For 1st time, frat men convicted of violating Anti-Hazing Law
The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the conviction of two Alpha Phi Omega (APO) members for the hazing of University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) student Marlon Vilanueva in 2006—the first conviction under Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.
In a 39-page decision, the high court’s second division through Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza affirmed the penalty of reclusion perpetua (20 years and 1 day to 40 years imprisonment) imposed by the Calamba Laguna Regional Trial Court Branch 36 against Dandy L. Dungo and Gregorio A. Sibal Jr.
The lower court ruled that the prosecution has “undeniably proved” that the victim was seen with Dungo and Sibal entering a resort where the initiation rites were conducted and that the same two brought the victim to JP Rizal Hospital.
The court said while there was no evidence that Dungo and Sibal participated in the initiation rites, there were evidence that the two brought the victim to the venue where the final initiation rites were conducted and where the victim sustained injuries that led to his death.
The case went to the Court of Appeals who affirmed the lower court’s ruling thus it was elevated to the Supreme Court.
Sibal and Dungo, in their appeal to the high court, argued that the prosecution failed to prove that they actually participated in the hazing of Villanueva.
The two said the prosecution only proved during the trial that their participation was only persuading Villanueva to join APO and go through the initiation rites.
But the high court said the two did not only induce the victim, they also accompanied him to the venue of the final initiation rites.
“The hazing would not have been accomplished were it not for the acts of the petitioners that induced the victim to be present,” the high court said.
“Secrecy and silence are common characteristics of the dynamics of hazing,” the high court said, adding that to require the prosecutor to indicate the step by step planned initiation rite when details are almost nil “would be an arduous task if not downright possible.”
Aside from the doctors who testified on the injuries sustained and the cause of death of the victim, the prosecution presented the security guards on duty when Villanueva was brought to the hospital, the sari-sari store owner in front of the resort where the initiation rite was held, the tricycle driver who brought the three to the hospital, the policeman who took Dungo and Sibal from the hospital for questioning, a UPLB student who said she saw the victim being punched by Dungo in campus and the caretaker of the resort.
The high court said while no witness or other evidence was presented to prove the suspects’ direct participation, the sequence of circumstantial evidence or the series of facts presented by the prosecution showed the guilt of the accused.
“In the absence of direct evidence, the prosecution may resort to adducing circumstantial evidence to discharge its burden. Crimes are usually committed in secret and under conditions where concealment is highly probable. If direct evidence is insisted on under all circumstances, the prosecution of vicious felons who commit heinous crimes in secret or secluded places will be hard, if not impossible to prove,” the high court said.
“The unbroken chain of events laid down leaves us no other conclusion other than the petitioners’ participation in the hazing…With the fact of hazing, the identity of the petitioners and their participation therein duly proves, the moral certainty that produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind has been satisfied,” the high court said. Tetch Torres Tupas/IDL
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