Finally after many years of fraternity violence (whether it be in hazing or “rumbles”) claiming many young lives and limbs in the Philippines’ universities and colleges, we may potentially be seeing a big fish hauled to court.The venerable Upsilon Sigma Phi (Upsilon) of the University of the Philippines (UP) is currently in hot water after a 17-year-old student was severely injured in yet another hazing incident, this time under its watch. The victim has reportedly been discharged from hospital after several days’ confinement. Dr. Michael Tan, Chancellor of the UP Diliman campus has confirmed that the family of the victim will be pursuing legal action against Upsilon.
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This case comes in the heels of a De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Saint Benilde student Guillo Cesar Servando dying in hazing rites organised by the Tau Gamma fraternity there.
Upsilon is the oldest and one of the most revered fraternities in the State University. It counts amongst its alumni the likes of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos and Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, father of current President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. Interestingly, Alfredo Pascual, the President of the UP himself is an Upsilonian. Nonetheless Pascual condemned the incident going on record to say, “I hope this will be the last time that we shall hear of acts of violence that endanger the lives of our students and produce a climate of fear among the members of the university community and their families.”
Earlier, the University Student Council (USC) of UP, following the incident, reportedly placed on “preventive suspension” several Upsilonian officers to pave the way for the student government body “spearheading” an investigation into the incident.
The initiative to temporarily purge Upsilonians from its roll of officers in order to investigate an incident involving Upsilon is quite noteworthy. Membership in Upsilon has always been seen by UP students (law students in particular) as a ticket to business networking advantages. In the Philippines, there is a prevailing sense of duty to give preferential treatment to fraternity “brods” (Philippinese for fraternity brothers). And because the alumni rolls of Upsilon are populated by an illustrious cast of characters many of whom are powers-that-be of consequence in the Philippines’ business community and political elite, membership in this “brotherhood” is regarded by many as something to die for — often literally!
The point we want to highlight here is that countless Upsilonians currently sit in key positions of power in the Philippines — many of them likely to cross paths with “brods” down the food chain that they may be required, as a matter of routine, to exercise governance or regulatory jurisdiction over. One wonders then how many “special favours” are exchanged and brokered under that principle of “brotherhood” as a matter of routine over the entire business and political landscape. Indeed, going beyond Upsilon into the overall greater network of fraternity “brotherhood” of alumni across the Philippines’ business and political landscape, one can start to imagine the scale of such “brotherhood”-fuelled largesse fraternity “brods” accord one another.
How many laws, for example, have been bent by an officer in a position to do so, so that a “brod” of his or her could be given an unfair advantage over non-“brods”?
How many government projects have been awarded by government officials to “brods” bidding for contracts?
How many stories of indiscretion have been buried by journalists after discovering that “brods” would be implicated or exposed?
Hopefully the significance of this decision of the USC to take Upsilonians out of the loop in an investigation into the culpability of Upsilon Sigma Phi in this latest hazing incident opens our eyes to the broader “brod” culture that may be resulting in unfair practices across Philippine society overall. Perhaps fraternity memebrship should be routinely included in disclosure clauses in agreements between parties in high-value business and government deals. It may be time to seriously evaluate whether fraternities should even continue to be a revered part of higher learning culture in the Philippines in light of all this. Perhaps if these “brotherhoods” were regarded more with tolerance rather than reverence, better and stronger measures to regulate them can finally be put in place.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.