Cruel intentions

No amount of tears, forgiveness, or consolation from anyone can bring back a young life wasted and lost.

Some things we only quite learn once it is too late.

Another senseless death, another young life lost in the anachronistic ritual called hazing. It persists in several fraternities recognized in many colleges and universities here and elsewhere.

There was a public outcry when the body of 24-year-old John Matthew Salilig was found buried in a remote field in Imus, Cavite province, on 28 February — 10 days after the police launched the search for the missing Adamson University chemical engineering student.

What followed next was a massive outpouring of grief and sympathy from everybody and anybody who cared to air their two cents worth, including self-serving press releases from personalities eager to join the bandwagon.

After all the hue and cry, commentaries and opinions written, aired, televised and discussed on all social media platforms, and a recently-concluded Senate investigation into the incident, have we finally learned our lessons? Or are we back to square one trying to analyze what happened, breast-beating about the untimely demise of one so young and promising, and failing to find solutions to a problem that seemingly won’t go away?

As a father, I empathized with the profound loss and grief of the victim’s parents. No amount of tears, forgiveness, or consolation from anyone can bring back a young life wasted and lost. Cruel intentions are present when you inflict extreme physical harm and emotional abuse on anyone in the brotherhood.

Ancient accounts indicate that hazing was introduced more than 2,000 years ago after the Greek philosopher Plato founded an academy where the ritual was practiced, usually by playing practical jokes on the newcomer — certainly a far cry from how it is done today.

Things soon escalated to the point when more severe forms of the ritual were used, often leading to severe trauma or stress, physical injuries and sometimes death.

In the Philippines, a University of the Philippines student who underwent hazing died at the operating table due to a burst appendix and became the first hazing casualty listed in the local archives.

Throughout the years, the induction procedure took place not only on campuses of prominent and relatively little-known colleges or universities, but also in the country’s premier military school — the Philippine Military Academy — and the Philippine National Police Academy, the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, and even some high schools in the Metro and countryside.

Despite the rising numbers of hazing victims from the I950s, it was only until the death of Leonardo Villa, an Ateneo de Manila University law student who was being initiated into the Aquila Legis in I99I that concrete action against the barbaric practice finally took off.

The Anti-Hazing Act of 1995, or Republic Act 8049, was passed to prohibit and penalize acts of violence or physical harm during initiation rites conducted by fraternities and sororities.

To me, death in hazing is never an accident nor spontaneous; it is always premeditated because the infliction of violence is usually well-planned.

There appears to be no apparent reason why neophytes are now being subjected to physical abuse, humiliation, sleep deprivation, or other threats to body or mind as a rite of passage to show respect, bonding and not being on equal footing just yet with their “masters,” or were simply ordered to undergo similar episodes experienced by their superiors when they were neophytes.

Dr. Godofredo Stuart Jr. described it as “a violent form of escapism for some; dangerously, a sadistic power trip; for others, an occasion to unwittingly release pent-up hostilities and anger.”

Despite the stiff penalties prescribed in the anti-hazing law and giving school administrators a fair share of accountability, there remains a mounting number of casualties.

“It pains me so much to hear that people are dying from hazing when they are supposed to be future brothers and, therefore, should care for each other. It is so painful for the parents,” retired Caloocan City Regional Trial Court Judge Adoracion Angeles said in a 20I7 newspaper interview.

Angeles convicted 26 fraternity members of homicide concerning the Leonardo Villa I99I case while I9 fratmen were later acquitted. Ironically, she found herself in the eye of the storm arising from the earlier conviction after she left her office.

“I did what I believe was right. I followed the dictates of my conscience and nothing else,” she said.

But have we learned our lessons?

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