There was outrage last week over the violence that erupted between two UP Diliman fraternities, Upsilon Sigma Phi and Alpha Phi Beta. Tensions were high, but elders in the two fraternities were able to get their residents (meaning student members) to agree to a truce.
But some outrage continued from parents and alumni concerned about the safety of their children in UP, especially because there was gunfire involved, apparently from the bodyguard of one of the students.
Who would have predicted still another wave of outrage, this time from members of Babaylan, an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) group in UP Diliman? They had watched CCTV footage (released to the media without authorization, but that is beside the point for now) that showed fratmen taunting each other: “Bakla, duwag!”
I was holding a class when a member of Babaylan asked me for permission to solicit signatures from the class for a letter citing the verbal “bakla” rumble and condemning homophobia among fraternity members.
The letter apparently sparked outrage among some Upsilonians, who began an electronic chat that first attacked gay men, including proposing a plot where they would gang up on some gay victim, and then come in to rescue him so they’d become heroes.
The conversations worsened, spilling over to threats and then to attacks on women, using the most vulgar language. The postings were littered with curse words like the F word and, of course, the abbreviated “tangna.” Let’s not defend the kids by saying they were exclamations, given the way they assaulted women all throughout the thread, including a suggestion to punch women in the abdomen after sex as a form of contraception.
The anger went in all directions, with calls to kill Muslims and lumad, because they felt UP was being too kind to these groups, and too harsh on the frats.
In fairness, some of the Upsilonians went online to express disapproval about the offensive postings. In fairness, too, someone, or some of the Upsilonians, leaked out substantial portions of the exchange, which then went viral. The offensive posts have since been deleted, but the captured screenshots continue to circulate.
Upsilon’s leaders and alumni must act swiftly to address the whole chain of violence, including the social media postings. These social media-crazed brods have done more harm to their frat than their rivals ever could.
All this is no longer a UP matter. All Filipinos have reason to expect so much better from the national university, and I not only apologize for the unacceptable behavior, but also have to ask where we are failing in our educational system.
So, beyond filing the administrative cases against those concerned, we have to look at why we still have the kind of students I just described. Only a few weeks ago, during the centennial of the College of Education, I talked about how educators now face so many more challenges than before in terms of “cognitive dissonance”—the gap between what we teach in classrooms and what young people see in the real world, from among the country’s leaders down to their own families, and among brods and sis and org mates.
Instead of just talking about abstract values, we need to face up to the brutal facts. Not to defend the Duterte administration, but I recently dug up statistics showing that, for many years before Mr. Duterte became president, we already had the highest homicide rate in Southeast Asia. We must use these statistics, and testimonies of the victims of violence, in our classrooms, and ask which direction we’re headed. Are we making progress at all toward promoting more tolerance and inclusiveness?
Link the big picture to our homes and schools, for example. Politicians and military and police should ask if indeed their children need armed bodyguards. Think, too, of the comments we make in our homes about women, about gays, about minority groups. Talk with our children when they hear and see our leaders promoting intolerance and hatred.
Be conscious of how we might be raising our children, especially the males, to be anti-anyone different from ourselves, such as when we scold a crying boy and call him bakla. In effect, are we authorizing our children, or their bodyguards, to inflict one of the many forms of violence simply because the people before them are different?
Outrage is understandable, but we can’t let it spark more outrage. We have to reflect on our own complicity, and on what we can do to end the plagues of violence, intolerance and impunity.