Days ago, the remains of Adamson student John Matthew Salilig were found buried in a shallow grave in an empty lot in Imus, Cavite—10 days after he was reported missing after allegedly attending the initiation rites of Tau Gamma Phi fraternity in Biñan, Laguna. According to the autopsy, the junior Chemical Engineering student’s cause of death was “severe blunt trauma to the lower extremities,” noting that he was paddled at least 70 times and suffered several hematomas that ultimately took his life.
After the news broke out, calls for justice and accountability among the frat members involved circulated on social media—demanding legal punishment and the abolition of fraternities as a whole. The decades-long string of brutal crimes seems to still not have been eradicated in their culture, despite the country's Anti-Hazing Law existence.
Salilig’s case is far from an isolated one—his death is just one of the numerous murders within the gruesome initiation rites done in the so-called spirit of “brotherhood.” Just last December 2022, in nearly identical circumstances with the same fraternity, a 20-year-old Marine Engineering student in Cebu also lost his life, albeit the case saw no progress after the student’s university failed to give financial assistance to his bereaved family because the hazing “happened outside the university.”
Across decades, Greek life has been subjected to not just hazing but also nefarious cases typically swept under the rug: sexual assault, substance abuse, body shaming, and rampant misogyny. There comes the usual formula: a shocking national incident—usually a death or severe accident—affiliated with fraternities to spur a cycle of conversation. Then come suspensions (once suspects are found guilty) and public statements condemning the deeds of their members, with a promise to withhold stricter policies.
Certain members even express their delicadeza and disaffiliate themselves from their brothers, noting how the culture is beyond the capacity for reform. But even after the long string of heinous crimes conducted by these groups, they still find their fraternities intact every single time—and the cycle goes on.
Obviously, like everything else, fraternities have their good side, too—most of them vigorously engaged in charitable work and community service. There’s also that door of influence since fraternities historically produced a long list of leaders in business and politics. The litany of common talking points to justify the brutal initiation goes like this: You need to toughen it up like everyone else who went through it before you, and powering through the pain is the rite of passage required before you can call yourself a brother.
But here’s the thing: Nothing is ever worth the pain and trauma these crimes bring to the victims and their families, and the culture of silence and misogyny breeds murderers and criminals in society.
Abolishing frats, not merely reforming, is the solution to ending all this because, like the patriarchy, systemic violence and institutionalized sexism have always been the foundations of these brotherhoods. Becoming kinder and safer isn't part of the DNA established by their forebears. Doing so would alter their organizations beyond recognition, which is why violence is continuously perpetuated within them.
Going against these fraternities will never be easy. What happened to John Matthew was a predictable tragedy, and there will be more unless we demand their shutdown. Fraternities have dominated society and defied authorities for many years, and it almost seems impossible to end them altogether. But we live in a time when women can take up higher seats in corporations and the government, where transgender people can freely dress up however they want, and where the youth can continue our fight against toxic practices in society.
Like those and many more, this is a fight worth pursuing and winning; only then will justice be truly served.