Hazing in Fraternities: Why Can’t It Go Away?

Hazing is defined as an initiation of newcomers to an organization. More often than not, it is characterized by incessant harassment designed to weed out the weak and retain the strong. Those who can survive this “rite of passage” is guaranteed a place in the organization.

This practice is often associated with fraternities as a way of initiating neophytes. The forms or ways of hazing may vary or range. Usually, neophytes are subjected to humbling activities such as serving their “masters” like carrying their stuff to doing their homework.

In the Philippines at least, hazing is usually associated with brutality. Neophytes go through a beating from their masters. Not only does this test their ability to take abuse, but to also test their loyalty (they can never tell what happened under the pain of ostracism or more harassment). Although many have passed through this ordeal, there have been several who have not because they died.

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This editorial cartoon pretty much captures the nature of hazing in the Philippines. C: Philippine Star

Horacio “Atio” Castillo III is the most recent fatality of hazing. Castillo was a law student of the University of Santo Tomas who wanted to join the Aegis Juris fraternity. He was succumbed to the injuries he received during the initiation rites after being brought to the hospital on September 17. Those who were behind the initiation has gone into hiding though one is currently in the custody of the authorities.

What Has Been Done?

In 1995, Congress passed Republic Act 8049 known as the Anti-Hazing Law. This came following the death of Ateneo Law Student Leonardo Villa, also a victim of hazing. He died from the injuries following an initiation rite in 1991 by the Aquila Legis fraternity.

Despite the law’s passage, hazing has continued. At least 15 people (besides Castillo) have died from hazing though they were not highly publicized. Given this development, many feel the Anti-Hazing Law has flaws that allow fraternities to skirt around the provisions. One such provision is requiring fraternities to submit a written notice to school authorities detailing their initiation rites and that there must be a representative from the school to observe the rites.

Another “flaw” is the law only comes into effect when someone dies or is injured. What anti-hazing advocates want is for these rites not to take place at all. It is for this reason the Senate launched an inquiry hoping to amend the Anti-Hazing Law, entertaining the thought of abolishing hazing completely.

Why Does It Still Go On?

Despite the existing law, why does the practice continue? In stating the obvious, tradition is rather hard to do away. Fraternities and other similar organizations have this need to initiate newcomers before accepting them. As mentioned earlier, these rites serve to test their resolve and their loyalty. It is rather unfortunate some members get carried away during the initiation rites.

Another reason is probably fraternity members feel the need to give the same treatment they received when they were neophytes. Since they cannot turn on their “masters” or “brods,” they turn to the neophytes. One consequence is it has started a cycle that does not seem to end.

Another is the seemingly misguided sense of brotherhood or camaraderie of fraternity members. Fraternity members have a special bond that keeps them tight. This has served them well beyond college. Having fraternity brothers everywhere helps open proverbial doors, and they can count on getting help when they are in need. It is this need to belong that attracts young men to join fraternities.

Unfortunately, it is this bond or “pakikisama” that enables those responsible for hazing deaths and injuries to escape accountability. Fraternities are sometimes torn between doing the right thing and upholding their tradition and “integrity.” The relatives of victims argue that if fraternities espouse brotherhood, why is it they would kill those want to belong?

Until a permanent solution is found, or a need for greater political will, hazing will likely continue and Atio Castillo will not be the last victim of hazing.

Aaron Ronquillo

Quizzer, Practical Shooter, Martial Artist, Movie Buff, Avid Reader, Amateur Foodie and Photographer, Cat Lover; Someone with a wanderlust; got a keen eye for detail, trivia; enthusiastic but cautious; patient, calculating