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Raised eyebrows over a court decision


LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets…” (the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, in Matthew 7:12, the Holy Bible).

“THE BUCK STOPS HERE”: First, it appeared odd that in a judicial decision, the judge issuing that decision would take pains to say that “the bucks stops here”. What could have prompted the judge to emphasize that, in issuing her decision,  “the buck stops here”? To forestall any doubt that the decision was prompted by someone---or something---else outside the court?

With due respect, that kind of a statement in a decision, although intended to douse any doubt about its integrity, would instead have the contrary effect of raising many doubts and questions which would only serve to affect that decision’s final credibility and acceptability. Instead of upholding the justness of the decision, that phrase would only serve to invite raised eyebrows, at the very least.

RAISED EYEBROWS OVER A COURT DECISION: And that, with due respect, is what is happening now to the decision I am referring to here, which served to dismiss the criminal case for murder which was filed against the members of a fraternity based at the San Beda College of Law in connection with the brutal hazing and death of law student Marc Andrei Marcos of Ramos, Tarlac last year.

That decision was penned by Judge Perla C. Faller of the Cavite Regional Trial Court, Branch 90, and released last week. In a part of the decision, the judge was reported to have written: “The buck stops here… The court feels that it could suffer the flak of society, but it cannot in conscience consign all of the accused to the dust bin of history simply on the basis of the uncorroborated and incredible lone statement of Marcelo…”

HAZING AND MURDER: Before anyone proceeds to criticize or condemn, or even praise, the decision of Judge Faller, it may help if a clarification is first made as to the charges that the Cavite Philippine National Police filed against Marc Andrei’s fraternity initiators. This is so because, in a death arising from fraternity hazing, two cases could be filed against the criminals.

The first case is for murder, which, as per news accounts, was the charge that was filed in the case of Marc Andrei, while the second case could be for a violation of Republic Act 8049, otherwise known as “An Act Regulating Hazing and Other Forms of Initiation Rites in Fraternities, Sororities, and Other Organizations and Providing Penalties Therefor”.

The evidence required for proving the crime of murder would be greatly different from the evidence that is required for proving the crime of violating Republic Act 8049. If you ask me, proving a violation of the anti-hazing law would be greatly easier than proving murder.

LIMITATIONS OF HAZING LAW: Under the anti-hazing law, the only thing that a victim or his or her family should prove to secure the conviction of those accused of the crime is that “… the person subjected to hazing or other forms of initiation rites suffer(ed) any physical injury or dies as a result thereof…” This is provided for by Section 4 of the law.

The anti-hazing law however contains a limitation, and it is its requirement that only “the officers and members of the fraternity, sorority or organization who actually participated in the infliction of physical harm shall be liable as principals”.

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