Suffice to say, everyone recognises that patronage is the single biggest issue that plagues Philippine politics. Nothing moves and nothing gets done unless an initiative is brokered through its movers’ unofficial patronage network. Thus it is quite surprising that a key pillar of the cancer of patronage politics — university fraternities — has enjoyed blanket immunity from the protest crosshairs of the country’s top “activist” leaders.
Small surprise, considering that many politicians are lawyers and most — if not all Filipino lawyers — were fratmen in their university days. It has long been recognised that a lawyer will not get anywhere in his or her career unless he or she is a “brother” or “sistah”.
In short, in a community of professionals whose jobs are to ferret out the truth in the course of resolving conflicts using a rigorous thinking process that is hinged on logic and evidence, an elephantine unspeakable roadblock hinders that noble job objective. When an emerging truth comes into conflict with “brotherhood” or “sisterhood”, Truth becomes the preferred casualty.
It is quite astounding that fraternities and sororities in the Philippines have escaped the scrutiny our “activists” reserve for their traditional whipping boys. Yellowtards screech about the spectre of “authoritarianism” ad infinitum. Martial Law Crybabies wail about the return of the Marcosian “dark ages” to their respective cliques of like-minded inbreds. Commies carry on about the latest president’s sinister conspiracy with America to hoodwink the Filipino people. And the broader community of liberals wax emo poetic about how everything about modern society is so unfair to the neighbourhood dukha.
Yet, there seems to be no acknowledgement that at the root of all this is how at the cradles of the future members of the nation’s brainstrust — the Philippines’ elite universities — is entrenched a deadly cancer that begs an obvious cure. Thanks to every single prominent lawyer-turned-politician (not to mention those turned prominent leaders in industry and business) the routine whitewash of fraternity-related crime has all but been institutionalised. The Philippines’ criminal justice system is effectively rigged to give out get-out-of-jail passes and its legislature predisposed to inhibit anti-fraternity legislation thanks to this ingrained conflict-of-interest.
Did we mention, by the way, that both the late former President Ferdinand Marcos and, his nemesis, the late Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr are not only both fratmen they are “brothers” in chi-chi Upsilon Sigma Phi? Figure that bizarreness out! Brothers first before what is right, right brods?
And this is why fraternities enjoy their impunity licenses today. They are free to wreak havoc on university life with their petty “rumbles”, their murderous hazing rituals, and their established social pressure machines applied to incoming university freshmen that assures them a steady supply of fresh neophytes to paddle raw and pepper with cigarette burns. An entire nation led by alumni of Upsilon, Sigma Rho, APO, Aquila Legis, and, yes, Aegis Juris can only be one that routinely excuses crimes committed in the name of the bizarre “brotherhood” and “sisterhood” espoused by these oxymoronic organisations.
The solution is, as with most Philippine “problems”, quite obvious. Political will, however, is not all it will take to effect these obvious solutions, unfortunately — because the will of the politicians involved is caught up in an untenable conflict of interest of their own doing.
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