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FATAL HAZING AT JESUIT COLLEGE STIRS DEBATE ON FRATERNITIES

Updated: March 11, 1991 05:00 PM GMT
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The Jesuit Ateneo de Manila University expelled a fraternity president who allegedly led the February hazing to death of a university freshman.

Father Joaquin Bernas, Ateneo president, told UCA News that the College of Law disciplinary board "dismissed and expelled" Antonio Mariano Almeda, president of the "Aquila Legis" (eagles of law) fraternity.

The school is investigating the Feb. 8-10 initiation rites and hazing that caused the death of Leonardo Villa. Father Bernas also dismissed 10 other fraternity members.

Villa, 22, died of cardiac arrest caused by injuries he suffered during the beatings, including crushed ribs, a broken right jaw and finger, and needle holes in his palms.

Bienvenido Marquez III, a second hazing victim, was hospitalized with kidney failure.

Justice Secretary Franklin Drilon has ordered the filing of criminal charges against 31 officers and members of the fraternity whom the National Bureau of Investigation identified as being present during the fatal rites.

As controversy raged, two other fraternity rite deaths, at the University of the Philippines in Baguio City, and the Philippine Maritime Institute in Manila, were exposed in the press.

The deaths have fueled debate on whether or not to ban fraternities or just regulate them.

Father Bernas recalls that banning fraternities in the late 1960s did not stop them from existing, but merely forced them underground.

"The ban was lifted in the early 70s. But the lifting of the ban did not mean that it was recognized as a legitimate organization," Father Bernas said.

"It only meant that membership was not a punishable offense."

At present Aquila Legis, an honor society, has more than 1,000 members, including captains of industry and government leaders.

Father Bernas said that when fraternities were organized at Ateneo in the 1930s, they had "noble goals" compatible with Christian teachings.

"While they still profess those noble goals, they have apparently adopted practices which are incompatible with Christian teachings," he said.

Some claim fraternities still have humanitarian goals, citing relief and rehabilitation efforts they organized for victims of the July 16 earthquake, and note that the Philippine Constitution guarantees freedom to organize.

Father Bernas said hazing has been prohibited at the university for years.

"Right now, we are studying the possibility of changing the policies to include prohibiting membership to associations that approve of hazing."

A March 7 statement issued by 88 Jesuits said: "Fraternities and other secret societies foment division and encourage influence-peddling."

The priests called for strengthened Christian formation in schools centered on a rigorous value education program. The call has been echoed by parents, former students and others pushing for the first successful prosecution of suspects in a fraternity-related death.

"This (value education program) involves ... a serious evaluation of the school´s excessive concern for bar performance to the neglect of other values, such as commitment to the service of others, especially the poor, and willingness to sacrifice self-interest for the promotion of justice," the Jesuits added.

President Corazon Aquino urged the speedy passage of a law making hazing a crime and accepted the resignation of Florencio Ampil, deputy commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission, who was linked to the hazing.

Ampil denied participation in the hazing. He said he only gave the address at the initiation rites and dealt the "symbolic slap," one like "that given by a Roman Catholic bishop on a boy or girl in the Church´s Confirmation rites."

END

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