Six members of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity have been charged for the hazing death of John Matthew Salilig, a chemical engineering student at Adamson University, while another suspect surrendered to the authorities.
The Philippine National Police assisted John Michael Salilig, the victim’s brother, in filing complaints for violating the Anti-Hazing Act.
Named respondents in the complaints were tattoo artist Michael Lambert Ritalde, 31; Mark Edrosa, 39; and students Romeo Earl Anthony, 21; Tung Cheng Teng Jr., 22; Jerome Balot, 22; and Sandro Victorino, 28. They were arrested on March 2.
John Matthew’s fellow fraternity neophyte, Adamson student Roi Osmon Tuazon Dela Cruz, was also assisted by the PNP in filing another complaint against the six fraternity members.
When presented for inquest before the DOJ, Police Lt. Col. Virgilio Jopia, police chief of Imus, Cavite, said the six arrested suspects asked for a preliminary investigation.
“We filed the case but they exercised their right for the conduct of a preliminary investigation,” Jopia said.
“They will submit their counter-affidavits for the preliminary investigation this March 10,” he said.
In the meantime, Jopia said all six suspects will remain in police custody.
Salilig’s remains were found in a vacant lot in Imus, Cavite on Feb. 28. He was reported missing on Feb. 18.
The complaints stated that Dela Cruz was with Salilig when they underwent hazing as neophytes of the fraternity.
Meanwhile, one of the suspects who dumped Salilig’s body in an empty lot in Cavite surrendered Thursday.
Cavite Provincial Police Office said 23-year-old suspect Daniel Perry surrendered to Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla at about 1:30 p.m.
The suspect was then turned over to Cavite Provincial Police director Police Col. Christopher Olazo and brought to Trece Martires City for proper documentation.
A report from GMA News said the suspect admitted that he is one of those who buried Salilig in a shallow grave in Imus, Cavite.
Olazo said Perry surrendered due to his conscience and fear for his family’s safety. Perry also said that he was encouraged to give himself up after hearing his fellow colleagues surrendered to the authorities.
The acting chief of Biñan, Laguna police, Lt. Col. Virgilio Jopia said a witness named Roi dela Cruz positively identified six fraternity officers who were involved in the hazing, including the fraternity leader in Adamson, Tung Cheng Teng Jr.
He also recounted their “painful” ordeal during their initiation rites with the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity.
He showed the injuries he sustained from the hazing, particularly at the back of his thighs where he received more than 70 blows from a paddle, and on his back where a melting candle was used to carve the logo of the fraternity.
Dela Cruz said he heard Salilig answering in the affirmative after being asked by those conducting their initiation rites if he was okay.
Dela Cruz and the other witness also pointed to the house where the initiation rites were held.
Jopia said they were still looking for individuals who are considered persons of interest.
During Salilig’s wake, PNP public information office chief Col. Redrico Maranam called on school officials to intensify their monitoring of fraternity groups.
“Our message to all the fraternities in school campuses, hazing is against the law and the penalty here is life imprisonment. Avoid it because it kills and destroys human life and family,” Maranan said.
Based on the autopsy report of the Regional Police Office 4-A (Calabarzon), Salilig died due to severe blunt-force trauma to the lower extremities.
The PNP has recorded a total of 178 incidents of hazing since 2012. The peak of 30 incidents was recorded in 2018. In 2022, the police have recorded just five incidents.
The Public Attorney’s Office on Thursday said it would represent the families of Salilig and another student who recently died at the hands of Tau Gamma Phi fraternity members after undergoing hazing rites.
PAO Chief Persida Acosta stressed that they are now preparing all the affidavits and attachments needed for the filing of cases against the suspects in the hazing deaths.
The mother of a college student in Cebu also sought justice for her son, who died after undergoing hazing rites also by the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity.
The victim, identified as 20-year-old University of Cebu marine engineering student Ronnel Baguio, died on Dec. 18, 2022 but police have yet to file charges against those responsible for his death.
Leny, the mother of the victim, sought the assistance of PAO to find justice for her son.
Meanwhile, Salilig’s remains arrived Thursday in his hometown in Zamboanga City.
Salilig’s family and Zamboanga City Mayor John Dalipe and Vice Mayor Josephine Pareja met the remains of John Matthew at the Edwin Andrews Air Force base. A Philippine Air Force C130 plane transported his remains.
John Matthew’s father Joeffry Salilig said that they are seeking justice for the death of his son. “My son was still young, and he had so many ambitions in life. He was taken from us so early,” he said.
He added that the death of his son should serve as a lesson to anyone who joins a fraternity.
In a statement, the Tau Gamma Phi National Council said that they will let justice take its course.
It also called on all members to adhere to the laws of the land, “as responsible members of the community and as a fraternity in particular.”
Also on Thursday, the Commission on Human Rights on Thursday denounced the killing of Salilig.
“The Commission continues to condemn all forms of physical or psychological harm. In particular, CHR stresses that hazing, as a ritualistic act of humiliation and degradation, goes against the basic principles of fundamental rights and human dignity. Its serious consequences against the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of individuals, most especially minors, should have no place in academic institutions,” it said.