Frat-Sor Violence

Enduring almost seven weeks of rigorous hazing–paddling, face-slapping, body-punching and worse–and he/she became a respected brother/sister for it.

Fraternities, sororities and other organizations has become a staple in the Philippines education system. Unfortunately, some practices present today in fraternities defeat the purpose of brotherhood and camaraderie. Frat-Sor related violence has become rampant and is subjected to hazing and inhumane acts.

Man as a social being, is definitely in need to belong in a family, group, tribe, club, organization or community. For some who seeks the allure and exclusivity, brotherhoods or sisterhoods, fraternities and sororities, street gangs, military units and secret societies are held for that special sense of belonging, kinship, and bonding- as for the promise that membership in this different kind of community of men and women will guarantee lifelong benefits, privileges, reassurances, and advantages in the long run. In return, one accepts the ethos of a brotherhood/sisterhood, following set of ideals, and commitment to a code of silence.

Young people who were interviewed observed that there were benefits to be earned by joining a fraternity/sorority: “For social purposes” (Shera Mortejo, UPV); “To have connections and affiliations”(Zsareena Zabala, UPV); “To boost self-esteem” (Sean Labastida, UPV); “For them to have people to rely on especially in times of troubles” (Arniel Lisondra, MSU-IIT);  “To have another family. To belong. To fit in. To be loved” (Lala Calle, UPV);  “To gain acceptance and feel some kind of belongingness. Some also join for quest and thirst for power” (Syrine Podadera, FEU); “Promised protection & security, social elevation” (Clyde Aguillon, UPLB); “To not feel alone.”(Dan Borongan, UPV); “Peer Pressure”(Aizel Divinagracia, USC); “They can’t find love with their family” (Davy Abella, USC); “Sense of “damayan”(Dua Uriarte, SU); “Personal preference- maybe their parents were fratmen”(Emman Aller, UPV); “They feel safe and settled that they have people who share similar beliefs and values”(Jessa Temelo, UPV) “To gain respect”( Kenneth Baay, SPUS); “Sponsorship and solid connection” (James Luchavez, UPV); “It is one way of being cool”(Gabriel Lerona, UPV); “For greater circle of friends and the benefits after college like easy job application”(May Ann Ybañez, UPV); “Academic support”,(Joeylyn Terania, UPV); “To be able to learn and use the learnings as an instrument to give service to fellowmen, having a family and fun activities” (Kulit 5th)

If there are pluses, there are also minuses. There are gray areas in which one shouldn’t forget. Often, the violence is meted out with measures of restraint. But one too many times it is dispensed with savage and unrestrained brutality, with pledges beaten to a pulp. And sometimes, in the name of fraternity, death occurs. The underlying fact is that the term called “hazing” can possibly account during any Fraternity or Sorority initiation rites. Basically, it has been a practice as a part of the initiation rites to be conducted. It’s a form of conditioning that, in theory, is said to teach pledges the meaning of authority and loyalty (by bullying them into submission), foster camaraderie among new recruits (by collectively subjecting them to pain and humiliation), and make them value the privilege of being accepted into the brotherhood (by making them work hard to get in).

Even though that these seem like noble intentions, the problem with hazing is that it can get too far. Sometimes, these traditions are left in the hands of late teens and early 20’s college students which is to say that they are unsupervised young adults that might be drunk and lack knowledge of how much physical and psychological torture the human body can tolerate. As a matter of fact, 82% of deaths from violent hazing involve alcohol.

Men and women are willing to suffer through the hazing rituals of physical and psychological abuse for that fraternity/sorority. Heavy doses of both can result to extreme degrees of physical violence and degrading insults. The so-called “Neophytes” are meant to humble pledges to their “Lord Masters”.

The consequences of psychological abuse are often hidden. But sometimes, after the hazing, beneath the seeming normalcy, there is a lifetime of psychological scars or wounds that never heal.

For physical abuse, the marks are visible, usually caused by the most common form of abuse in the tradition of hazing that is “paddling”- MUCH WORSE THAN IT SOUNDS, MUCH MORE THAN A PADDLE. The consequence is often inflicted with brutality, almost always, causing the part of the body to “ube”- the vernacular for the bloody bruising. In the name of  frat/sor, the ability to endure the brutality is considered a measure of bravery, resolve, and worthiness.

Taking the risk is not that easy to fall into. A lot is being said and written about the recent fraternity hazing incidents that killed a student and severely injured three others from the De La Salle University—College of St. Benilde, and critically wounded another from the University of the Philippines. Fingers are being pointed, legislative bills are being submitted, investigations are being conducted, and lawsuits are being filed.

Numerous incidents happened in the Philippines with Frat/Sor issues. But in that case, one should not put the blame mutually on all existing fraternities and sororities. As the government seeks to form a task force to ban frat/sor, many reasons compromises it because fraternities and sororities have a place in society. Besides, fraternities provide for various human needs — a surrogate family, a place for young men and women to forge friendships, bonding, and trust, a milieu of kindred spirits, a place to experience community. It is the hazing that is the unnecessary ritual, and the deaths from it so senseless.

Despite the deaths and known risks, some sororities and fraternities continue with their conspiratorial regimens of torture. Despite having been criminalized by Republic Act 8049 more than a decade ago, the deaths continue. Despite “zero-tolerance” edicts and sound bites, when hazing season comes around, schools and universities turn a blind eye, waiting for the next death—when it becomes the occasion for the usual public outcry, condemnation and condolence.

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A Call for a Toasted Pork

It’s a big deal for the society to tackle on the political issues in the Philippines with wide variety of hot matters in which resulted to toilsome discussions within the public office. Most of the news in media is touched by the madness of this dispute called the Pork Barrel Scam. As controversies arisen, more and more oppositions from different sectors of the society are joining in for the eradication of Pork Barrel. This is a toast.

For the many people who have tried to seek for the “tuwid na daan” including me, I feel frustrated not for the failed promises but the facts I have learned about these issues. I attended a forum about Pork Barrel Abolition last September 22, 2014. My young mind is confused with these reactions: “Ha?”, “What?”, “Ito ba talaga ang katotohonan behind this pork barrel system?”,”Money from Power nalang ang peg ng gobyerno? At imbes na pag-serbisyohan ang masa, pera ng bayan ang inaabuso.”These are some of my first reactions regarding the matter. But actually, I cannot sue all the government officials.

Yes, it might appear to be a democratic way of apportioning government resources, but the sad fact is that some politicians are not handling well in office. So what will happen to the communities in need? How about the unfinished construction on roads, unsupported school funds, lack of houses and medical clinics, or feed orphans, grant scholarships, or distribute fertilizers for agricultural sectors which have inadequate portion from the funds of the government?

To be clear with what I am saying, I am in the side of eradicating Pork Barrel System. Why? Not because I have to or because majority is contradicting the system but for the reason that I am in need of “change”- a change where people in the government should do their task correctly.

Checking and balancing measures aren’t effective here. Legislators comprise Congress. I believe that they should focus on lawmaking, not executive functions. PNoy tried to create an alternative to PDAF through DAP, which the SC ruled as unconstitutional. Given its nature, it would have boosted government spending and theoretically would have led to infrastructures, for educational programs, for medical and health support and etc. It would have boosted the economy (barring misuse).  However, the issue behind PDAF was the misuse of public funds. Therefore, the Philippine political system is fraught with multilayered problems. PDAF is just the tip of the iceberg.

I am for abolition of pork barrel system so that the people’s money will go to where it is really needed and not to where a few powerful people want to. Well, to abolish something, one might dare to wonder “what after then?”  So, the alternative way is to establish the objectives of PDAF and put it directly under the budget of government departments.

Just last September 23, 2014, thousands of people rallied in the streets from the different parts of the country to address signature campaign for a people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system and other schemes in the national  budget that allots lump-sum appropriations for lawmakers. This is a one big step protest that would enable for us to work on against Pork Barrel. Under the Initiative and Referendum Act, the advocates of this petition in opposing the discretion in the government is possible for me. Approval of the People’s Initiative Petition could disable the presidential and congressional porks and thus for whoever misuse public funds will be imprisoned. I agree. Penalizing all corrupt government officials deserve to be in jails.

Anyway, there is a need for continuous campaign for the act abolishing Pork Barrel System. If 6 million signatures are achieved (assuming that COMELEC check the validity of signatures), I expect that people’s initiative against Pork Barrel will prohibit the use of “lump sum public funds” under the “sole discretion of the President, legislator or group of legislators, or any public officer.

In the sense that many sequence of anomalies in the Philippine government had occurred, it is not shocking anymore. As for me, it is natural to abolish Pork Barrel because it is an absolute shame of higher public officials rendering to this kind of misusing community funds. I can’t expect or believe too much that it will be a fast abolition since for me, justice in the Philippines is slow especially when the convicted are rich and powerful government officials. Thus, it will be extended again and again. This is a toast.