THE nation is angry yet again. This time, the outrage is spurred by the death of a young man at the hands of those whom he made the grievous mistake of wanting to call his brothers.
Horacio Tomas Castillo III was a promising 22-year-old law freshman at the University of Santo Tomas. But he died last weekend, his body dumped on a sidewalk in Tondo. He was the victim of a hazing ritual gone awry.
In the past few days, more details have surfaced about who exactly were present the night Castillo suffered a heart attack after undergoing severe beating. We now see CCTV footage of him in the company of other Aegis Juris fraternity members. On social media we see screen shots of what appeared to be a frantic conversation among those involved in the hazing. We know one of the suspects has turned himself in even as he claims he did not actively participate in the hazing. And now one of the others has been able to flee to the US, on board a dawn flight out of Naia.
The condemnation of the practice is universal. Contrary to other issues, there are no opposing camps here trying to discredit each other. Everybody mourns the senseless death and abhors the violent manner it was brought upon Castillo. There is unanimous revulsion toward fraternities that say they promote brotherhood but demand that those who wish to belong show their willingness in extreme ways.
Current legislation merely regulates hazing with stiffer penalties for schools and officers of the fraternity or sorority. It becomes a crime only when someone dies, or is raped, sodomized or mutilated. There is a proposal to amend the law but no action has been taken.
And perhaps not even a law would be enough of a deterrent to these barbaric practices. Most of the men in power in government and in corporations are, themselves, products of these fraternities. They survived similar or equally excruciating demands to prove their loyalty. Fortunately for them, they did not die. They are living testaments to a culture that says it’s whom you know that counts, and that without such connections to protect and sustain them through school and their career, they would be nothing.
Horacio’s is not the first death from hazing. It will not be the last.
It won’t be if we are angry for a few days or weeks and then forget about the issue once we find other things to get worked up about. It won’t be if the code of silence persists among those in the know, if the culture of belongingness, however twisted, asserts itself as an attractive option for the young, and if people keep defining themselves by their associations and loyalties.