Is it time for schools to recognize fraternities?
MANILA, Philippines – Elders and resident members of several fraternities on Wednesday, July 9, called on school administrations to start recognizing fraternities and sororities for accountability purposes.
“If you do not recognize fraternities on campus, they go underground. When they go underground, they can do anything because they are not responsible, [and] the administration does not know them,” Luis Paredes, an elder of the Alpha Phi Omega said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Among the numerous schools in the country that prohibit these “honor societies” is the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), the school of hazing casualty Guillo Cesar Servando. (READ: St. Benilde student dies in suspected hazing incident)
There has been public clamor against fraternity-related violence for the past few weeks because of two recent hazing incidents involving students from DLS-CSB, and another from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. (READ: UP president vows due process in hazing probe)
On Wednesday, the National Youth Commission (NYC) held a forum to review the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 and the fraternity culture in schools and communities. Youth groups present – including the NYC itself – are not against fraternities per se.
"The NYC is for respecting the rights to associate and self-organize. Fraternities are organizations. What we are against is hazing and other fraternity-related violence,” NYC Chairperson Gio Tingson told Rappler.
President Benigno Aquino III had earlier condemned the hazing ritual following the death of Servando, while Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian has filed a bill – the "Servando Act" – that seeks to ban hazing in and out of schools.
Paredes lamented that schools use their academic freedom to deny fraternities of proper recognition.
“[Schools must] recognize first and foremost the right to join organizations as protected by the Constitution,” he said.
Incoming students of DLS-CSB, for example, are asked to sign a waiver stipulating they are not part of any fraternity or sorority.
Mudir Estrella of the Ateneo Law School’s Aquila Legis fraternity said school authorities must consider revising this waver to specify that the student must not join any organization that espouses violence.
Estrella also supports the accreditation of fraternities which allows a “sustained effort” from the school administration to regulate not only the initiation stage but also other facets of fraternities where violence may ensue, like frat wars.
Iska Dalangin, National Chairperson of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), said there is a need for a stricter mechanism to hold administrators accountable so that "they can’t turn a blind eye on the issue and just say they are against it."
'Open up the system'
For decades, fraternities have been among the most secretive organizations in the country. Many fraternity members present during the discussion agreed that opening up the system for public understanding and discussion is necessary in light of recent events.
“Our tendency is to be suspicious of secret societies. But if you open up the system, [and] expose everything, then probably we can better understand what happens in the organization,” Paredes said in a mix of English and Filipino.
For Estrella, different fraternities have different subcultures. Exposing these groups will allow law enforcers to understand these subcultures and respond accordingly.
But the best regulation, Tingson said, happens within the organization itself. Paredes suggested the establishment of inter-fraternity councils in schools to help regulate these organizations.
"All fraternities have common interests, so I think it would be best to come together not only to discuss issues among them but more importantly, promote those issues which unite them – [for example, the] benefits of brotherhood,” he added.
Jay De Castro, an elder and former Grand Triskelion of Tau Gamma Phi fraternity, said it is also important for the elders of fraternities to take the lead in preventing fraternity-related violence.
"Ang pinakamahalaga dito is for the leaders of the fraternity na nakaalaam talaga tungkol sa kapatiran, ay babain 'yung mga miyembro. (The most important thing is for leaders of the fraternity who understand the society more to go down to the members.) That is the message. If there is anybody who could prevent the hazing, it's the elders of the fraternity,” he said.
After Wednesday's discussion, the NYC came up with 4 action points:
- Based on policy suggestions, amend the Anti-Hazing law or propose a new bill
- Address the need for a rules-based approach in administering fraternities
- Recognize the right of fraternities and sororities to self-organization
- Stop hazing, with fraternities and sororities at the forefront of the campaign against fraternity-related violence