THE Public Attorney's Office (PAO) said that criminal charges have been filed before the Cebu City Prosecutor's Office against seven suspects, including a university instructor and three students, in connection with the death of another student during alleged fraternity hazing rites.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta told The Manila Times that the local police and PAO-Regional Office filed on Wednesday a case of homicide pursuant to the Anti-Hazing Law against the suspects whose names were withheld as requested by the local law enforcement agencies.
Rueda-Acosta said Leny Baguio, 38, the mother of 20-year-old Marine Engineering student Ronnel Baguio, was accompanied by the PAO-Regional Office and Annie Gabito of the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC) during the filing of the case before the Prosecutor's Office.
Police records showed that the alleged initiation rites conducted by the fraternity took place on the morning of Dec. 10, 2022 at a house in the corner of Cabreros and L. Gabuya Streets, Barangay Basak San Nicolas, also in the city.
The victim died at a local hospital nine days later due to severe body injuries he allegedly sustained during the initiation rites, PAO said.
PAO-Forensics Division director Dr. Erwin Erfe said an autopsy report indicated that cause of death was acute kidney injury secondary to rhabdomyolysis secondary to blunt traumatic injuries to the lower extremities.
“Obviously, the victim died due to severe injuries he sustained possibly from massive and constant paddling and any other hard objects,” Erfe said.
In her testimony, the victim's mother believed that Rogelson Getaruelas, the university instructor, had a key role in the death of her only child as he turned to be the “ninong” (godfather) of the victim. The initiation would have allowed the entry of Baguio into the fraternity.
Rueda-Acosta and Erfe went to the central office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to turn over the victim's cellular phone which stored screenshot messages involving the conversation of the student and Getaruelas before the fatal incident.
The local police reportedly wanted to take possession of the mobile phone but it was secured by the victim's mother who also took photos of her dead son at the hospital.
“I learned that one of the policemen there was also a member of the Tau Gamma Phi that is why I refused to turn it over to them and now it was already with the NBI which is also conducting a full investigation,” the victim's mother said in Filipino.
The same fraternity was involved in another fatal hazing involving John Matthew Salilig, 24, a chemistry junior at the Adamson University, whose body was found last month in a shallow grave in Imus, Cavite after reportedly attending initiation rites in Binan City.
“We (PAO) will maximize our resources, we will not stop until the perpetrators behind these hazing incidents are arrested and jailed,” the PAO chief vowed.
She issued the statement after the families of students from the three separate alleged hazing rites conducted by the same fraternity met with her at PAO's central office where they formally asked the latter to lead in their search for justice for their death of their children.
The third incident involved Reymarch Rabutazo, 18, a student from a community college in Sta. Cruz, Laguna who died on March 20, 2022.
His mother, Marycarh, 42, said that 12 of the suspects were already behind bars and were facing charges in violation of the anti-hazing law before a provincial trial court.
She sought PAO's help for the immediate arrest of the remaining three suspects, namely, Simeon Rabin Mercado Jr., chairman; Richard Dimaranan Jr., vice chairman-internal; and Vernon Rabutazo, reportedly the victim's uncle and who allegedly organized the alleged initiation rites.
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