By Terence Repelente
A bruised and bloated body was found lying in a street in Tondo last Sunday morning. The body was then identified as Horacio Castillo III, also known to his friends and family as Atio, a first year law student from the University of Santo Tomas. More than 17 hours had passed before his parents would learn about their son’s unfortunate death.
The victim’s mother, Carminia Castillo, recalled that her son informed them about attending an overnight “welcoming rites”of Aegis Juris, a fraternity that he joined after his parents had been assured there would be no physical hazing involved.
The gravely beaten up body, the scars, the bruise marks, and the candle and cigarette burns are a clear indicator of what Atio had experienced in the hands of his supposed to be “brods” during that “welcoming” event. If Atio did attend the event and if he had indeed been a victim of physical hazing that led to his death, he would be the latest in a lengthy list of boys and girls who have died trying to join a fraternity.
A TRADITION OF PAIN
According to Kristian Rafanan, a member of Tau Gamma Phi (also known as the Triskelions’ Grand Fraternity) and a student of the Far Eastern University, he joined a fraternity because he believed it would change his life. “Naniniwala ako na makakatulong ito sa aking pananaw sa buhay (I believe that it can help me with my views in life),” he said. “Sumali ako para sa pang habang buhay na koneksyon sa bawat sangay ng fraternity (I joined because of the lifetime of connections to different people in other branches of the big fraternity).”
As a member of one, fraternities for Kristian “should help the community and keep it in shape.” Although he doesn’t deny that violence such as frat wars happen, he said all fraternities should promote peace, prosperity, and service to the people and follow an organizational code of conduct. “We advocate peace in Tau Gamma Phi. We also do some projects for the community and barangays such as medical missions, feeding programs, dental missions, and pa-liga (community basketball tournament) among many others.”
Kristian and his brods condemn the killing of Atio allegedly due to hazing by the Aegis Juris. “As a fratman, I am saddened about Horacio’s case,” he said. “Before the initiation rites, Aegis Juris should’ve informed their neophytes if a physical hazing would happen. I believe Aegis Juris failed to do this.” He added that everyone has the right to say no to all forms of hazing and all fraternities should respect that.
Kristian also said that fraternities should function like real brotherhoods in which you can consult other members about problems. They shouldn’t give you one themselves. When it becomes the latter, Kristian said “it’s best to just leave that fraternity and look for a real one.”
But Kristian believes hazing shouldn’t be prohibited. “Para kasi part ng tradition yun eh (for me, it’s a tradition),” he said. “Pero tutol ako sa pagpipilit. Para sa akin walang dapat pumilit kahit kanino maging part ng isang fraternity (I’m against forcing someone to join a fraternity).”
BREAKING THE SILENCE, ENDING THE IMPUNITY
For Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, hazing should be prohibited. He said the law on anti-hazing should be amended. “The title of the law is legally flawed,” he said in an interview during the first night of Atio’s wake at the Santuario de San Antonio chapel in Makati. “The title of the original law on anti-hazing is ‘deregulation of hazing’ and not the ‘prohibition.’ Now, we are focused on amending the law to prohibit all forms of hazing—both physical and mental.”
Senator Zubiri is a close friend of Atio’s family. Zubiri was classmates with the Atio’s father, Horacio Castillo Jr. at the Colegio San Agustin. The victim’s sister, Nicole Castillo, works in his office.
“Medyo masakit samin ‘to (this is painful for us),” he said. “We have already filed the resolution to investigate. Senator Gordon and Senator Lacson will be heading the investigation. We will get to the bottom of this. These are the same people who were supposed to protect you. These are the same people who were supposed to be your brothers and sisters. They are the same people who will kill you. These senseless killings due to hazing should stop!”
But Senator Zubiri isn’t just solely concerned with Atio’s death. He plans on stopping hazing in general and end its culture of impunity. “Out of 100 deaths, isa lang ang na-coconvict (Out of a hundred deaths, only one gets convicted). That’s one percent conviction rate. Kalokohan ito (This is madness)!”
According to Senator Zubiri, no parent should bury their children. “We should make this the last death. And we should not make his death go in vain by just being a mere statistic in this war against hazing. This should not have happened to Atio. This shouldn’t happen to anyone else.”
Here are the things to remember when joining a fraternity:
1.) Reevaluate your reasons
Why do you want to join a fraternity? Is it just because you want friends? Access to exclusive parties and social events? A much wider network? While joining a fraternity helps, you can also get all of those things without being in one.
2.) Know the background of your chosen fraternity
What is it known for? Was it ever involved in any issues? What are the mission and vision statement and code of conduct of the fraternity? Ask some of its current and former members these questions. Every fraternity is different and if you’re going to join one, it’s best to be part of something good and clean.
3.) Learn to say no
If you’re in any way uncomfortable with what they’re doing to you or what they want you to do for your initiation, you should say no swiftly. And no, it doesn’t make you any less of a man and it doesn’t make you lame or weak. As much as possible, avoid fraternities that require physical hazing and public humiliation. Violence and humiliation is a red flag.
4.) Break the silence
If you’ve gone through physical violence, sexual mistreatment, or any form of abusive hazing or if you know someone who did, don’t hesitate to inform school authorities.