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At Large

Brotherhood and sisterhood

First, a story about brotherhood—brotherhood gone awry. There has been an “outcry” in the last few days against fraternities in the wake of the death of Guillo Cesar Servando, 18, as a result of the beating he received from his “brothers” during the initiation rites for neophytes of the Tau Gamma Phi.

Stomach-churning certainly was footage of what seemed to be Servando’s last moments, recorded by security cameras in a condominium near his and the other neophytes’ school, the College of St. Benilde.

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St. Benilde is not only run by the La Salle Brothers, it is also the school where my own son went to college. So the story held more than passing interest for me. But I couldn’t believe the footage showing Servando and the other neophytes—John Paul Raval, Lorenze Agustin and an unidentified 17-year-old—entering the building, staggering toward the elevator and, when Servando collapsed inside the tight confines of the car, being dragged toward the unit occupied by Raval. An investigation found that upon entering the unit, Servando rushed to the bathroom and collapsed. He was dead on arrival at the hospital.

I can only imagine how his parents must have felt upon catching sight of their son’s final moments. A sophomore at St. Benilde, Guillo reportedly told his father that he was being recruited for Tau Gamma Phi, a process that amounted to harassment. He concealed his decision to join the fraternity from his parents, motivated perhaps by threats to his safety if he backed out. Certainly, I don’t think he ever imagined dying in the hands of his brothers.

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And there lies the irony of fraternities and their deadly initiation rites, as well as their penchant for violence and “rumbles.”

The father of another fraternity casualty, Edgardo Venturina, whose son Dennis died in the course of a confrontation between his frat Sigma Rho and Scintilla Juris, advised the elder Servando to gird for “a long legal battle.” Dennis, a student of the University of the Philippines, died of his injuries in 1994, but it was only last June that the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of five Scintilla Juris fratmen for his death. And that’s even a rare “happy ending” in the long and painful history of fraternity deaths, injuries, mayhem and maiming.

And just a few days after reports of Servando’s death, now surfaces another story about the injuries sustained by another UP student, although no details were forthcoming as UP administrators cited the family’s desire for privacy.

Over the years, we have puzzled over the strange attraction that fraternity membership holds for the young men who risk life and limb just to be called “brother.” Theories for this abound: the call of brotherhood and camaraderie, the need for group support in one’s studies and social life, the prestige of joining a group of influential alumni.

But let me suggest another rationale: the tribal urge, the primal calling for “belonging.” The masculine imperative to prove one’s manhood and bravery makes this longing to belong risky and dangerous, though, unleashing savagery and one-upmanship.

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And now, a story about sisterhood.

At the recent Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London and attended by luminaries led by actor Angelina Jolie, a Filipino peace activist was proclaimed the lead convener of a 16-month Global Campaign on Women, Peace and Security that’s been dubbed “Women. Seriously!”

“Women are indispensable to durable peace,” Irene Santiago said in her address, declaring that women will no longer be content staying in the “underside of history.” Women, she added, should be found “at the peace negotiating table and everywhere else where decisions are made about ending war and building peace.”

“Women. Seriously!” aims to create a broad-based movement whose adherents believe that “women are indispensable to peace” and who recognize that “women are more than just victims in conflict, they are also agents of change, representing untapped potential for creating a more peaceful, secure and just world.”

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With Santiago as lead convener, the group includes 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee of Liberia;  Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury of Bangladesh, who was president of the United Nations Security Council when Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was passed; Ambassador Swanee Hunt, former US ambassador to Austria and founder and chair of The Institute for Inclusive Security; and Ambassador Melanne Verveer, inaugural US ambassador for Global Women’s Issues and current executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

Other members include Baroness Mary Goudie, senior member of the British House of Lords and member of the board of Vital Voices; Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, director of gender and development of UNDP, and former Ugandan member of parliament; Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, copresident of PeaceWomen Across the Globe and former member of the Swiss National Council and Council of Europe; Luz Mendez, former negotiator of the Guatemala peace talks and vice president of the National Union of Guatemalan Women executive board; and Madeleine Rees, secretary general of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2015.

The chairs of the Global Summit—UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Jolie—endorsed the campaign and congratulated the conveners for their efforts “to promote the leadership of women in peace and security.”

The campaign culminates in October 2015 during the 70th anniversary celebration of the United Nations.

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TAGS: At Large, Brotherhood, Fraternity, Guillo Cesar Servando, Irene Santiago, opinion, Rina Jimenez-David, Sisterhood, Tau Gamma Phi, women
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