It’s heartbreaking to hear recent stories of young men dying too soon. One seemingly happy and smart guy in his mid 20s jumped off a building. A sophomore at the College of St. Benilde died last Sunday due to hazing. Can you imagine how their parents are right now? Losing a child too soon to some senseless acts could be the worst nightmare we can ever go through. For sure, we will start looking deep inside ourselves, and start taking the blame. “Where did I go wrong?” “I failed as a parent!” According to top psychologist Dr. Honey Carandang, parents, especially mothers, are prone to always feel guilty about their parenting.
The act of suicide is usually a result of severe hopelessness or untreated depression. In some of the stories I’ve read, clinical conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. made the person commit suicide unknowingly.
On the other hand, joining an initiation wherein you know that severe physical violence will be inflicted upon you seems to be knowingly entering a possible suicide. Why do I say this? It’s because we already have on record high-profile deaths caused by hazing.
Before last Sunday’s death of Guillo Cesar Servando (18 years old sophomore student of CSB taking up Hotel Restaurant & Institution Management) at the initiation rites of Tau Gamma Phi fraternity, we had Mark Andrei Marcos (21, freshman Law student at San Beda) who died in 2012 during the rites of Lex Leonum fraternity. And of course, there was the celebrated case of ADMU Law School freshman Lenny Villa who died in 1991 during the rites of Aquila Legis fraternity. It was because of this high profile case that Republic Act No. 8049 Anti-Hazing Law was passed in 1995.
Hazing, under the said law, is defined as an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or any organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury.
The penalty for the offender is reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) if the hazing results in death, rape, sodomy or mutilation. It goes down to reclusion temporal (imprisonment for 14 to 20 years) if the consequence on the victim is insanity, being imbecile, impotent or blind. The penalties go lower – prison mayor or prison correccional as the consequences of the crime become milder.
But the thing is, no amount of prison perpetua will bring back life to the mauled dead body of your child. And for what? Because he wanted so much to belong? Despite the Anti Hazing Law, hazing is still systematically carried out.
I once asked a lawyer friend why he didn’t join any Latin sounding fraternity and this was his answer, “You know I think those who really need to become a member of a fraternity are those who lack friends in the campus, mostly those who come from the province. There’s also the need to feel secure come bar exams, some probably want to get tips (more like leaks).”
When he said that, it didn’t come with a tone of hubris, and I gained a clearer understanding why neophytes are willing to go through all the pain and the risk of dying, how they can reconcile the love with violence of the men they long to have as brothers.
I cannot deny that going through hardships and struggles together forms a tighter bond. I get that. But deliberately inflicting pain and violence? That, I still don’t.
Here’s another angle. The fraternity members themselves already know of the imminent danger of overdoing these violent acts. They know that they can get carried away like brutal animals but how come no one’s putting an end to this “tradition?” Aha! it’s because each batch has to take its turn of being the seniors – the ones inflicting the pain, payback time. Maybe everyone feels that it’s okay to abolish the violent ritual provided that he has taken his sweet turn. So it goes on and on like a vicious cycle.
For the meantime, the law can only do so much. The Supreme Court ruling on the guilt of the five members of the Lenny Villa case just came out in 2012, over two decades since the crime was committed. Moreover, the law cannot prohibit people from wanting to belong to certain groups and from tolerating certain rituals to be accepted in a group.
As a mother of three boys, I lament at the waste of the precious lives of these young men. Lenny could have been a successful lawyer by now, a great father to his own kids. Mark and Guillo and the rest of the hazing and suicide victims could have been great contributors to our country. But we will never know, because they were gone too soon.
For the meantime, let’s hug our own children, no matter how big they’ve grown, to remind them how precious they are to us. Let’s make sure that our day-to-day rituals at home are powerful enough to make them feel loved and accepted, so that they won’t feel the need to endure barbaric rituals just to be accepted in a group.
Announcement: As a sign of love and support to my son, who has been practicing with his group everyday until 10pm since April, I will shamelessly plug the farewell dance concert of Fresh Flow entitled The Finale on Friday July 4, 2014 at 6pm. It will be held at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater, ADMU campus. Tickets are at 200 pesos. Fresh Flow and other dance groups promise the audience a wonderful evening of music, groove and celebration.