HAZING is a serious issue that deserves well thought out solutions.
Recently, a Senate panel convened a public hearing to discuss the death of an Adamson University student, John Matthew Salilig, who died from that ritual. But instead of closing in on possible answers, some lawmakers spent their time looking for scapegoats.
At the hearing of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, senators interrogated members of the victim's fraternity, Tau Gamma Phi, and university officials. The session was certainly full of news sound bites, but it was unclear what should be done next to stop hazing.
Some senators seemed more interested in blaming Adamson, even though the school neither recognizes nor allows fraternities and sororities in its campus. They glossed over the fact that the hazing ritual that allegedly killed Mr. Salilig happened outside school grounds.
That did not stop Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa from berating the representatives of Adamson, saying they should have alerted the authorities of reports that an unsanctioned organization may have been interacting with its students. Sen. Raffy Tulfo jumped in, blaming Adamson for not doing something more.
Lest the senators forget, the suspects in Mr. Salilig's death are members of Tau Gamma Phi, not Adamson. And if the senators meant to call out negligence, why pin the entire blame on the school? Are not the police assigned to the area also at fault for failing to prevent that crime? The same goes for the barangay or village officials. And are the parents of all those involved in the alleged hazing incident liable, as well?
How about the lawmakers themselves, perhaps for crafting an apparently ineffective law against hazing? Several deaths of young men in the past few decades have been attributed to hazing, which has been outlawed by Republic Act 11053. And despite that law, hazing still happens.
Instead of playing the blame game, senators and other lawmakers should call for a review of that anti-hazing act. Obviously, there are gaps in the law.
Incidentally, Mr. Salilig was not the only recent victim of hazing. Ronnel Baguio of the University of Cebu died in December 2022 in another alleged case of hazing.
Legislators may want to consult experts on social behavior and other specialists. Perhaps they can offer insights into how young people can be encouraged instead to join reputable groups or help them avoid bad company.
With that information, also perhaps the lawmakers can identify worthy organizations to support. There are many youth programs that they can choose from, like grassroots activities of athletic associations. The point is that discussing possible solutions would have been more productive.
Partners in education
The lawmakers should also consider offering more support to colleges and universities, including those in the private sector. They are still reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic, and that limits their offering of sanctioned activities and student programs that can be supervised by school officials.
People forget that private schools make up one of the two pillars of the Philippine education system. But instead of being appreciated for investing private capital in education, which is a public good, they are often criticized for one thing or another.
Private schools, like their counterparts in the public system, are in the business of preparing the young to be productive members of society.
Incidents of hazing hurt their business, and it is in their economic interest to guard against that practice. Rather than portraying them as the enemy, private schools should be viewed as partners of the government against hazing.
Even then, there is no easy fix to this problem. Instead of blaming schools, the lawmakers should rally as many other institutions as possible against hazing. But leaders will have to present an effective plan or policy before others will follow them.
Like gangs, fraternities and sororities offer something that appeals to young people, even if hazing is the price of membership. Understanding that dynamic seems like a logical step toward finding a solution.
In contrast, political theater, like that participated in by some senators, contributes little to resolving issues. It is merely noise, signifying nothing.
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