|LOOKING EAST - CARLO OSI
WASHINGTON DC, United States – If there are two things I absolutely abhor about the Philippine fraternity system would be these: (1) initiation hazing; and (2) senseless fraternity rumbles. Just recently, another San Beda law student, first year Marc Andrei Marcos, died at the hands of his supposed would-be brothers in Dasmarinas, Cavite. His dreams of becoming a lawyer and all the hopes of his family died with him. Another wasted life.
The allegations are that he participated in an initiation activity with other young men. They were allegedly confined in a Cavite farm for the so-called “finals”, a term fraternity men (“fratmen”) use to describe the last stage of the initiation or recruitment process. Those who pass such “finals” become full-fledged members or brothers (“brods”) and shed their neophyte status.
Marc Andrei suffered in the hands of those initiating him during his finals. But the footages with pictures of his injuries to the arms, front and back thighs were suggestive that he did not just incredulously suffer, he was terribly beaten black and blue. He was brutalized. His beatings were so severe that it probably shut off the functioning of his major organs.
Most likely his kidneys failed to function because of very poor blood circulation due to the force of the impact all over his body. These injuries were definitely not caused by just one or two hard blows or punches; they were numerous, repeated, vicious blows intended to cause much pain.
According to the Anti-Hazing Law (R.A. 8049), “Hazing … is an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury.”
This is nothing short of hazing. There are no other words to describe it. It was extreme physical and psychological suffering of a hapless recruit. Member of a frat or not, hazing has no place in any decent, law-abiding and God-fearing society.
Wasted Lives, Hopes and Dreams
The undeniable truth is, even as of this writing, even during that law student’s wake, many other young men (and women) are undergoing fraternity (and sorority) initiation rites.
Some of these rites will involve hazing to some degree, such as cross dressing or acting as delivery men (embarrassment). Others will involve hazing to the full degree–with paddles, a secluded venue and dozens of frat members, with the neophytes’ ingrained psychological state that there is no way to get out of this except to finish (physical and psychological suffering).
Many of these male and female neophytes will survive. They will most likely recount, in the fondest fashion, to younger generations in the future how they suffered, persevered and survived. They will retell over and over how much they endured and still came out alive. Vice President Jejomar Binay recently said he also underwent hazing as a neophyte of his fraternity.
The ugly reality is that a few of these neophytes will suffer and die every year. Wasted lives. Wasted parental effort. Wasted hopes and dreams. This impunity cannot go on.
These neophytes may die, and have died, either because of the number and severity of body blows, drunk “brods” paddling them and hitting their spines instead of their back thighs, the “gigil” factor of some overzealous members who were also beaten as neophytes, the lack of medical officers during these rites, or the neophytes’ weakened body structures or resistance.
Whatever caused their and Marc Andrei Marcos’ deaths, they should not have died in the first place. There was no need to inflict physical punishment to test them or to prove their loyalty.
Hazing Antecedents (in general)
The physical part of the initiations, loosely termed as hazing nowadays, has its roots (in general) during the dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (not to be confused with the victim’s family). Particularly at the University of the Philippines, as the hotbed of student activism beginning in the late 60s and 70s, active and politically-aware fraternities and other groups were instrumental in the burgeoning student movement.
The Marcos regime planted so-called deep penetration agents (DPAs) or government spies in U.P. organizations such as fraternities to identify their members, determine their courses of actions, and leak the anti-administration activities that were afoot. They were spies.
Fraternities, sororities and similar organizations had to counteract the infiltration of their ranks by government agents or DPAs. One of the chief mechanisms to purify their memberships, at least for incoming members, was to institute a harsh physical component of the initiations process. It would, in their minds, weed out those who were just sent by the government or the military as these individuals would not be mentally strong enough to undergo physical hardship.
Another reason for its institution is to make the fratman mentally strong to withstand any physical or psychological torture. If an activitst fratman is captured by the Marcos government as an alleged subversive or for inciting to rebellion, he will be tough enough to withstand the relentless interrogation as he was supposedly toughened by the fraternity hazing he underwent.
Through time, the following were assimilated as part of the initiation norm: slapping, punching the arms, kicking and kneeing the front and back thighs, and other forms of hardship. Not to forget was the repeated use of the paddle to hit the back thighs of neophytes while reciting fraternity codes or guides, discussing principles, or to serve as punishment for infractions.
A neophyte would know beforehand that he was getting into some form of bodily hardship but he would have no idea of how painful it would truly get.
Did Hazing Work?
It is difficult to say with absolute certainty that the physical component of initiations weeded out or discouraged Marcos government agents or spies from infiltrating the ranks of fraternities and other organizations.
The most determined government agent would have hurdled that test, would have lived to tell the tale of what he endured, and would have told his military superiors what the fraternity and the student movement were up to. No one really knows for sure. It may have deterred a good number of government agents from becoming “brods” but a few could have slipped in.
That is the past. Does the current situation justify hazing? No.
(To be continued)
This column’s author, Carlo Osi, is a lawyer & writer based in Washington, D.C. and was educated by Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Kyushu University, and UP.
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