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Remembering the February 1991 death of Lenny Villa at Ateneo Law School

This was the article in 2002 on an appeal that reduced the original criminal punishment.

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has held 5 members of the Aquila Legis Fraternity at the Ateneo Law School liable for the brutal hazing of Leonardo “Lenny” Villa in February 1991.

In a Resolution penned by Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, the high court held that Fidelito Dizon, Antonio Mariano Almeda, Junel Anthony Ama, Renato Bantug, Jr. and Vincent Tecson were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

“[T]he collective acts of the fraternity members were tantamount to recklessness, which made the resulting death of Lenny a culpable felony. It must be remembered that organizations owe to their initiates a duty of care not to cause them injury in the process. With the foregoing facts, we rule that the accused are guilty of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. Since the NBI medico-legal officer found that the victim’s death was the cumulative effect of the injuries suffered, criminal responsibility redounds to all those who directly participated in and contributed to the infliction of physical injuries,” the Resolution read.

They were sentenced “to suffer an indeterminate prison term of four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum.”

“The appealed Judgment… finding petitioner Fidelito Dizon guilty of homicide is hereby modified and set aside in part. The appealed Judgment…finding Antonio Mariano Almeda, Junel Anthony Ama, Renato Bantug, Jr., and Vincent Tecson guilty of the crime of slight physical injuries – is also modified and set aside in part,” the SC ruling stated.

“In addition, accused are ordered jointly and severally to pay the heirs of Lenny Villa civil indemnity ex delicto in the amount of ?50,000, and moral damages in the amount of ?1,000,000, plus legal interest on all damages awarded at the rate of 12% from the date of the finality of this Decision until satisfaction,” the Resolution read.

The high court also urged Congress to push for the amendment of the Anti-Hazing Law.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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