Another Hazing Death in U.P.

Last Friday, I attended a seminar in which one of the speakers was U.P. Diliman Chancellor Dr. Sergio Cao. As Chancellor, Dr. Cao is the chief administrator for the flagship campus of the U.P. system in Quezon City. He spoke about the U.P. experience on student discipline and other related issues. The impression I got was that things were pretty much under control as far as U.P. fraternities were concerned. I guess I was wrong.

A little after midnight of Monday, August 27, three cars drove up to the emergency room of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and unloaded the badly beaten body of Cris Anthony Mendez, a graduating student of the National College of Public Administration and Governance. He was pronounced dead minutes later. He had had contusions on his extremities, particularly the arms and back of his legs, the tell-tale signs of his having undergone fraternity initiation rites. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported:

“A police investigator told the INQUIRER that they have already identified a student who is suspected of having recruited Mendez into the U.P. Sigma Rho fraternity.”

This is not the first time a U.P. student has died while undergoing frat initiations and, I fear, it won’t be the last.

There are a number of factors responsible for this tragic state of affairs.

A frat (and sorority) culture is deeply woven into the fabric of the political and social life of U.P. There are dozens of recognized fraternities and sororities in Diliman and other campuses within the U.P. system. There are Greek-letter societies, regional organizations and professional groups, usually practicing secret initiations and rites which, on occasion, can turn ugly and brutal.

The movers and shakers on campus are oftentimes fratmen. The administrators, up to and including the Deans and, now and again, the President, are often affiliated with this fraternity or that. The alumni are fiercely loyal to their frats and maintain ties long after they have left the university. U.P. frats therefore wield considerable clout beyond the geographical boundaries of the school. Their members occupy influential positions in both the public and private sectors. For instance, at least nine (9) of the 23-man Philippine Senate are known to be frat or sorority members from U.P. (Villar, Honasan, Arroyo, Pangilinan, Gordon, Escudero , Angara, Ponce-Enrile and Pia Cayetano). Others have a father, sibling or spouse who are fratmen (Roxas, Defensor-Santiago).The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is a U.P. fratman.

There are many attractions to joining a frat, despite the well-publicized dangers. A large and diverse campus like U.P. Dilman, with a student population of approximately 25,000, can be intimidating, specially to new students far from home. Frats provide a sense of security, belonging and some stature, however dubious , to its members. Many also boast of a formidable network of alumni which one can tap into after graduation.

But fraternity initiations, as Filipinos understand them, are risky undertakings. Violence is a given. Paddling or the hitting of the legs, usually the back of the thighs, with a wooden paddle, is commonplace. Everyday items, like leather belts and cigarettes, can become instruments of pain. Added to this is the psychological torture and, at times, social humiliation, inflicted on applicants or “neophytes” .

Most, if not all, frats have safeguards during the initiation process to minimize the possibility of serious injury or death. But things have a way of getting out of hand.

First, persons have varying thresholds when subjected to this kind of physical abuse. Even if frats follow a certain “formula” as to the number of paddles or blows that a neophyte should receive , the capability to take it varies from individual to individual. Some are just constitutionally stronger than others. And you can’t tell who can withstand it until they are actually under initiation. Some of the biggest and strongest-looking jocks immediately collapse while the geeks are steadfast.

Secondly, the process is inherently anarchic. While there are undoubtedly attempts to regulate and structure the initiation process, the rule, as far as some fratmen are concerned, seems to be “anything goes”. During the period of initiation, which can last from one day to an entire semester (and even one whole school year), the applicants are fair game to the sadists and sickos who infest, in varying degrees, many frats. Aside from the standard “sessions” per frat practice or tradition, the initiates can be kidnapped (“dukot” in frat parlance) by a band of brods and made to undergo special ordeals.

Thus, a neophyte is an accident waiting to happen.

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10 thoughts on “Another Hazing Death in U.P.”

  1. I am just enraged how people are silenced by this senseless killings. The Malu Fernandez brouhaha has elicited more response, to think that nobody died from reading her stupid article. If frats/sororities, fratmen and women are serious about ending this tradition of violence, my challenge is this: that your frat or sorority release a condemnation of these hazings and a commitment to a hazing-free initiation rites.

    I have just read the official statemet of the UP Law Student body on the death of Mendez and this is what I have to say: cut the crap!! I have enough of your cry for temperance. This is the only statement I need to hear from you and your orgs: WE CONDEMN HAZING AND WE WILL NEVER CONDUCT HAZING FOR INITIATION RITES EVER AGAIN. Simple and clear, you don’t have to be a lawyer to say that!!!

  2. hi panero/panera,

    i hope you don’t mind if i repost your entry in my multiply site. i’m building a tagged content box devoted to articles/links/news/updates about fraternity violence. thanks! 🙂

  3. @Anti-Hazing Sister – I agree. We should cut the crap and come out strongly against this culture of violence which has no place in the academe or any civilized society for that matter. We should also break the unwritten code of silence which blankets the frat/soro community in order to halt these practices and attain justice for the victims. I hope this is happening already as I heard a radio report that a Sigma Rho member has decided to talk and has given the names of those present during the initiation rites.

    That said, I am still apprehensive that the influence of the frats will not easily wane and that hazing will continue. Allow me to put it in marketing language, however inelegant. There is a huge market consisting of students eager for acceptance and recognition. There are many brands which the market wants to buy into, regardless of the steep price. There is a “Laissez Faire” environment which tolerates or looks the other way at the questionable practices of the market players. There are also those who, having bought into a brand, have a vested interest in perpetrating it.

  4. Pwede nyong ma-trace lahat ng nag-txt at namilit kay Cris na sumali. Basta may court order kayo, Globe or Smart can trace all those who texted him and eventually pwede nyo ring malaman kung saan sila nagtatago thru GPRS.

    PLS. GAWIN NIYO NA BAGO PA SILA LUMABAS NG BANSA!!
    WALA KASI KONG NABALITAAN NA MAY HOLD DEPARTURE ORDER SA MGA SUSPECTS.

    SIGMA RHOANS: ANG CUTE NG INA NIYO!!!

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