When death occurs, at the very least, it is manslaughter.
Godofredo U. Stuart, Jr., M.D.

September 18, 2017 . . . and yet, another death.

Hazing claimed the life of UST a law student, Horatio Tomas Castillo III, as he sought the promises and possibilities of a future in the brotherhood of the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

Once again the days resound with outrage, condemnation, and condolences. Since the anti-hazing law—Republic Act 8049—was passed in 1995, there have been more than 30 deaths.
While thousands have been complicit in these deaths—many roam free, nameless and faceless, many have had cases dismissed or diminished by the theater of courts that skillfully mitigate culpability through avenues of loopholes and appeals, many have disappeared to the sanctuary of faraway lands and reinvented lives.

With Castillo's death, we are once again spectators in this predictable theater of dismay, fault-finding, and denials, replete with the
essential hearing and grandstanding of grilling politicians spewing passionate on integrity, loyalty, and truthfulness, as they try to break through the fraternal code of silence.

The days are awash with cliches clamoring for laws with teeth. Justice Secretary Aguirre wants more teeth in the implementation of the Anti-Hazing Law. But 8049 is quite clear—it criminalized hazing in 1995, a law impressively replete with definitions, liabilities and penalties -- reclusion perpetua, reclusion temporal, prison mayor, prison correcional. Hazing is a crime, whether it is done under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whether it results in death or undue physical injury or psychological maiming. When death occurs, it is murder, or, at the least, manslaughter—not reckless imprudence—and maximum penalty should be imposed. The law doesn't need more teeth. The law doesn't need amendments. What we need are incorruptible dispensers of the law, men with courage, gumption, and mettle who will buck the system of quid pro quos, utang na loob, political pressure and arm twisting by padrinos, brods-in-high-places and the powers that be.

Here we are again. A familiar theater of outrage, condolences, condemnation, denials and the code of silence.

We can only hope that Horatio Castillo's hazing death does not get consigned to the dustbin of history. That like Lenny Villa's death in 1991 that spurred the passage of the Anti-Hazing Law, Castillo's death will help end the ritual of hazing, his death the last of the senseless deaths in the name of and search for brotherhood.

Read below: Hazing in the Philippines / by Dr. Godofredo U. Stuart, Jr.

It is a human condition -- the need to belong to a family, group, tribe, club, organization, or community. Some seek the allure and exclusivity of some brotherhoods or sisterhoods -- fraternities and sororities, street gangs, military units, secret societies -- for that special sense of belonging, kinship, and bonding, and for the promise that membership in a special community of men or women will provide a lifelong cachet, to reap imagined privileges, reassurances, and advantages later on in life. In return, one accepts the ethos of a brotherhood, subservience to a set of ideals, and commitment to a code of silence.

  Elements of Hazing
  Power
  Control
  Testosterone
  Sadism
  Peer pressure
  History of abuse
  Alcohol
  Wall of silence
   

For that fraternity, men and women are willing to suffer through the hazing rituals of physical and psychological abuse, sometimes a combination of extreme and heavy doses of both -- being smeared with feces or urinated on, drinking concoctions of bodily discharges, suffering torrents of degrading insults, demeaning sexual acts and nudity, or various acts and varying degrees of physical violence. They are meant to humble the pledges, and from that humbling, they imagine, springs bonding, love, and trust.

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 often visible, usually inflicted by the most common form of abuse in the tradition of hazing -- paddling. it's much worse than it sounds, and it's much more than a paddle. It has become the generic word for any instrument that inflicts corporeal punishment: paddle boards, canes, baseball bats. The damage is often inflicted with brutality, almost always, causing the body to "ube" -- the vernacular for the early violet of bloody ecchymotic bruising. Often, the extent of subcutaneous bleeding, the hematomas and ecchymoses -- the ube -- is the arithmetic equivalence of the degree of brutality. The ability to endure the brutality is considered a measure of mettle, resolve, and worthiness.

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 deaths are not accidents
In between deaths, the hazing continues as the fraternity's rite of passage, outside the range of media attention, the non-fatal hospitalizations becoming ho-hum incidents. It is the occasional death that brings hazing's brutality and senselessness to the forefront, with its short-lived torrent of outrage, a rain of media sound bites, and the emollient doses of press releases from schools with generic statements of condolence and condemnation. While the parents grieve, seeking answers and seeking justice. While the guilty flee and scurry for cover, behind the shroud of silence and secrecy. While the wheels of justice, too often hampered by who-you-know and areglo politics, moves so slowly, sometimes looks the other way. Waiting for the senseless death to slowly recede from public outrage, front pages and editorials. . . until the next death.

  While deaths are not predictable, when they occur they are not accidents. The wonder is why deaths don't occur more frequently.  
     
  How many more deaths were a whack of the paddle or dose of torture away?  
     

The deaths are no accidents. They are just deaths waiting to happen. Deaths are the result of cumulative trauma. There is no way to determine the sustainable amount of physical violence beyond which a line is crossed. It is even possible the cause of death may have been inflicted early on in the ritual of hazing, taking days for the process of its pathology to progress to death.

What is surprising is that there aren't more of these tragic events. How many more deaths were a whack of paddle or dose of torture away? The human body's fragile armor is a mere composite of delicate tissues of skin, subcutaneous fat, muscle and nerves, prone to tears and bleeding, surviving through innate reflexes -- withdrawal, shielding, parrying, cringing, flinching, flight and avoidance. This fragility, long ago recognized by science and medicine, spawned an industry that fashioned protective gear for contact sports and various professions, to protect every part of the human body with helmets, pads, goggles, guards, vests, and shields, with medical personnel ready to sideline anyone with a bleed, cut, sprain or concussion. Also, there may be unrecognized contributing conditions that critically increases this fragility: aspirin intake, bleeding and clotting disorders. And in the bloodsport of hazing, the survival instincts and reflexes are not functional. The human body becomes a stationary mass of unprotected tissues, absorbing the infliction of repeated blunt trauma, each strike contributing to the cumulative physical damage -- the subcutaneous bleeding, the widening ube, sometimes, hemorrhagic shock, coma, and the occasional death. (How many times has the ube, the post-traumatic ecchymotic swelling in the legs, been source of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and death?) And sadly, too often, the body succumbs before the resolve yields. And often, when death occurs, it is not sudden. The dying is slow. Life already seeping away as the strikes continue. There is not one fatal blow. The fatal blow is cumulative . . . and communal.

Whence, the brutality?
This is not the initiation of street or prison gangs, where excessive violence is generic and deaths are meted with dispassion. This is the violence of hazing inflicted upon pledges with bodies unfamiliar with the extremes of physical abuse, walking wide-eyed into a gauntlet of hazing rituals, suffering the blows, risking life while hoping for the grail of acceptance and cause of fraternity.

  A frat elder said in a TV interview: When it was my turn to haze, siempre, I tried to give more than I got, kung hindi, lugi. Di ba?  
     
  Another commented: When I got started, hindi ko na mapigilan ang sarili ko.  
     

Of course, not all involved in hazing are violently inclined. Perhaps, many are nonviolent in their day-to-day lives. Yet many, not disposed to violence, in the company and peer pressure of brothers become hesitant participants, contributing small doses of violence; or sometimes even with the seemingly gentle, with the outflowing and surging of adrenaline and testosterone, a line is crossed, the ritual goes haywire, the hazing becomes an occasion of wilding and sadism.

Some would like to believe that the violence is simply a get-back from brothers still feeling the pains of last year's initiation rites, the ube long gone but the memory of it still stinging, and now keyed up to be on the giving end.  

Perhaps, for a few. But for many, it's likely much more than that. Among the initiating brothers, there might be one, two, or a few possessed of violent nature, inflicting pain with great delight, amusement and laughter. Perhaps there's even a sociopath or two hiding behind the mask of academe. Perhaps, these brothers were themselves bullied upon or were victims of childhood physical abuse, now finding a subconscious mode of release and transference. In my medical practice, patients, both victims and perpetrators, have confessed to me of domestic abuse, how difficult it is, once it starts, to stop the horrible escalation of violence. Why would it be different In the rituals of initiation, in the setting of helpless pledges, with brothers, many stewed with alcohol, armed with clenched fists, paddles, sticks, pipes and canes? Who are swinging their bats in the name of brotherhood? Who are swinging from the scars of childhood abuse? Who are striking in anger, revenge, jealousy, retribution, redemption, or simply, for that feeling of macho-ness as they inflict punishment? Dahil sa ingit, galit, bawi, o tupak? Hazing is a match that provides spark to a cauldron of human dysfunctions.

  Fact: 82% of deaths from violent hazing involve alcohol.  
     

To boot, we have become a more violent society. We live in a chilling new paradigm of violence. There has been a resetting of our thresholds for evil and violence, a shift in the Jekyl and Hyde of our personalities. There is always blame to cast on movies and television satiating our swollen appetites with excessive doses of graphic violence. The past decades have brought us wilding, road rage, Columbine, gone-postal incidents, waterboarding, new ways of tortures, and massacres in far-flung corners of the world -- daily doses and daily fares in the immediacy of television that inundate the visuals of our daily lives. The images no longer shock. We have become desensitized, hopelessly inured to violence.

In hazing, this culture of violence is allowed expression, testing the limits of endurance, taking lives to the edge, a few strikes away from the threshold of dying. A blood clot in the leg. Blood loss. An errant heart beat. Sometimes, strike after strike after strike, in sheer exhaustion or when the limit is reached, the body shuts down. The death is often the result of cumulative trauma. For every death, there are many who were so close to their deaths, surviving by the skin of one's teeth. In hazing's venue of violence, the occasional death—when it occurs—is not accidental. It was a life slipping away, bleeding away, long before the final blow.

How many deaths were a whack of paddle or dose of torture away?

Fraternities need not be banned.
Every time a death occurs, part of the hue-and-cry is to ban, dissolve, or prohibit fraternities, and the question inevitably raised: Do fraternities have a place in society?

Outlawing fraternities will do nothing but drive them underground. 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.

Hazing wasn't part of the Greek and medieval origins of fraternities. Hazing took roots in that period of change when the ancient rituals and classic traditions of intellectual explorations and expressions were disappearing. Now, what remains in some (most?) fraternities are the Greek letters, symbols and crests, hedonistic extracurricular pursuits, and its annual ritual of hazing.

  We don't need new laws. Republic Act No. 8049 has already criminalized hazing, with penalties replete in impressive Latin. But it's toothless and flawed. A law rendered impotent by a system that bends to quid pro quos, utang na loob, areglo, whom you know, and arm twisting by padrinos and the powers that be.  
     

Hazing is the fraternity's murderous thorn on its side. Many organizations, schools and universities have banned it, but to no avail. The deaths continue. In 1995, the anti-hazing law, Republic Act No. 8049, was approved by President F. Ramos. The law is impressively replete with definitions, liabilities and penalties -- reclusion perpetua, reclusion temporal, prison mayor, prison correcional. Yet, it has woefully failed to stop the beatings and deaths. And in the theater of the courts, the guilty have always managed to skillfully mitigate culpability through avenues of twisted legalese, loopholes, and appeals.

It's a law that lacks teeth, rife with flaws. It allows hazing or initiation rites with ridiculous conditions that seem to not recognize the potential for violence: That prior notice is given seven (7) days before, that it must not exceed three (3) days, that no physical violence be employed, that two school or fraternity representatives be present.

And alcohol? It is ubiquitous in our celebratory gatherings. Certainly so, in initiation rituals. It shouldn't take much to imagine how much of the violence is fueled by alcohol. And despite the fact that 82% of deaths from violent hazing involve alcohol, the law makes absolutely no reference to alcohol.

Hazing is a blood sport, a ritual of power and control wielded with violence. The street gangs, cults and the underworld may never be rid of it, but schools and universities should be saved from it. The youth should be protected from the psychological and physical violence. It is inane and insane to expect that promulgation by law can regulate, supervise, and temper the violence. Hazing in all its forms should be punished with expulsion. Deaths should be dealt with for the heinous crime that it is, by a law with teeth, unencumbered by legal loopholes and politics.

Manslaughter
Justice Secretary de Lima expressed puzzlement when Judge Perla Cabrera-Faller dismissed the charge for violation of the Anti-Hazing Law in the hazing death of San Beda law student Marc Andrei Marcos for "lack of probable cause and ample evidence." Of course, nothing followed her puzzlement. Incredulously, the judge exculpated: "No one is to be blamed for the death of Andrei Marcos… The court feels that it could suffer the flak of society, but it cannot in conscience consign all of the accused to the dust bin of history simply on the basis of the uncorroborated and incredible lone statement of Marcelo."

  When death occurs, it is murder. At the very least, manslaughter. Reckless imprudence? . . . no. Every blow was intentional, meant to inflict pain and injury.  
     

The history of hazing is littered with deaths. Despite the deaths and known risks, fraternities continue with 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.

Every hazing death clamors for justice. Hazing deaths qualify as manslaughter. At the least, involuntary manslaughter. But in the Andrei Marcos case, the judge found lack of probable cause and ample evidence! No one to be blamed!

Guillo Servando's death awaits the ruling of justice; as the hue and cry recedes, while we hope the decision does not end up consigned to the same "dustbin of history."

  Universities must share in the guilt of hazing deaths. By inertia and namby-pamby toothless policies, they allow the underground collegiate culture of hazing to continue. They should not be allowed to get away with generic condolences, hollow outrage, and shameful cover-ups. Censure should be severe, including expulsions and fines to fund anti-hazing education programs.  
     

Non-Violent Alternatives Hazing can be replaced by non-violent alternatives that measure the mettle, worth, and resolve of the pledges. For the able-bodied pledges, have them walk to Baguio, planting trees along the way. Spend their weekends and a whole stretch of summer in volunteer work. Take to the boondocks, like the teachers who walk their arduous miles and wade through rivers daily to reach small communities of children hungry to learn how to read and write. Provide community service to the countless riles communities. Clean the garbage and refuse that clog up the tributaries of the Pasig river. There are limitless opportunities waiting to be invented for a fraternal Peace Corps of pledges. And instead of the twisted glamor of initiation violence, let the pledges prove their worth and mettle with a new kind of macho-ness, through deeds that boast of sacrifice, social relevance, and a dose of nobility.

by Dr Godofredo U. Stuart Jr.                                             September  2012 / Update September 2015

2014 and 2015
More deaths. . .

2014 claimed a second hazing death—Ariel Inopre—a death in the boondocks of Quezon province, far away from the usual media attention, with barely a whimper of public outcry and outrage, and, likely, doomed to the dustbin of history and injustice.

And 2015 added two more to the list of hazing deaths: Christian de la Cruz and Anthony Javier

and, in 2015, another conviction.

The year also brought the first convictions under Republic Act 8049. The SC affirmed the conviction of two Alpha Phi Omega members for the 2006 hazing death of UPLB student Marion Villanueva—a silver lining for what heretofore has been an impotent justice system in matters of hazing deaths.

While the the conviction of two Alpha Phi Omega members were the first under Republic Act 8049, convictions were meted for the hazing death of Lenny Villa in 1991. However, the case sludged through the courts, with two decades of judicial wrangling, errors, delays, and dismissals. Of the 35 fraternity members initially tagged to Villa's death, 26 were convicted by the regional trial court—of these, 19 were acquitted by the Court of Appeals, and three others were dismissed for violation of their rights to speedy trials. For the remaining five, the Supreme Court downgraded the conviction from homicide to reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. It was Lenny Villa's death that led to the passage of Republic Act No. 8049.

September 2017 . . . and yet, another death.
Hazing claimed the life of Horatio Tomas Castillo III as he sought the promises and possibilities of a future in the brotherhood of the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

List of hazing related deaths in the Philippines 1954-2015 (7: Hazing deaths in the Philippines: A Recent History [2000-2014] / Camille Diola: Philippine Star) (9: Hazing Prevention Philippines: Incomplete List of Fraternity Hazing deaths:1954-2014)

2017 Horatio Tomas Castillo III Aegis Jvris Fraternity / University of Santo Tomas
2015 Anthony Javier Tau Gamma Western / Mindanao State Univ.
2015 Christian de la Cruz Fortunato Halili National Agricultural School
2014 Ariel Inopre Tau Gamma Phi Fraternity
2014 Guillo Servando De La Salle College-Saint Benilde
2013 John Mark Dugan Maritime Academy of Asia
2012 Marc Andre Marcos San Beda University
  Marvin Reglos San Beda University / Lambda Rho Beta
2011 E. J. Karl Intia University of Makati / Alpha Phi Omega
  Nor Silongan Tau Gamma Phi
  Ronel de Guzman Tau Gamma Phi
2010 Daniel Lorenz Jacinto  
  Noel Borja Jr. Tau Gamma Phi
2009 Glacy Monique Dimaranana Scout Royal Brotherhood
  John Daniel Samparanda Lyceum of the Philippines / Tau Gamma Phi
  Elvin Sinaluan Scout Royal Brotherhood
  Karl Anthony Gaudicos Holy Cross of Davao College
2008 Chester Paulo Abracias Tau Gamma Phi
2007 Cris Anthony Mendez UP / Sigma Rho
  Jan Angelo Dollete Tech Univ Phil / Alpha Phi Omega
2006 Clark Anson Silberio Technological University of the Philippines
  Marlon Villanueva UP / Alpha Phi Omega
  Dan Robert Talibutab St. Therese College, Iloilo
2004 Mark Welson Chua University of Santo Tomas
2003 Emerson Berry Jr. Casanayan National High School
2001 Rafael Root Albano III Far Eastern University
  Fernando Balidoy Philippine Merchant Marine Academy
  Monico de Guzman Philippine Military Academy
  Edward Domingo Philippine Military Academy
2000 Ace Bernabe Ekid Philippine Military Academy
1998 Alexander Miguel Icasiano Alpha Phi Beta
1995 Mark Roland Martin Epsilon Chi
1992 Joselito Hernandez Scintilla Juris
1991 Leonardo "Lenny" Villa Ateneo / Aquila Legis Juris
  Frederick Cahiyang University of Visayas
  Raul Camaligan San Beda / Lex Talionis Fraternitas
  Felipe Narne Pamantasa na Araullo
  Dennis Cenedoza Cavite Naval Training Center
  Joselito Mangga Philippine Merchant Marine Institute
1984 Arbel Liwag Beta Sigma
1976 Mel Honasan Beta Sigma
1967 Ferdinand Tabtab Alpha Phi Omega
1954 Gonzalo Mariano Albert Upsilon Sigma Phi

. . . how many more deaths?
Sources and Suggested Readings
(1)
Fraternity and Sorority Life / History of Greek Life / Appalachain State University
(2)
Anatomy of a Wilding Gag / Scott Cummings / Google Books
(3)
Anti-Hazing Law--Republic Act No8049 / Chan Robles Virtual Law Library
(4)
Lawmaker seeks review of Anti-hazing law / Karen Boncocan / INQUIRER.net
(5)
Hazing Myths and Facts
/ Babson
(6)
Alcohol & Hazing / Cornell University
(7)
Hazing deaths in the Philippines: A Recent History / by Camille Diola / PhilSTAR
(8)
De Lima to fiscals: Explain dismissal of Marcos hazing case / Edu Punay / The Philippine Star
(9)
Incomplete List of Fraternity Hazing Deaths / Hazing Prevention Philippines
(10)
SC punishes 5 frat members for Lenny Villa's death / Purple Romero / February 2012 / Rappler
(11)
aquila legis & aegis juris, birds of the same feather? / Angela Stuart-Santiago

Image sources
• Photo Collage: (1) Ohio Law Protects Hazed Students (2) Youth tied to a post (3) Man tied to a chair (4) Youth tied and doused with water (5) Hazing (6) Hospital scene

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