I found out that my son joined a fraternity. He went home one day all bruised up and sore. When he eventually admitted what really happened, he told me that their fraternity, which conducted his initiation, was allegedly sanctioned by their school and even gave them permission for the initiation. I’d like to know if I can still file a complaint against the fraternity considering that it is sanctioned by the school and also if I can file a suit against the school for letting my son be harmed by the fraternity. I hope for your advice.
Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8049, known as the Anti-Hazing Law, is the law that regulates and provides the penalties for the conduct of hazing and other forms of initiation by fraternities and other organizations. This law provides that:
Section 1. Hazing, as used in this Act, is an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury. xxx (R.A. No. 8049)
Considering that your son suffered physical injuries as a result of his initiation to his fraternity, it is clear that what your son underwent qualifies as hazing as defined and penalized by law.
The fact that the fraternity was permitted by the school to conduct an initiation does not excuse or protect the persons involved from criminal prosecution for the violation of the Anti-Hazing Law. The law is clear as to how an initiation rite should be conducted, to wit:
Section 2. No hazing or initiation rites in any form or manner by a fraternity, sorority or organization shall be allowed without prior written notice to the school authorities or head of organization seven (7) days before the conduct of such initiation. The written notice shall indicate the period of the initiation activities which shall not exceed three (3) days, shall include the names of those to be subjected to such activities, and shall further contain an undertaking that no physical violence be employed by anybody during such initiation rites (R.A. No. 8049).
The above cited law enumerates the guidelines and requirements in the conduct of a legal initiation rite. The important part of the aforementioned provision expressly states that there should be no physical violence involved in the conduct of the initiation. Thus, even if the fraternity was properly authorized by the school to conduct the initiation rites, the presence of physical violence makes the initiation illegal and punishable by law. In fact, school officers who gave permission in the conduct of a violent initiation rights can be made liable too since the law also provides that school authorities who consented to the hazing or who had actual knowledge of it but failed to take any actions to prevent it shall be punished as accomplices for the acts of hazing committed (Section 4, R.A. No. 8049).
Therefore, you may file a criminal complaint against the perpetrators of the violent hazing committed against your son notwithstanding the alleged permission given to them by the school. And as stated above, you may also file a complaint against the school authorities who authorized such initiation if they were aware but subsequently failed to prevent the conduct of physical violence in the initiation rites of your son.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org