Fraternizing with their killers
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-10-03
Fraternities should be permanently banned in all campuses. Our legislators should have taken it upon themselves a long time ago to have crafted a law banning all fraternities in all schools. 

The loss of the life of one student because of fraternity hazing should have already compelled school administrators as well as our legislators to consider regulating if not altogether banning fraternities. We did hear eventually about proposals to do this but despite a now long list of fatal fraternity hazing victims, the existence of these fraternities were never effectively regulated or outlawed. Instead, the number of campus fraternities increased. Campuses which did not have fraternities decades ago now have them.

The lame excuse offered by those who would defend the existence of campus fraternities is that hazing is not really allowed and that the fraternities provide benefits to its members such as a sense of belonging, brotherhood and teamwork. The point raised is a cop-out at best because these benefits can be inculcated in young minds by other means that do not place the lives of fraternity neophytes at risk.

After all the fatal hazing incidents that have happened, we even wonder that how come no school administrator or government legislator ever thought of imposing a safeguard restriction that all fraternity initiations should be conducted with a school supervisor present. A school supervisor who is present during initiation rites would be able to stop the imposition of physical ordeals which can result in fatal injuries.

The occurrence of the first three fraternity fatal hazing incidents in the country should have already prompted the imposition of a safeguard mechanism. If they did act early on, people like Ateneo Law School’s Lenny Villa would not have lost his life. Despite the alarming rise of fraternity hazing fatalities, no safeguard mechanisms have yet been instituted to really prevent the next fraternity fatal hazing incident.

What we get plenty of is the usual condemnation from school administrators and grandstanding politicians. Very few of the culprits get expelled. Fewer still are those who are indicted and convicted for the fatal hazing incident.

These school fraternities are not only detrimental to the lives of aspiring fraternity members because of hazing. What is overlooked is that these fraternities also deepen divisions in our country by promoting this “them versus us” mentality of students which they carry with them for life. In fact, the “them versus us” mentality can be considered a bigger problem than the occasional fatal hazing incidents.

The “them versus us” mentality had produced violent fraternity conflicts in the campus. Within the fraternity, there is the sense of brotherhood but towards another fraternity — there is the sense of animosity. In a way, the sense of brotherhood among fraternity members can be considered as a factor that emboldens a member to vigorously fight with the members of another fraternity. On their own, they may not have been that belligerent at all.

The “them versus us” mentality adds to the siege mentality of people at a very young age. There is already the animosity between Campus A versus Campus B, Ateneans versus La Sallians, San Bedans versus Sebastinians and so forth, with some of these having been carried to the extreme and have resulted in homicides. Due to the existence of fraternities, the animosity is bred right within the campus among fellow students.

After their campus days, these fraternities become active players in corporate and political struggles. If you know that a judge to whom your case is assigned happens to be a Sigma Rhoan, you would do well to get a lawyer who is also a Sigma Rhoan. In fact, a student is attracted to join a fraternity for reasons that offer advantages in campus and post-campus life.

With such warped ideas about brotherhood, we should not be surprised why our country suffers from so many divisions. There is the ever brewing class war between the haves and the have-nots which is being promoted by the Communists. There is the corrosive political division which prevents Filipino politicians from uniting behind a good leader or entices them to protect a very bad one. There is the religious divide, the Christians versus the Muslims, Catholics versus Protestants and so forth.

We are such a divided nation that certain brotherhoods have in turn suffered divisions as seen in the case of the Iglesia ni Cristo and the now Dating Daan. We could not even unite as town mates in a foreign country. In the 1980s, town mates from Binan who were already residing in the Greater Los Angeles area in California suffered a split over some petty issues resulting in two Binan Town Associations. That is not unusual in many Filipino communities in other States.

That is why brotherhoods like those being promoted by the Focolare Movement and the Gawad Kalinga (GK) are very precious and should be actively promoted as the antidote to our disunity problem. Both the Focolare and GK promote all inclusive brotherhoods that bridge the gaps between the haves and the have-nots, the religious creeds and even the political factions.

That is why the People Power event of 1986 is very precious too for Filipinos as it marked a moment of great unity when we overcame personal biases and embraced a common ideology — democracy — for which we were willing to risk our lives. Easily attracted to personalities, Filipinos deviated from their usual gravitation and were caught in an ideological battle in 1986, the battle between dictatorship and democracy.

That rare moment of national unity in Philippine history became an inspiration to the rest of the world. What is sad is that after dismantling the dictatorship we retuned to our usual factions and failed to harness the greater potential of People Power for national development.

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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