SOME parents in Basak Pardo and its neighboring barangays have been alarmed due to the massive recruitment of their children by a gang. According to the parents, their children underwent initiation by getting paddled and receiving a cigarette burn as an identifying mark. Imagine, the group is recruiting even nine year olds.

This recruitment of minors has also alarmed city, barangay and police officials, prompting the mayor to order barangay officials and tanods to strictly implement the curfew ordinance. Under the ordinance, minors are not allowed to roam around or loiter in the neighborhood from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next day. They will only be exempted if they are with their parents or guardians.

But is it really a gang that is doing the recruitment? From what I heard, it’s a fraternity conducting advanced recruitment so when these minors reach legal age or are in college they can undergo the entire initiation process and become full-pledged and bona fide members. A cigarette burn at the back of a hand near the join is a mark of a fraternity.

I have some friends who are active members of this fraternity, which I will not mention. Most of them are professionals. I don’t know if the leaders, or bona fide members of this fraternity, allowed the recruitment of minors. If this fraternity is the one doing the recruitment, can the alumni or elders call the attention of their members to stop recruiting minors? I think the fraternity has its own constitution and by-laws which guide them on the recruitment process.

We have to differentiate a gang from a fraternity, or a Greek letter society.

A gang is an organized group of criminals involved in criminal activities. Remember The Bloods and the Crips? Most of these gangs were organized inside prison cells. Members share an identity typically linked to a name and often other symbols.

A fraternity is a group of people sharing a common profession or interest. Most members of a fraternity are college students and professionals. They unite under the name of |brotherhood.” Fraternity is like a civic club or a religious and fraternal organization, although its members have to undergo a certain degree of initiation. In school, some fraternities compete in academic excellence and do community service.

Joining a fraternity is not bad, per se. We know of several individuals who are successful in their respective endeavors who belong to fraternities. Duterte is a member of Lex Talliones, an exclusive fraternity for law students at the San Beda College. He is also a member of the Guardians, which used to be an exclusive organization for the police and military personnel but expanded recruitment to civilians.

But a fraternity can be infiltrated by criminal elements if it will not thoroughly screen potential members. Like in this case of recruiting minors. These minors don’t even know what they are into. Criminal activities or committing crimes will start at this early age. We’ve heard of minors committing crimes and children in conflict with the law, especially those who are not properly attended, taken care of and supervised by their parents because of poverty. Children living in squatter areas are the most common “victims” and they get in conflict with the law because of parental neglect.

How to prevent children from joining a gang and later on committing crimes should be a concerted effort that starts with the parents, community, schools and the law enforcement. And we have to do it now before it’s too late.