Hazing as torture: Netizens cry for #JusticeForDarwin

MANILA, Philippines – Is hazing a valid reason to inflict torture on one's brother?

On September 18, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio died because of injuries caused by hazing. Initial findings showed signs of internal bleeding, and his autopsy revealed he died due to blunt force trauma.

Despite the enactment of the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, organizations continue to hold violent initiation rites which result in severe injuries – some even life-threatening.  These organizations subject aspiring members to torture under the guise of instilling discipline and strengthening brotherhood. (READ: What's happening to hazing cases in the Philippines?)

Here's what Filipinos online had to say about the issue.

Keeping tradition alive

A number of netizens were quick to defend the need to "save the tradition" of hazing as a "form of discipline."

However, many Filipinos criticized the need to uphold such a ritual. Netizens dubbed hazing a "murderous tradition" that robbed the future of many promising young people.

"Some traditions must die," stated netizen Carmine Collera.

Others also stated hazing was used to justify the cycle of violence within one's organization. Raoul A. Gayotin cited hazing was a violent act "under the pretense of strengthening brotherhood."

"[Hazing] is being passed on by the senior members to the neophyte members as a traditional way to get even," Gayotin wrote.

Netizen Allan Kingjames Castro questioned the need for hazing to "toughen" new PMA members. "Hindi naman lahat gusto makapasok dyan [sa PMA] para maging matapang at matigas. Yung iba gusto lang nila mag lingkod sa bayan ng maayos at makatulong sa pamilya nila," he said.

(Not everyone enters the PMA to become tough and strong. Others just want to serve the country and their families.)

Taking accountability

Several netizens have also called the PMA to hold the persons involved liable for Dormitorio's death.

Iris Lames stated PMA authorities could easily turn a blind eye to the incident. "Yung nagpapatakbo ng PMA hinahayaan mangyari yan kasi kahit sila umamin na nakaranas nito," she said.

(PMA authorities allow hazing to happen because they admit they too have undergone the ritual.) 

Former Magdalo representative Gary Alejano dubbed Dormitorio's death an "isolated incident", but called on the PMA to closely monitor its cadets and to raise awareness on the effects of hazing.

The death of Cdt Dormitorio is very unfortunate. I strongly condemn it. By all means, those responsible must be held legally liable. I believe this is an isolated incident but PMA should continue raising awareness on the effects of hazing and must consistently monitor the cadets. — Gary Alejano (@GaryAlejano) September 24, 2019

Netizen Kairo Asahi also stated perpetuating the tradition would only result in corruption in organizations. "Yung mga seniors alam na nilang mali pinagpapatuloy pa rin para makaganti sa ginawa sa kanila ng mas senior nila," he said.

(Seniors know what they're doing is wrong, but they continue to haze so they can get even with the seniors who hazed them.)

Other netizens explicitly cited Senator Bato dela Rosa, who in 2018 admitted his academy hazings made him the person he is today. Iñigo Abellar slammed dela Rosa, as well as, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde for blatantly ignoring anti-hazing laws despite being in government.

"You expect "lawmen" to know the law but here it isn’t the case," he wrote.

“Hazing made me who I am today” -Senator Bato “Hazing is a matter of personal perception” -PNP Chief Albayalde Hello mga “alagad ng batas” we have RA No. 8049 or the Anti Hazing Act of 1995 which bans hazing. You expect “lawmen” to know the law but here it isn’t the case. — Iñigo Abellar #HandsOffActivists (@InigoAbellar) September 23, 2019

Following Dormitorio's death, PMA Superintendent Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista resigned from his post on Tuesday, and said PMA leadership would ensure the cadet gets justice.

Nonviolent alternatives

Many netizens stated there were better alternatives to initiate members. Edith Despa was in favor of replacing "inhuman, insensitive, and macho" rituals with nonviolent initiation practices that instill the same sense of discipline in members.

Several netizens agreed, and stated hazing was not necessary in forming cadets into respectful and disciplined soldiers.

Another netizen suggested initiation rites should be more "noble", and gave examples such as helping the elderly or persons with disabilities.

Here's what other people had to say about the issue:

Filipinos on hazing - Curated tweets by rapplerdotcom

Since Dormitorio's death, 3 more cadets have been hospitalized, possibly due to hazing-related injuries as well. Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo also stated President Rodrigo Duterte was "outraged" by the incident, as Malacañang "lamented" PMA's "failure in leadership."

Do you think hazing justifies torture? Why or why not? – Rappler.com

Gaby Baizas

Gaby Baizas is a digital communications specialist at Rappler. Journalism is her first love, social media is her second—here, she gets to dabble in both. She hopes people learn to read past headlines the same way she hopes punk never dies.