The Manila Times

Death by hazing is murder most evil


WHAT savage animal instinct overcomes a human being when he gets the opportunity and power as a member of a group to inflict pain, suffering and hurt on another human being? Members of fraternities come together and seem to enjoy the power and the pleasure of sadism as they torture and beat another human to death. This is not a historical past event that happened in a Nazi concentration camp, in a Russian torture chamber or in an IS prison. It happens frequently in so-called Catholic universities of the Philippines as well as in state universities like the prestigious University of the Philippines.

The brutal and savage murder on Feb. 18, 2023 of a young student, John Matthew Salilig, after 70 blows to all parts of his body during a crazed frenzy of continual beating with wooden paddles during a hazing ritual of a fraternity initiation happened at the hands of his fellow students of the Catholic Adamson University.

Did the students and teachers of Catholic Adamson University, run by the Vincentians, condemn the killings as murder most foul, demand justice for John Matthew Salilig and insist that charges be brought against the cruel perpetrators? I don’t think so, according to their official statement on his death. They wore black shirts and had a Mass in sympathy. What kind of students do this sort of brutal evil if they are taught Christian values of respect for the human rights and dignity of every human person?

After they murdered John Matthew Salilig, 15 suspects were identified and it emerged that they tried to cover up their crime of murder. They carried the body of the 24-year-old dead chemical engineering student to a student’s car and drove to the back of a subdivision where they buried their victim in a shallow grave.

A week later, his body was discovered in a vacant lot in Imus, Cavite. An autopsy report said he died from severe blunt force trauma suffered during the brutal fraternity initiation rites. His brother, Michael Salilig, filed a formal complaint of a violation of the anti-hazing law against six suspects. Over previous years, there had been similar murders by fraternity members who beat their new members to death in a killing frenzy during a fraternity initiation rite. John Matthew is number 58 on the list of victims of hazing murders by Wikipedia. There have been several at the University of the Philippines. The fraternity members who killed John Matthew belonged to the Tau Gamma Phi (ΤΓΦ), a group that ought to condemn the killing.

I asked one victim who barely survived a hazing by a fraternity at the University of the Philippines to tell us what happened to him. Here is his story:

“As a freshman in the university, I wanted to ‘belong’ and I thought joining a fraternity is the way to go. Fraternity members are aggressive in recruiting members as it is the life line of the fraternity. They convince possible recruits by mentioning the names of ‘illustrious’ members — like this senator and that congressman, for example. These senators and congressmen, and many others in the high echelon of society, are in fact members of fraternities so for them ‘hazing’ is an open secret. They also make membership in a fraternity very attractive. They inculcate the belief that ‘brotherhood’ merits priority at all times. You can have access to review materials when taking the Bar exams or any other board exams. Once you’ve graduated from the university, they offer possibilities of connecting you to influential people. When I joined the fraternity, I knew that there would be some sort of initiation rites. The process takes several days, even weeks, culminating in one night when the actual ‘hazing’ is done in a ‘frat house,’ a house owned by one of the ranking/most active/most committed members of the fraternity. Prior to the hazing itself, we were already made to do some physical and mental challenges. We were made to run around the UP academic oval as many times as we can until we’re heavily panting for breath.

“We were made to do humiliating acts and memorize the Preamble and Constitution and memorize the names of the charter members as if they are some kind of deity.

“Although I was expecting some kind of initiation, I did not expect it would be like what I experienced that night. Simply said, what I experienced was torture. Beaten several times with a paddle at the back of the thigh, until it’s as purple as an eggplant already.

“Knees kicked such that the side of your knee caps painfully hit each other, numerous blows to both arms, melted candle wax allowed to drip on your palm. The mental torture was already unbearable.

“At that moment, I thought I would die. I accepted that fate already and surrendered myself to them. They could have killed me that night and dumped me in the septic tank of that house, and no one would know. My parents didn’t know, they wouldn’t know, because I did not tell them I’m joining a fraternity.

“But at that point, there’s already no turning back. I passed out and woke up the following day already a ‘fratman,’ no longer a ‘barbarian.’ Fraternities are named after Greek letters. Those who do not belong to a fraternity are referred to as ‘barbarians,’ as in the barbarians referred to in Greek society. But nothing is as barbaric as the hazing I experienced.

“By the way, the ‘brothers’ that did this to me seem to be genuinely good people. They are smart people, excelling in academics and their fields of discipline. They were good sons of their parents and now most of them are successful in their chosen careers and are responsible and loving fathers to their own children. It’s difficult to understand how they can hurt a fellow human being the way they hurt me and I can’t forget how delighted they were doing it.”

There it is, the testimony of a victim who survived the torture of the brutal beaters and killers of youth who can appear to be good people. We don’t know them lurking in the fraternities approving the brutality of initiation and violation of human rights and dignity, posing as leaders of society but corrupt at heart. Who are the torturers? Some are murderers, people living apparently outwardly good lives, never brought to justice or accountability but have done crimes unspeakable.

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said, “The culture of secrecy in the guise of fraternal ‘brotherhood’ is abhorrent, and each and every single person involved — from those who planned, those who participated, even those who were just present but did nothing to stop the hazing — should be thrown in jail as well. Under our law, they are all responsible.”

The culture of death that pervades the hazing rite and rituals is detrimental to youth, a disgrace on the fraternity members and hazing ought to be banned forever. Let’s see if John Matthew Salilig and his family will get justice or if the suspected killers get protection from powerful members of that fraternity. Justice must be done and seen to be done by all.





The Manila Times