HAZING claimed yet another victim recently. It happened in familiar territory and the reactions have so far followed a familiar pattern.
The Philippine Military Academy is where the country trains its best soldiers. Admission requirements are very stringent and campus life is expectedly regimented. Discipline is demanded of everyone. You therefore expect that only men of character, not homicidal maniacs, are entitled to be called cadets.
The number of hazing deaths in the PMA is topped only by the record of the University of the Philippines. I do not know if it has anything to do with their embarrassing “accomplishment” but the PMA and the UP are two of the country’s top government-funded educational institutions.
Killing by hazing also happens in private schools. Almost all of them are fraternity-related. Applicants, often referred to as neophytes, are made to undergo an initiation process to test their resolve to be called a brother. The process is almost always physical.
In 1991, I headed a committee that investigated the first and only known case of death from hazing in the University of the Visayas. The victim, Frederick Cahiyang, was an engineering student in UV when he was recruited to join the APO fraternity.
His “masters” brought him and other neophytes to a resort in Compostela where they took turns beating him until Cahiyang’s frail body couldn’t take it anymore. He was dead before he could reach a hospital in Mandaue.
We recommended the expulsion of his four identified tormentors. The University adopted our recommendation and upon approval by the Secretary of Education carried out the expulsion. I felt pity for them. I knew they did not set out to kill him and it was sad that they could not pursue a college education anymore. But they had to be held accountable for what happened.
The four were criminally charged under the Revised Penal Code because there was no anti-hazing law at that time (it was passed only in 1995). The Court, however, dismissed the case because the witnesses were not willing to testify.
Apparently, criminal conviction was not needed to convince the fraternities to stop hazing or at least to be careful not to overdo it. There were no more fraternity initiation-associated deaths in the UV, in fact, in all of Cebu after Cahiyang’s.
Condemnation and pledges of “this is going to be the last” from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) followed in the wake of Darwin Dormitorio. No less than the AFP chief of staff declared “war” on hazing and vowed to win it. Fine.
The trouble is that we’ve heard this same pledge in the past and it worked only for a while. Something more has to be done because the threats do not work. Whatever this something consists of is for the military, the police and university administration officials to figure out.