We’ve been through this before: collective grief, a chorus of condemnation, a call for reforms. We grieve each time a young life is lost to hazing. We go through the motions of self-flagellation. And then we forget.
The death by hazing of Guillo Cesar Servando on June 28, 2014 has sparked vigorous debates on all aspects related to fraternities and the secret rituals they go through – as if these were new to us. Should schools ban fraternities and sororities altogether? Or should they merely regulate them? The question is made complicated by the fact that Servando’s school, De La Salle University-College of St Benilde, in fact bans students from joining fraternities and sororities. Student groups have likewise renewed calls to amend the anti-hazing law to put it more teeth. Others have started to campaign for more transparency among fraternities, arguing that the more open an organization is, the more it tends to obey rules.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, the most prominent member of the APO fraternity, warned that those guilty of killing Servando will pay the price. Would he have said the same had his own fraternity, not the Tau Gamma Phi, been the one involved in the crime? And what has this top official done in the past to convince us he stands solidly against hazing, a ritual that is as old as politics itself?
Worse than posturing is silence – which is deafening in the corridors of power where men and women belonging to fraternities and sororities walk side by side with apathy. For every hazing death that hogs the headlines we hear nothing from them. They – who easily craft petitions against corrupt presidents or quickly release statements against wrong policies or strongly lobby for the resignation of inefficient bureaucrats – suddenly turn mute in the face of mortality made real and bloody by hazing.
Fraternities, after all, usually make the pain caused by hazing worth it. Beyond giving members tickets to sure employment, these organizations pave the road to success, wealth, and key positions in public and private sectors. Members of Sigma Rho, Upsilon, Aquila and Utopia fraternities, for example, hold key positions in all branches of government, most specifically the judiciary. Some of our country’s most well-connected businessmen, politicians and lawyers have gone through all the rituals of fraternities, to include hazing. This isn’t true only in the Philippines. Some of the most famous and infamous names on Wall Street belong to the top fraternities in America. Various estimates show about a quarter of the biggest CEOs in the United States belong to a fraternity or sorority.
Yet every single year young students die due to hazing. We sometimes hear about these deaths, but we also often don’t.
In the Philippines, we have an anti-hazing law that does not criminalize hazing, and the fact that it passed speaks well of our lawmakers’ respect for the secret and medieval rituals of these organizations. The title itself says it all: it is an act to “regulate” hazing. Other countries have declared it illegal, finding no sense to regulate a violent act. In the US, more than 40 states have already made hazing illegal.
This is the least that our powerful men and women could do to make up for their long years of silence. For them to collectively condemn hazing and pave the way for its ban and criminalization. All other recommendations – making fraternities more transparent, building a non-violent environment, creating a counter-culture that fosters respect for human life – require a cultural revolution, which is a tall order for people who have managed to justify and accept violence through their silence.
To the powers that be: ban hazing, make it a crime. And help us realize this one step toward a more modern, less medieval society. – Rappler.com