WASHINGTON DC, United States – Fraternities in the Philippines ideally exist because of the lifelong brotherhood among its members, the close-knit friendship, the built-in national and global network, and the good they bring to members and society. They banded many years ago because they were scholars, activists, province mates, good friends, shared the same world views or committed to the same causes. Fraternities’ screening process is expectedly hard.
Any respectable organization will not make the screening or recruitment process easy. However, it should not be as overly rigorous and extremely rites-oriented that may lead to death, extreme trauma or severe bodily injury. That is not brotherhood at all. That is a crime.
The Wasted Life of Marc Andrei Marcos
On July 30, 2012, a Monday, first year San Beda law student Marc Andrei Marcos died due to severe injuries during the initiations rites of a fraternity in Dasmarinas, Cavite. When he collapsed during the rites held the night before, he was rushed to the nearest hospital.
But he was rushed to the hospital by two ladies (household helpers) who had little connection with that fraternity. They did not identify him at the hospital because they did not know him.
Doctors thought the nameless patient was severely mauled. Little did the doctors know that Marc Andrei Marcos was actually hazed, which is truly not much different from being mauled.
The actual perpetrators of the hazing vanished like cowards, hiding in their safehouses and not saying a word. According to news reports, the alleged hazing participants/law students whose names were leaked to the victim’s father have since failed to attend school.
Talk about “brotherhood”. Talk about frat omerta. Talk about wanting to belong but dying alone.
In part 1, we discussed that the antecedents of fraternity hazing (in general) goes back to the Marcos government clamp down in the 60s and 70s. The insecure dictatorial government wanted to know more about college political organizations, including fraternities, and the plans of the then burgeoning student movement. It deployed agents and spies to join fraternities and similar organizations.
To stymie government infiltration, fraternities and similar organizations instituted rigid, physical-oriented initiation rites with the intent of weeding out the Marcos agents and the less committed.
It may or may not have fully prevented government agents from becoming so-called “brods”. There are no statistics or studies, just word-of-mouth from older generations. Even if the Marcos regime ended in 1986, the physical part of the initiation or hazing remained in many fraternities.
Much older fraternities may actually have had initiation hazing even before Marcos became president. This is the reason why the qualification “in general” has to be used in parts 1 and 2. Each fraternity would have had a different history of, and rationale for, hazing.
No Change Even After Marcos
Ferdinand Marcos has long been gone. He was taken by the U.S. military to Hawaii in 1986 where he died three years later. His body is in Ilocos Norte, preserved by 24/7 air conditioning and formalin. His family, however, has mounted a successful political comeback, unfortunately.
But after the Marcos dictatorship disintegrated, the physical aspect of the initiation process or hazing remained for those fraternities which instituted it in reaction to Marcos’ clampdown as well as for those older fraternities which had it long before.
Hazing became so ingrained in the fraternity system that most of them have it in place in some degree, at some point in their history, or may even be practicing it now.
Hazing became so commonplace that even the revered Philippine Military Academy reportedly has a hazing or maltreatment component for cadets.
Do slapping, kicking, punching the arms, kneeing the thighs and paddling the back thighs of neophytes have a place in society in the late 1980s? Do these have a place in society now? No, they don’t. These seem to be barbaric acts by now. Assuming they were even justified during the Marcos regime, they are not justified in the years and decades that followed. There are no more DPAs and government agents wanting to infiltrate these groups.
These fraternities and other organizations, from U.P. and beyond, most likely stuck to the physical part of initiations out of tradition and culture. That it has been existing for decades so why change it now. Or perhaps the common but regressive thinking of the fratman who underwent hazing as a neophyte some years ago and who now would want to give the current neophytes a taste of the suffering and beatings he endured. Or the “brods”, “sisters” and “org-mates” did not want to offend the alumni/alumna community who continuously support them.
But perhaps these fraternities and similar organizations were just not bold enough, not radical enough or not activist enough towards hazing to ban it in all forms. It has outlived its usefulness.
Whatever are the reasons, hazing continued unabated. The Anti-Hazing Law caused a dent, no doubt, but it did not stop hazing per se. Many fraternities may have lessened it but it’s still there.
What Does Hazing Really Prove?
Purist fratmen are wont to say that hazing must stay, or at least the controllable part of hazing. They may back this up by categorizing hazing as only simulated or induced pain to make their members stronger. The implication is that once you survive hazing, you can survive almost any other difficult or painful process (like being interrogated by the military in 60s, 70s and 80s).
But hazing – or the physical aspect of initiations (however you want to call it) – does not in general make men out of boys or committed fraternity brothers out of undisciplined youngsters.
There have been many instances where full-fledged fraternity members who completed the hazing process chose to leave that organization (or even the country) for some reason a few weeks or months after finishing the rites. Undergoing hazing does not guarantee brotherhood commitment. Neither does it guarantee good members. In fact, some supposedly committed fratmen even join other fraternities after a certain period of time – a blatant case of disloyalty.
A fraternity may, after hazing, welcome a new member into the fold only to realize some time later what a fool and knucklehead he actually is. He doesn’t attend class, fails in his courses, shifts around relentlessly, disrespectful, regularly starts rumbles, antagonizes other groups, beats up his girlfriend, a dreadful son, and gets into all sorts of very sticky on and off-campus situations. Even after numerous counseling and guidance, he fails to reform.
What then did hazing really prove? What did it instill? What did it confirm, if anything?
How did such hazing effectively contribute to the fraternity being a meaningful, scholarly, just, service-oriented, politically active, leadership-focused, righteous, change-oriented, activist or courageous organization?
Hazing and Fraternity Violence Should Stop Now
Hazing should stop now. Other acts constituting fraternity violence (i.e. rumbles between rival fraternities, violent intimidation by fraternity members, frat bullying, etc.) should likewise stop. Warring fraternities which escalate tensions beyond words into fierce confrontations, skirmishes and ambushes are gangs with Greek letter names.
Injuring civilians caught in the crossfire is heartless.
The image of U.P. Diliman being the serene, prestigious academic institution – reserved only for the best and the brightest – that is occasionally disturbed by frantically running young men with lead pipes, pillboxes, clubs, wooden sticks and other improvised weapons should also change. They do not match.
I have visited and been educated by similarly serene, prestigious academic institutions outside of the country and nothing like this happens there.
Alternatives to Hazing
You do not need to hit, slap, kick, bruise and paddle in order to prove or instill brotherhood. Since fraternities and similar organizations will not go away, there should be other alternatives than hazing neophytes. To prove camaraderie and the level of possible organizational integration, there should be a set number months of constant interaction with the potential members to see if they fit the group and can be reliable assets.
To prove intellect and academic inclination or prowess, the fraternity can look at past and present grades, ask professors or fellow classmates, look at his current affiliations, look at past accomplishments, and conduct substantive interviews that test his mind and fortitude. Perhaps involve the alumni who have a greater sense of practicality, wisdom and worldliness. If the potential member is not very bright and has repeatedly quit his course majors just to start new ones, then what’s the point of the recruitment (unless he has other extraordinary talents).
To prove and strengthen physical grit and constitution, you need not implement hazing. You can have physical drills such as what in-training military recruits do. You can design structured stressed environments where new recruits need to think on their feet and decide judiciously, without subjecting them to unnecessary pain or making them run into rows of “brods”. Simulation of stressed environments need not have punches, kicks or paddling.
To demonstrate understanding of the organization’s principles, mottos, guides, constitution and what-have-you, schedule comprehensive written and oral (objective and debate-like sessions) examinations. Fail one and the recruit is out.
There are many, many other creative and alternative ways to test the commitment and loyalty of a new recruit to a fraternity, sorority or organization. These alternatives take much time to develop, more resources to organize and more discipline to execute. But they do not kill, maim or scar. They can weed out those who are not truly committed and retain those who will most likely be accomplished and meaningful members.
It’s just like competing for rare scholarships. A successful candidate can prove to the university or scholarship fund that he or she is the best recipient of such scholarship award and will be loyal to the school or fund without needing to be stripped of dignity or exposed to near-death. Exams, interviews, background checks, essays, references and others can be used to gauge the quality of applicants. The same holds true for recruits to any fraternal organization.
Marc Andrei Marcos Should Be the Last Wasted Life
The senseless, shocking death that Marc Andrei Marcos suffered need not have happened. His family’s loss of a future successful San Beda lawyer should not have occurred. In all of these, everyone lost – Marc Andrei himself, his family, his law school, his would-be fraternity, the Philippine fraternity institution in general, and society as a whole.
So if nobody, no group, no sector wins or benefits from hazing, why continue the tradition? Marc Andrei Marcos should be the very last to die from fraternity hazing. He needs to be the last wasted life. All fraternities and similar groups need to dig deep into their conscience and be bold enough to stop any and all forms of hazing.
If fraternities don’t listen and more fatalities (or injuries) through hazing or other forms of violence occur in the months or years to come, then these concerned groups further erode the rationale for their existence.
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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Disclaimer: The ideas and content above are solely the opinion and perspective of the author. They are not representative in any way of the position, opinion or outlook of his past or present employment affiliations, nor should they be interpreted as any form of legal or tax advice.