Ending the culture of violence
Privilege speech of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino on the proliferation of hazing incidents in the country delivered on August 1, 2012
A spectre is haunting our universities and communities, the spectre of hazing.
Last Monday, another freshman student from San Beda College fell victim to a case of fraternity-related violence. In the wee hours of July 30, Marc Andrei Marcos, a first year law student from San Beda College-Alabang Campus, was rushed to the De La Salle University Dasmariñas Hospital after sustaining fatal wounds that led to his eventual death.
According to police reports, Marc Andrei left his residence in Manila on Saturday to work on a school project in Dasmarinas, Cavite. Little did his family know that he will never return alive. Family members disclosed that recently, Marc Andrei had been asking for advice on joining a fraternity in law school.
It is alarming to note that Marc Andrei’s death is the second hazing fatality recorded for this year alone. Just this February, San Beda College of Law freshman Marvin Reglos died as a result of alleged hazing activities of Lambda Rho Beta Fraternity, another underground fraternity in the said college.
In 1995, Congress passed into law RA 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law, in the light of the death of Leni Villa, a law student from Ateneo de Manila who similarly died from hazing. 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.”
Despite the existence of a 17-year old Anti-Hazing Law, such acts of violence continue to proliferate without a single conviction. Marc Andrei and Marvin have been added to the long list of hazing victims, which include UP students Alex Icasiano and Cris Mendez, all of whom have yet to attain justice for their deaths. These victims only represent a small number of cases of fraternity-related violence occurring in recent times. There are still many other unreported incidents resulting to either death or serious physical injuries, with many incidents involving out-of-school youth in communities.
To address the upsurge in reported cases of fraternity-related violence, there are those who float the idea of imposing a total ban on fraternities and sororities, such as the San Beda administration, which has reportedly required students to sign an undertaking not to join fraternities upon enrolment, in light of the incident last February. However, as Marc Andrei’s 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. Also, 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.
The lack of conviction in fraternity-related crimes has also reopened the discussion for the amendment of RA 8049. In fact, this representation has already called upon Congress to review the Anti-Hazing Law, in House Resolution No. 2188 filed last February. 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. Congress should revisit this law, and address issues that have made its full implementation difficult and have rendered RA 8049 inutile.
As we grieve for the death of yet another youth due to hazing activities, we should also condemn in the strongest terms the perpetration of a culture of fear, violence and impunity in schools and communities by groups which claim to uphold genuine brotherhood. As the Association of Law Students of the Philippines-NCR aptly puts, “Brotherhood can never be measured and sealed through the use of paddles and fists in a gruesome ritual, using it against the same persons they dare to eventually call brothers. It is a farce, if not a mockery of the civilized society and the legal community to consider hazing as a form of accepted convention just so that an aspiring brother may be given the privilege of being part of these organizations.” To perpetuate the culture of violence is tantamount to tolerating patriarchal and macho violence and aggression. We also call upon school administrators and authorities not to wash their hands on such cases, and instead be instrumental in enforcing the rule of law.
The continuing proliferation of fraternity-related violence and the lack of convictions for perpetrators is a reflection of a society that condones a culture of impunity; a society where human rights violators run free and political activists get caught behind bars. To resolve this issue, we must remind our youth of the real value of organizations – and that is to band together for a common cause that will ultimately benefit, and not downgrade, society.
The challenge at hand for legislators, administrators and the youth, is not merely to eradicate fraternity-related violence and punish the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. Rather, it is more pressing for us to enact laws and create projects that would enable the creation of a culture of collective action, a culture that would empower our youth to become free and capable to participate in activities that contribute to relevant and pressing issues of society.