The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
On fraternities, hazing, and what lies in between
Once again, the spotlight is on Greek Letter Societies or “fraternities” to most students, for yet another death allegedly brought on by a long-lived tradition—hazing.
Marc Andre Marcos, the 21-year-old San Beda College (SBC)-Alabang law freshman is just the latest in the long line of promising students, whose lives were prematurely cut off.
Since the news of Andre’s death broke out, investigation has started and still continues with the filing of murder cases and violations of the anti-hazing law against 39 respondents. Andre allegedly participated in the initiation rites of Lex Leonum fraternity. However, a month after his death, buzz on the issue seems to have dwindled.
News reports on his death are fewer, articles are shorter, and even the “mentions” in social networking sites are now fewer – making Andre, just another name in a list of victims, who never saw justice…
MORE PAINFUL THAN HAZING
Hazing refers to the “practice of various rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group.”
It generally involves inflicting pain in varying degrees, physically, emotionally and mentally. But that pain, no matter how deadly, cannot possibly compare to the pain families of the victims have gone through. It’s a pain that festers, felt long after justice has been served, if it ever is.
Andre died in Dasmariñas, Cavite on July 30 after suffering from “severe traumatic injuries, and hematoma in the upper limbs and legs” as per the autopsy report. Atty. Marimir Marcos-Rivera, the victim’s aunt, says that the family is still struggling to cope with their loss. “Mahirap pa rin mag-recover at this point in time kasi di pa rin na-identify ang lahat ng involved,” she says.
Life, especially to the victim’s father Mac Ferdie, has not gone back to normal. Marcos-Rivera, who is very much hands-on with the case, says that her brother juggles his time taking care of his children after his wife passed away, following-up his son’s case, and his law studies at Tarlac State University.
Marcos-Rivera, who accompanies Andre’s father whenever they need to follow up something for the case, shares that while his brother went back to work, “di pa din fully makapag-concentrate.”
The Marcos family is based in Tarlac so they travel to Manila twice or thrice a week to follow up Andre’s case. While aware that cases involving hazing deaths are among the ones that long to get resolved, the family is fully prepared to face the case head on.
Asked how long they intend to continue the fight for justice, Marcos-Rivera says, as long as it takes. “We have nothing to lose because we lost Andre already. We are prepared for a long and extensive legal battle for justice,” she vows.
FINDING THE SOLUTION
With Andre’s demise, the debate on which solution is best to end deaths due to hazing has resurfaced.
For Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino, the review of the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law may be the key to end what he dubs as “senseless and dreadful act of violence.”
The Congress, 17 years ago, passed into law the RA 8049 after Ateneo Law student Leni Villa died due to a reported incident of hazing. Palatino says that the RA 8049 defined hazing in a broad and encompassing manner, describing it as “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 or her to do menial, silly, foolish and similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him or her to physical or psychological suffering or injury.”
Last February, Palatino filed House Resolution No. 2188 after Marvin Reglos, also an SBC law freshman, died after sustaining injuries allegedly caused by members of Lambda Rho Beta fraternity.
“It is indeed time to plug loopholes and weak points in RA 8049, such as the exclusion of community fraternities and sororities from the mandate of the law, and the exemption of hazing activities perpetrated by military and police training institutions from its coverage,” Palatino says.
“Congress should revisit this law, and address issues that have made its full implementation difficult and have rendered RA 8049 inutile,” he adds.
Marcos-Rivera agrees saying that the best option is to amend the law and to totally ban hazing. Asked what particular amendments should be made, she points out that the “Code of Silence” which is considered as “an absolute order” in all fraternities, should be totally eradicated. “Because of this no one talks but if this will be eradicated, everyone would be held liable whether they are present or not during the initiation rites,” she says.
Another amendment, Marcos-Rivera says, should include making the schools liable. “With the existing law, schools are not held liable when in fact they should be included. If schools are held liable, they would be more vigilant,” she says.
Meanwhile, many schools have decided to prohibit students from joining fraternities and sororities. SBC, in an official statement, reiterates that it “does not approve or countenance membership in any clandestine organization, which employs, as part of its ceremonies or other practices, any act that results in injury to any person, through intimidation, violence, reckless imprudence or coercion.” SBC is also among other universities that require every student, as a condition for enrolment, to sign an undertaking not to join fraternities or sororities.
However, the stand of the schools does not sit well with most fraternities and even law makers. Palatino says that the Marcos case proves, “such move by the school administration has not solved the issue of fraternity-related violence, and has instead made it more pernicious and covert by forcing fraternities to go underground.”
He adds that “such option blatantly ignores the fact that the outright banning of traditional organizations, including fraternities and sororities, is a serious violation of the constitutional right to self-organization.”
For Alpha Phi Omega (APO)-NCR chapter Regional Director Rowi Bautista, prohibiting students to join fraternities is akin to abolishing the organizations themselves. “How can you eliminate something that has been there for a hundred years and when majority of country’s leaders, businessmen and major players in the society are fraternity members?” he asks.
Despite what happened to her nephew, Marcos-Rivera says that the family is not against fraternities. “We are not against the organization. We are against hazing because the conduct degrades the dignity of a person and inflicts injuries, and in Andre’s case, even caused death,” she says.
A fraternity without hazing, Marcos-Rivera says, is just another organization. “If its members follow the purpose of the organization, a fraternity can help students in so many ways,” she adds.
Bautista, on the other hand, says prohibiting students to join fraternities would also affect the function of the organization, especially in rendering service to the community.
For instance, the APO—which has 40 collegiate chapters (schools) and 60 alumni associations in NCR alone and with more than 300 collegiate chapters and 200 alumni associations nationwide—requires its neophytes to conduct an entire semester under its four folds of service including Service to the Campus, Service to the Community, Service to the Nation and Service to the Members.
“Unknown to people, many fraternities extend lots of help in the society,” he says. Aside from creating networks inside and outside the school, APO also gives scholarships to its members. “As part of the initiation process, we require our neophytes to participate in bloodletting activities, undergo Disaster Response Training and help build houses under Gawad Kalinga,” he says.
For Palatino and Bautista, the best option is to regulate the underground fraternities after they have been recognized. “Kasi yung recognition, it means na kinikilala mo na nag-eexist sila. Now, if in your mind, ‘di sila nag-e-exist, then you cannot solve it in the first place,” Bautista says. Palatino adds that “recognizing fraternities will make members more accountable for their actions.”
THE CHOICE IS ALWAYS YOURS
Bautista says that joining a fraternity is a lifetime commitment—a choice that “could make or break you.”
At the end of the day, he says that the option to join a fraternity and go through hazing still rests with the student. “It’s still up to you so it is very important to conduct a research before you join a fraternity. Don’t join an organization by mere impulse,” he warns.
He adds that joining a frat is a lifetime choice—like taking a career or choosing a wife or husband. “So dapat talaga pag-iisipan mo yung lalim or haba ng panahon dahil hindi ito basta-basta organization lang na pwede mong palitan anytime,” he says.
Bautista adds that it is very important to think about joining a fraternity for a hundred or even a thousand times because “you will invest your resources even your life and you will offer your loyalty, the lifetime commitment to the organization so if nagkamali ka ng pinili, that will really make a big impact on your life, in your success.”
While violence in fraternities might seem nonsensical, Bautista says that only a member like him could fully understand it. “If there’s one thing that all students must understand, it is that physical pain is not a determinant of success and it’s not a determinant of being Greek Letter member,” he says.
Bautista—who also went through hazing when he was still a neophyte before the anti-hazing law was passed— calls on the fraternity leaders, alumni, law enforcers, school administrators, and parents to start making the change. “Despite undergoing hazing during my time, it’s worth it. But if there’s a choice at that time, for me, I will still choose the anti-hazing way,” Bautista ends.