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There’s the Rub

Wild beasts

You cannot imagine how the parents must feel. Both were abroad when it happened, working their asses off to feed their family and send one of the children to law school. That child was Marc Andre Marcos, who had just enrolled at the San Beda Law School, and what happened was that he died last week after suffering abuse you would not heap on a dog.

His body was black and blue when it was brought to the hospital. Quite literally: The doctors would testify to the discoloration, which could only have come from a savage beating. You cannot imagine the shock his siblings felt at the sight of him in the morgue.

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Just hours before, he had left home laughing and full of dreams about the future. He had joined a law fraternity, and that guaranteed him safe passage through the winding paths of his chosen profession. He probably felt a bit of dread too, knowing he would soon be subjected to an ordeal that would seal the bonds of fellowship. But he must have shrugged it off, knowing he was entrusting his fate to his brothers. That was what a fraternity was, a band of brothers. He was drinking and laughing with them in a bar where they met before driving off to a farm in Cavite.

It would be the last the world would see him alive.

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He wanted to become a judge, said his sister. He wanted to set things right. That hope is gone, that dream is dead. He would die at the hands of his brothers. He would die after being mangled by his brothers. You cannot imagine how his parents must feel at the sight of his lifeless body. But if you are a parent, you know you’d be feeling murderous.

An atrocity like this would be monstrous if it had been committed by an ordinary fraternity, which happens all the time. The authorities cite a couple of deaths by hazing every year. It is all the more monstrous for being committed by a law fraternity, which now happens all the time too. This was the second San Beda law student to have died in half a year. Marvin Reglos died last February from still another hazing. You look at their youthful and smiling faces in pictures, full of life, the future spread out before them, and truly you will feel murderous.

What were his, well, brothers thinking? That putting him through torture not unlike that wrought by the Inquisitors extolled the law, Lex Leonum, the law is a lion, the law is king? That lapsing into that depravity uplifted the world, assuring a new crop of lawyers who would be dedicated to the law, who would see the majesty of the law, who would revel in the transcendent light of the law? That acting in that murderous way breathed life into the law?

The irony of it is beyond belief. The irony of it is terrifying. Every time a kid dies from hazing by his fellow law students, that is what astounds me. That the thing was done in the name of the law. That the thing was done for the greater glory of the law.

It is to San Beda’s credit, however it must take the full brunt of the blame for the deaths, that it has moved to rectify things by requiring its students as a condition for enrolment to sign an agreement not to join fraternities or sororities. Is this an overreaction? Should the authorities ban only fraternities and sororities that practice hazing?

No.

It should apply particularly to law students. You join a law fraternity, you should be expelled. Law and fraternities are East and West and ne’er the twain shall meet. The problem is not just the hazing, it is the fraternities themselves. Why do law students join fraternities? One lawyer put it this way: “When you take the bar exam they take care of you in terms of review materials and billet you in a hotel to prepare you for the bar. After passing it, the chances of a neophyte lawyer to enter big law firms are big with the help of frat brothers. Let’s face it, it’s hard to get into big law firms and practice law if you have no connections. This is where the brotherhood comes in.”

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And that is where the monstrosity comes in. There and then you see what’s horrendously wrong with Philippine law and lawyers. You get to become a lawyer through your connections, you get to thrive as a lawyer through your connections, you get to become justice or chief justice through your connections. Your loyalty is to your fraternity, your world is your fraternity, you serve the fraternity.

Especially in a country like ours, ravaged—yes, ravaged—by kumparehan, barkadahan and blood ties, real or ritual, with their culture of pakikisama, walang iwanan, sa hirap at ginhawa, sa tama o mali, that is the most dangerous thing in the world. That is a recipe for inbreeding. That is a recipe for tribalism. That is a recipe for blindness. There and then you see why we have too many lawyers and too little law. There and then you see why we have too much law and too little justice.

San Beda itself admits that policing the activities of students will not be easy. But there’s a surefire way to stop them from joining fraternities. That is by henceforth preventing lawyers who are found to have belonged to fraternities from becoming judges or public officials. That is by henceforth stripping them of their positions if they are already so. If there will be blood, there will be law.

At the bar where the members of the Lex Leonum met, they were growling in keeping with their mystical identity as lions. San Beda after all carried the emblem or sigil or totem of lion, its basketball team being known as the Red Lions. It was eerie, said the waitresses, the noises they made while drinking and reveling. The brothers clearly remembered everything about their rituals. What they forgot was what a lion really was. There would be Marcos’ mangled body to show for their forgetfulness.

Law fraternities?

That’s just another name for wild beasts.

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TAGS: Conrado de Quiros, hazing, Marc Andre Marcos, opinion, San Beda, There's the Rub
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