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Here's what's known so far about the case of John Matthew Salilig, the Adamson student who died of alleged hazing

By NICK GARCIA Published Mar 01, 2023 7:00 pm

A student from Adamson University who went missing for over a week was found dead—and buried—in Imus, Cavite on Feb. 28.

The student, chemical engineering junior John Matthew Salilig of Zamboanga, was allegedly a victim of hazing. He reportedly joined the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity's Zamboanga chapter.

Here's what is known so far about Salilig's demise.

On Feb. 21, the family and friends of Salilig, 24, wrote social media posts about him being missing since Feb. 18. They said he was last seen at a bus terminal in Manila wearing a red hoodie.

Friends told his family that based on a video call with them, Salilig was headed to Laguna. They were supposed to meet with him afterward but never heard from him.

Salilig's landlord in Manila also said he didn't return to his unit. The Manila police also had a blotter entry dated Feb. 20 about Salilig's disappearance, filed by his older brother John Michael.

On Feb. 28, Adamson released a statement at 2:54 p.m. saying that it confirms the "untimely passing" of one of its students last Feb. 18 after his reported disappearance.

“The university has conducted its own investigation and has cooperated with the authorities on the matter," it added. "Rest assured, we will not allow anything to come amiss."

Adamson urged the community to refrain from sharing unverified information, while assuring everybody that its campus is a "safe space along San Marcelino."

Later in the day, ABS-CBN News reported in a story published 9:09 p.m. that one of the suspects told the police where Salilig's remains are.

Salilig reportedly received at least 70 hits during initiation rites.

After the activity, he reportedly died while on board a vehicle.

Cavite police director Col. Christopher Olazo told The Philippine STAR that Salilig's body also had visible injuries.

“Medyo iba ang kulay ng balat niya sa bandang hita,” Olazo said.

Imus Police Lt. Col. Michael Batoctoy told ABS-CBN News Channel on March 1 that Salilig's body was buried in the backyard of a gated residence in the city.

"Sa likod, may bakanteng lote roon na madamo tapos may daan na rough road," Batoctoy said, adding that it's a place filled with garbage and rocks. "Sarado iyong gate ng subdivision roon, parang backdoor nila," he said, speaking of fraternity members who were allegedly part of the initiation rites. The officer noted they quickly carried out the rites.

Batoctoy said they've identified at least 15 persons of interest, 7 of which are now under police custody.

John Michael told ABS-CBN News that his younger brother on Feb. 17 informed him about Tau Gamma Phi's welcoming rites in Laguna.

John Michael, a member of the fraternity himself, allowed his younger brother to attend with "high hopes" that nothing bad will happen. He said he now "deeply regrets" his decision.

“Pinagdaanan naman lahat iyan. Mas worse pa during our time,” he said.

"Kahit pigilan ko man that time, I know a-attend pa rin siya," he said. "So, as a brotherhood, um-oo ako. Sabi [ko], 'Sige basta see you on Sunday (Feb. 19).'"

John Michael called on fraternities to put an end to hazing, noting there are "other ways" to welcome neophytes.

Tau Gamma Phi's Imus chapter, meanwhile, in a statement condemned the death of Salilig, saying it's inhumane and against the ideals of the fraternity.

“Nakikiramay kami at hindi namin palalampasin na mapanagot sa batas ang mga sangkot sa insidenteng ito," it said. “Kaisa kami ng pamilya ng biktima at ng buong kapatiran ng Tau Gamma Phi na mabigyan ng hustisya ang nangyaring ito at hindi na ito mapamarisan pa.”

The national chapter has yet to issue a statement.

The Adamson University Student Government, comprising student leaders and campus journalists, urged university officials to "hold the involved accountable and be transparent about the untimely passing" of their "Klasmeyt."

"To speak ambiguously of his case only protects the offenders behind this heinous crime,” they said.

Salilig's father Joeffrey also urged Adamson officials to take action.

Senators also condemned the incident.

Senate President Migz Zubiri in a statement called on law enforcement "to immediately hunt down and arrest" the suspects behind Salilig's death.

"Hazing should not be tolerated by any society and we have the laws in place to make sure that it should never happen on hapless young men and women only longing for friendship and camaraderie," Zubiri said. "Those barbarian perpetrators should all rot in jail for the rest of their lives," adding that everyone involved must be punished, including those who just planned and those who were present but did nothing.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, a member of Tau Gamma Phi himself, said he's saddened by the incident, as it's "not part of what the fraternity believes and fights for.

"The strength of the organization and brotherhood can never be measured through hazing or other types of violence,” Villanueva said.

Sen. JV Ejercito called on a review of the Anti-Hazing Law and "think of ways on how to strengthen it."

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel, meanwhile, noted that the law's penalties are already stiff, and it's just a "matter of enforcement already."

“Our law enforcers should crack this case and solve it," Pimentel said, "and then file air tight cases against those they have evidence against."

The police are looking to file cases against the suspects before the Biñan City Prosecutor’s Office within the week, ABS-CBN News reported. Salilig's body will also undergo autopsy and forensic examination.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez, meanwhile, offered a P500,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest of the other suspects at large.