Hazing is normal except when it turns deadly

September 24, 2019

IT is mostly described as the imposition of strenuous, often humiliating tasks as part of a program of rigorous physical training and initiation in the military, the police, fraternities and sororities, gangs and any other organizations.

It goes by different names according to Wikipedia: hazing (US English), initiation ceremonies (British English), bastardization (Australian English), or ragging (South Asia) but they all means the same: it refers to the practice of rituals, challenges and other activities including harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into an exclusive group.

Having covered the police and the military for over three decades now, I don’t think we have a single soldier, a policeman or any law enforcement agent in the country who has not experienced any form of hazing. That goes in particular with graduates of the elite Philippine Military Academy, the Philippine National Police Academy and other specialized courses including the PNP Special Action Force, the Army Scout Rangers, the Marines and the Special Warfare Group of the Navy.

First-hand accounts and even documentaries and secretly-taken videos will show that although it is often prohibited by law or by institutions since it may include physical, psychological and emotional abuse, the thing is happening.

They include humiliation, nudity or even sexual abuse. This is true because many have told me that in the police and military academy, some of their upperclassmen even forced them to trade licks or worse, masturbate. It’s the reason why most of these officials would answer me a ‘Big No’ each time i ask them would they return to the same academy in case they get a new life.

Spanking is common in the academy, done either in the form of the dreaded T-bar, paddles or baseball bats with the target being hit while bending over forward; being covered with dirt or submerged under dirty water; or being forced to eat raw eggs, peppers, paper and hot sauce.

These are all meant to separate the men from the boys, done in order to raise the standard of our future generals. Thus, it would be next to impossible for a Peemayer or a PNPAyer to say that he or she did not experience hazing.

Peemayers and the Lakans and Lakandulas of the PNPA know the thing. When it comes to the Fort del Pilar institution, I can’t count on my fingers the number of stories I have written about deadly hazing incidents in the Academy. I will begin with the infamous ‘shot put incident’ which claimed the life of then Cadet 4th Class Manuel Salas of PMA ‘Dimalupig’ Class of 1981 on February 13, 1978.

On that fateful day or four days before the cadets’ most awaited Recognition Day, Salas, a son of a judge died in the worst case of hazing in PMA history which also resulted in injuries to three other plebes, one of them a man named Cadet Alan Purisima who would soon become a PNP chief three decades later.

Their tormentor: an upperclassman who dropped a heavy  olympics’ shot put to the stomach of the 4th class cadets. When he became the PNP chief, I wrote the story that one of Gen. Purisima’s first acts was to visit the mother of Salas in Cebu. It was a tearful reunion between the mother who lost his son due to hazing in the PMA and one of son’s fellow victims who rose to become a 4-star general.

I remember many members of the class telling me during their active days that the Salas incident prompted the Armed Forces leadership to send almost the entire AFP Medical Corps to Fort del Pilar to examine them physically. The cadets were strip-naked as part of the medical examination which showed they indeed suffered from physical abuses. “Kulay talong lahat mga hita’ was one of the description given to the classmates of Salas and Purisima.

So many tales of abusive upperclassmen, the terror ones who are worse than the so-called ‘Magans’ have been narrated to me by many PMA and PNPA graduates in the past. Apart from being beaten with the use of rifle butts, hit with T-bars or electrocuted, there were even instances in which some said that their skin was burned by upperclassmen in order to erase hidden tattoes in the police academy but nobody’s complaining. It’s a ‘conspiracy of silence’ indeed.