been bloggging for 10 years this september and, of course, i’ve blogged about hazing and frats before, twice referring to dr. godofredo stuart jr’s updated online essay Hazing in the Philippines, and doing it again, zeroing in this time (after last night’s senate hearing on horacio castillo III’s hazing death) on why fraternities need not be banned, and / but why RA 8049 doesn’t work, and how macho frats could level up the hazing from violent pits to noble heights.
FRATERNITIES NEED NOT BE BANNED
Every time a death occurs, part of the hue-and-cry is to ban, dissolve, or prohibit fraternities, and the question inevitably raised: Do fraternities have a place in society?
Outlawing fraternities will do nothing but drive them underground. Besides, fraternities provide for various human needs — a surrogate family, a place for young men and women to forge friendships, bonding, and trust, a milieu of kindred spirits, a place to experience community. It is the hazing that is the unnecessary ritual, and the deaths from it so senseless.
Hazing wasn’t part of the Greek and medieval origins of fraternities. Hazing took roots in that period of change when the ancient rituals and classic traditions of intellectual explorations and expressions were disappearing. Now, what remains in some (most?) fraternities are the Greek letters, symbols and crests, hedonistic extracurricular pursuits, and its annual ritual of hazing.
Hazing is the fraternity’s murderous thorn on its side. Many organizations, schools and universities have banned it, but to no avail. The deaths continue. In 1995, the anti-hazing law, Republic Act No. 8049, was approved by President F. Ramos. The law is impressively replete with definitions, liabilities and penalties — reclusion perpetua, reclusion temporal, prison mayor, prison correcional. Yet, it has woefully failed to stop the beatings and deaths. And in the theater of the courts, the guilty have always managed to skillfully mitigate culpability through avenues of twisted legalese, loopholes, and appeals.
It’s a law that lacks teeth, rife with flaws. It allows hazing or initiation rites with ridiculous conditions that seem to not recognize the potential for violence: That prior notice is given seven (7) days before, that it must not exceed three (3) days, that no physical violence be employed, that two school or fraternity representatives be present.
And alcohol? It is ubiquitous in our celebratory gatherings. Certainly so, in initiation rituals. It shouldn’t take much to imagine how much of the violence is fueled by alcohol. And despite the fact that 82% of deaths from violent hazing involve alcohol, the law makes absolutely no reference to alcohol.
Hazing is a blood sport, a ritual of power and control wielded with violence. The street gangs, cults and the underworld may never be rid of it, but schools and universities should be saved from it. The youth should be protected from the psychological and physical violence. It is inane and insane to expect that promulgation by law can regulate, supervise, and temper the violence. Hazing in all its forms should be punished with expulsion. Deaths should be dealt with for the heinous crime that it is, by a law with teeth, unencumbered by legal loopholes and politics.
Justice Secretary de Lima expressed puzzlement when Judge Perla Cabrera-Faller dismissed the charge for violation of the Anti-Hazing Law in the hazing death of San Beda law student Marc Andrei Marcos for “lack of probable cause and ample evidence.” Of course, nothing followed her puzzlement. Incredulously, the judge exculpated: “No one is to be blamed for the death of Andrei Marcos… 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.”
The history of hazing is littered with deaths. Despite the deaths and known risks, fraternities continue with with their conspiratorial regimens of torture. Despite having been criminalized by Republic Act 8049 more than a decade ago, the deaths continue. Despite “zero-tolerance” edicts and sound bites, when hazing season comes around, schools and universities turn a blind eye, waiting for the next death—when it becomes the occasion for the usual public outcry, condemnation and condolence.
Every hazing death clamors for justice. Hazing deaths qualify as manslaughter. At the least, involuntary manslaughter. But in the Andrei Marcos case, the judge found lack of probable cause and ample evidence! No one to be blamed!
Hazing can be replaced by non-violent alternatives that measure the mettle, worth, and resolve of the pledges. For the able-bodied pledges, have them walk to Baguio, planting trees along the way. Spend their weekends and a whole stretch of summer in volunteer work. Take to the boondocks, like the teachers who walk their arduous miles and wade through rivers daily to reach small communities of children hungry to learn how to read and write. Provide community service to the countless riles communities. Clean the garbage and refuse that clog up the tributaries of the Pasig river. There are limitless opportunities waiting to be invented for a fraternal Peace Corps of pledges. And instead of the twisted glamor of initiation violence, let the pledges prove their worth and mettle with a new kind of macho-ness, through deeds that boast of sacrifice, social relevance, and a dose of nobility.