THE death of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cdt. 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio brought into the limelight the issue of hazing once more. Dormitorio was allegedly beaten up, as a form of punishment, by some PMA upperclassmen over a pair of misplaced boots. He died on September 18 at the PMA Station Hospital, apparently from internal injuries caused by severe beating.
I was not going to write about hazing as I’ve already discussed it twice in this column since Republic Act (RA) 11053, or the “Anti-Hazing Act of 2018,” was passed into law. But the statements made over radio by a junior solo anchor compelled me to do so. In his so- called “editorial,” the broadcaster asked the lawmakers to craft a law that will “totally ban hazing.” Come again? Another case of ill-informed and unknowledgeable media practitioner. As I have written before, and I am emphasizing it again, broadcasters (journalists in general) should not make pronouncements on issues, which they have not thoroughly researched on in the first place. To informed listeners, they sound like nincompoops.
The Anti-Hazing Act of 2018 prohibits all forms of hazing. So, is there a need for another law to “totally ban hazing”? The broadcaster even claimed that the present law simply monitors hazing. Again, he is wrong. RA 8049 (circa 1995) is the original hazing law, which regulates hazing and other forms of initiation rites in fraternities, sororities and organizations. The new Anti-Hazing Law amended RA 8049 and now prohibits hazing. So, hazing is against the law and is banned, no more, no less.
Dormitorio’s death not due to hazing
Don’t get me wrong. I condemn all forms of useless killing, including that of Dormitorio’s. His killers should be dealt with the full force of the law. But his death is not due to hazing, but due to excessive punishment for a misdeed.
The 2018 Anti-Hazing Law defines hazing as “any act that results in 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, but not 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. This shall also include 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 present law considers hazing as being part of an initiation rite or practice which is used as a prerequisite for admission to, or a requirement for continuing membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization — in this case, in the PMA. Dormitorio’s alleged act of misplacing the combat boots of a graduating cadet, necessitating a corresponding punishment, is neither a function of the initiation process nor a prerequisite for his continued stay in the PMA. It was part of the disciplinary process for a soldier-in-the-making. Hazing is out of the picture in this particular instance.
This disciplinary process was etched in Section 3 of the law as an exception. It provides, “that the physical, mental and psychological testing and training procedures and practices to determine and enhance the physical, mental and psychological fitness of prospective regular members of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) as approved x x x, shall not be considered as hazing for purposes of this Act.”
Some newspaper reports indicate that Dormitorio was maltreated and that the local police authorities are looking into the personalities involved in such maltreatment. Is there such a crime as “maltreatment”?
There are only two articles in the Revised Penal Code that deal with maltreatment. Article 266 pertains to slight physical injuries and maltreatment. But the maltreatment contemplated in this article should have not resulted in death, but only slight physical injuries. Article 235 concerns the maltreatment of prisoners, where the subject “[overdoes] himself in the correction or handling of a prisoner or a detention prisoner under his charge, by the imposition of punishment not authorized by the regulations.” Dormitorio was inflicted with unauthorized punishment, but he is not a prisoner, so Article 235 cannot apply.
The provisions that could be violated are Article 249 (Homicide), Article 275 (Abandonment of person in danger and abandonment of one’s own victim), and Article 365 (Imprudence and negligence). Whatever it is, Dormitorio was not a victim of hazing.
Hazing law cannot eliminate initiation
It is interesting that the Anti-Hazing Law considers hazing as synonymous to initiation. Initiation, however, is technically different from hazing. Initiation is the formal admission or acceptance, through some traditional ceremonies, into an organization, club or society. Initiation may or may not include hazing. This is akin to the rites of passage that form part of the culture of some tribal groups.
Persons who have not undergone any initiation rites, or failed in such rites, would have a hard time understanding the concept of initiation and readily dismiss the same as unnecessary, brutal and even criminal.
Rites of passage are diverse and differ from one group to another. They share the same stages — separation, liminality and incorporation. Separation pertains to the individuals withdrawing from his present group or status and preparing to enter a new status of joining a new group. Liminality is the transition phase from the old self to a new self. This is where the subject undergoes transformation through a series of tests and challenges. Incorporation is the final stage. Having completed the rites, the “new” individual is accepted and enters a new status, society or organization.
For fraternities, the applicant goes from being a “barbarian,” to a “neophyte,” and finally to a bona fide member.
Initiation is not all that bad. It is the tie that binds the members of a fraternity, sorority or similar organizations. Studies have shown that severe initiation produces cognitive dissonance, which in turn heightens group attraction among initiates. This is considered important to establish a stronger group identity and conformity among its members. Generally, again based on studies, initiations produce greater feelings of affiliation.
Initiation rites, some may call it a culture of hazing, will remain in our institutions — whether or not there is a law prohibiting it.
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