Calls to ‘abolish’ fraternities mount after death of Adamson University student

March 1, 2023 - 3:56 PM
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Trigger Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of physical violence 

Calls to “abolish fraternities” and to seek #JusticeForMattSalilig” were made on social media following the death of a third-year college student under fraternity hazing rites.

Reports said that the body of John Matthew Salilig, a 24-year-old missing chemical engineering student at Adamson University, was found on Tuesday, over a week since he was reported missing on February 20.

According to the investigation, he went through the initiation rites of the university’s chapter of the Tau Gamma Phi Fraternity in Biñan City, Laguna.

John Matthew was already a member of the fraternity’s chapter in Zamboanga.

He was reportedly no longer in good condition in the middle of the rites and was on their way back to Manila when he died.

John Michael, John Matthew’s older brother, said it was on February 17 when the latter told him he would attend the fraternity rites.

One of the suspects led the authorities to the location of the victim’s battered body buried in a shallow grave at a grassy vacant lot in Imus, Cavite. His mother said that he had no clothes when his body was found.

According to a suspect, John Matthew was said to have received at least 70 blows during the hazing rites. His face was bloated and almost crushed upon the discovery of his body.

Police also said that the injuries would still be recognizable even if the body were in an advanced state of decomposition.

One of the fraternity members reportedly instructed to “dispose” the victim’s body. Police said there were indications it was done in haste.

The police also said it had identified at least 12 persons of interest in the death of John Matthew. One of them is confirmed as a suspect, while three others have come forward to the Philippine National Police.

According to authorities there are still nine persons of interest “at large.”

Cases likely to be filed are violations against the anti-hazing law.

Penalties in the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018 include reclusion perpetua and a fine of P3 million.

Adamson University said it would conduct its own investigation into the case.

“Rest assured, we will not allow anything to come amiss,” it said in a statement.

The Imus, Cavite chapter of Tau Gamma Phi condemned the incident and said it is “inhumane” and “against” their beliefs as members of the fraternity. Their statement was signed by chapter officials.

“This is a blatant violation of laws, especially Republic Act 11053 or the Anti-Hazing Law. This is inhumane and against our beliefs as members of Tau Gamma Phi,” it reads.

“We are one with the family of the victim and the entire Tau Gamma Phi in calling for justice so that it will not happen again,” the statement added.

‘How many more lives?’ 

Following the incident, phrases such as “abolish fraternities” and “#JusticeForMattSalilig” trended on local Twitter amid calls to abolish fraternities in the wake of John Matthew’s death.

“He was a former schoolmate of mine back in elementary. His lolo just died the day he was reported missing and his mom just had [a] stroke. My deepest condolences to the family. RIP, Kuya Matt. #justiceformattsalilig,” a student tweeted on Tuesday.

“How many more lives should be taken away because of this? If they can’t stop the hazing, then abolish fraternities!” another Twitter user said in response to the reports.

“What’s really the point of hazing? ‘Yan ba ‘yung brotherhood na sinasabi niyo? ABOLISH FRATERNITIES!! They serve no purpose. Hazing is a societal problem and reports of hazing activities in high schools/colleges are on the rise, this should STOP NOW. #EndFRV,” another online user said.

“FRV” is short for fraternity-related violence, usually associated with hazing.

“Trigger Warning: Hazing within frats has been ongoing for, God, how many decades? It’s high time to abolish fraternities and sororities because clearly, anti-hazing law is not enough to prevent this violence,” tweeted a different Pinoy.

“+++ people involved should be held accountable! #JusticeForMattSalilig,” another Filipino said.

“Hazing claims another victim!! RIP, klasmeyt. #justiceformattsalilig,” tweeted a different online user.

John Matthew’s death under hazing rites came five months after another student died in similar circumstances in Davao City.

Last September, 19-year-old criminology student August Ceazar Saplot died of hazing by the Alpha Kappa Rho Fraternity – Alpha Delta Chapter.

Authorities said that they found bruises on the back of his thighs when his body was recovered.

Months before that, Grade 12 student Reymarc Rabutazo died after reportedly undergoing hazing rites by the Tau Gamma Fraternity.

Investigation showed that he suffered severe body trauma believed to be caused by the blows during the rites.

In 2021, an unnamed Grade 10 student from San Enrique, Negros Occidental lost his life due to alleged hazing of an unidentified fraternity.

A former senator, who authored the Anti-Hazing Act of 1995 (amended by Republic Act 11053), said that the government should continuously educate the public about the country’s anti-hazing law.

“The law is not a silver bullet that will end the crime that it sought to be proscribed,” lawyer Joey Lina said to ANC’s “Headstart” on Wednesday.

“It is the entire criminal justice system that has to work. It’s not just the law. It’s the community, the police, the parents,” he added.

“They have to make sure their children are aware and properly informed and guided not to join any organization that has hazing as requisite for membership,” Lina further said.