1998-08-27 00:00:00

Christian leaders here say that a lasting solution to campus fraternity hazing, whose latest victim was buried Aug. 22, requires fraternities´ "painful soul-searching" and school officials´ resolve.

Two days before the burial of 19-year-old Alexander Icasiano, Father Robert Reyes and Pastor Barth Maza led a run around the University of the Philippines (UP) campus just north of Manila to protest violence in hazing, a fraternity initiation tradition that often includes ritualistic beating or humiliation.

"When (Icasiano) was brought to the hospital, his body was torn up and a bleeding mass. How can anyone with a shred of conscience want to inflict harm on another human being?" Father Reyes asked during the rally.

The parish priest of Holy Sacrifice Church on the UP campus urged fraternity members "to examine their concept of fraternity in light of genuine community marked by profound respect and promotion of the dignity of persons."

He and Pastor Maza, of the UP ecumenical ministry´s Church of the Risen Lord, also called university officials to exercise their authority over violent campus organizations.

Icasiano was dead by the time four members of the Quezon City-based state university´s Alpha Phi Beta fraternity brought him to a hospital Aug. 16, the doctor at the hospital emergency room reported.

The third year public administration student is believed to have collapsed during his initiation at a residence of one of the fraternity members.

The doctor said that welts and bumps on Icasiano´s arms, shoulders and legs suggest that he had been beaten with a hard object.

Father Reyes said that a particularly disturbing aspect of fraternity culture was the "defective, limited and bigoted sense of manliness demonstrated through brute force and violence even on their members."

Icasiano´s death is the 18th hazing-related killing recorded by the private Crusade Against Violence since the 1994 death of a law student of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University.

The fraternity members held responsible in that incident were not jailed, but some were prevented from practicing law.

Public outrage at the incident led to the Anti-Hazing Law, which imposes a penalty of four years to life imprisonment on fraternity members convicted of "inflicting injury, disabling or killing a neophyte."

Fraternity-related violence, though, was nothing new.

The UP university police force recorded 82 incidents of fraternity-related violence from January 1991 to September 1994 at the Quezon City campus alone, where there are 10 university-wide and some 50 fraternities exclusive to students of a particular college of the campus.

These records list 586 persons as involved and 57 as injured in incidents classified as ambushes by a rival fraternity, use of weapons, prearranged confrontations between rival fraternities, vandalism, stone-throwing or fist fights, according to sociologists Ricardo Zarco and Donald Shoemaker.

In their study "Student Organizations as Conflict Gangs on the UP Campus," they found that difficult initiation rites into fraternities were held to "discourage infiltrators from joining" and to ensure that only those who could survive beating, humiliation and other "tests" were accepted.

They also attributed the tradition of initiation violence to the cycle of revenge in the minds of those who have undergone violent hazing themselves.

"Universities may have anti-hazing laws, but are universities above frats (fraternities) or are some frats above some universities?" Father Reyes asked, noting that while universities expel students for academic failure, they have hesitated to impose the same penalty on violent fraternity members.

Most Catholic universities in the Philippines do not allow undergraduate fraternities.

"Admittedly the university, by its size, worsens a student´s sense of loss and insecurity. The trick is for the university to promote a sense of community, a feeling of intimacy," says Ophelia Dimalanta, dean of arts and letters for the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.

UP-Quezon City has suspended all officers of the Alpha Phi Beta fraternity at the campus pending the results of an investigation.


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