scores in Constitutional Law or Persons and Family Relations. He will never graduate from law school or take the Bar. He will never take the Lawyer's Oath or sign his name on the Roll of Attorneys. These dreams are forever gone, buried beneath the soil alongside Atio's bruised and blackened body.

But perhaps in death, Atio Castillo may still make a groundbreaking impact on the law after. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said:

"The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience."

It is my sincere hope that the crushing tragedy experienced by Atio and his family will spark real change, serving as the catalyst for the passage of legal reforms that will stamp out the sick evil of hazing, once and for all. Atio's legacy to the law will endure if we can ensure that his death will truly be the last.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

News Latest News Feed