THE death of Horacio Tomas Castillo, a law student of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) during initiation rites by Aegis Juris members has again put fraternities in bad light. It also revived the debate on whether joining a fraternity is necessary or not.
First, I say I am a frat man. I am a member of the Gamma Epsilon Fraternity and the Gamma Lambda Epsilon Sorority, both founded by UST scholars in 1963. I joined the group when I was a freshman at the Ateneo de Zamboanga in 1980. It may not be a big organization but it is composed of college students and professionals (alumni). The fraternity does not accept high school students, minors and out of school youths.
Joining a fraternity is not bad per se. College students join fraternities for companionship and lifelong friendship. Brotherhood fosters strong relationship among members that last beyond the time spent in a university. It transforms members from strangers to friends, and friends to brothers and sisters.
Fraternity and sorority members are also expected to help plan and take part in different types of activities, including charitable events. Academics are usually a major focus of fraternities inside the campus. Studies show that members of fraternal organizations have higher rates of accomplishments.
Joining a fraternity is just like joining civic or religious organizations. But before one can be accepted as member, one has to undergo the rigorous process of initiation rites where physical harm is inflicted through “hazing.” This despite the existence of the anti-hazing law.
The long list of fatalities during fraternity initiation rites should not be used as reason to ban fraternal organizations. I passed that kind of an initiation process because there was no anti-hazing law then, but with the anti-hazing law, I consider hazing illegal. Culprits should be punished. But condemning all fraternities for deaths during initiation rites is unfair.
If joining a fraternity is bad, why do we have successful leaders who were members of fraternities? The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the late former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. were members of the Upsilon Sigma Phi of the University of the Philippines together with the late president Jose Laurel, Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, Arturo Tolentino, Salvador Laure and Joker Arroyo.
Sigma Rho members of UP were former senators Jovito Salonga, Juan Ponce Enrile, Edgardo Angara, etc. Former vice president Teofisto Guingona was one of the founders of the Aquila Legis fraternity and President Duterte is a member of Lex Taliones of San Beda College.
Kun dautan pa ning fraternity, wala unta ni sila.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 23, 2017.
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