From fraternity to mobster?

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Back in the early days of universities in the country, fraternities were highly esteemed, very exclusive and required both intellect and skills in order to be accepted into “The Brotherhood.” That was the high mark back then, until some individuals began to market the other benefits of fraternities, namely “Connections” and “Influence” because they were exclusive and therefore their members made it to the high places in society.

But as the saying goes: the higher they rise, the greater they fall and the once exclusive and intellectual organizations started to lower their standards, compromise their values and collectively submerge themselves in a culture that placed value on brawn and not brains, influence and not excellence, until they eventually earned their current bad rep of being centers of violence and not excellence. But that is not the worst of it.

Some fraternities began developing recruitment farms in high schools in order to generate more members and capture the recruits even before they get to college – IF they actually even made it to college. Sadly, the culture of “brawn not brains” propagated frat wars and street rumbles all the way down to the “halfling” junior recruits that behaved more like gangs than frats.

Authorities in the academe and law enforcement presumed that would be the end of it. But a new and disturbing deterioration of the concept has evolved. Some business-minded frat men have crossed over to the world of the out-of-school youths and have recruited them as “fraternity brothers” and have developed them into “skilled labor.” That sounds like a great idea until you hear reports of non-union, organized labor that incubates as groups of day laborers or sub-contractors who hit companies or clients with labor cases or demand ayuda once the specific work or project is completed.

A check with the DOLE revealed such complaints and my source said it was evident that there was no legal basis for the complaints but the harassment and intimidation and disruption to business have actually forced certain companies to pay a couple of million or so, just to make the headache go away. Right now, the worry is the harassment, but what happens when these “frats” trespass on to the domain of established labor unions as union busters?

This scenario reminds me of how mobsters and gangsters in the early years of US industrialization controlled both workers and business. Those were ugly, murderous years that took the FBI and Washington years to dismantle. Perhaps our very own NBI and PNP and DOLE should look deeper into the reports and put a stop to these gangsters pretending brotherly love!

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When 58 persons, 34 of whom were journalists, were murdered in the Maguindanao massacre we condemned the mass murder and impunity of the accused. When the SAF 44 were killed and mutilated by rebels, we condemned the brutality while others wanted government and PNP officials to go to jail for their actions or indecision. But when six men, and then four and then five more men, totaling 15, “vanished” within a week of each other, hardly anyone gave it a second look because they were “just sabungeros” or cockfighters suspected of intentionally making their roosters lose in high stakes online sabong that involved several millions of pesos. Some sabungeros have even “justified” or explained it as “cockpit justice,” where cheaters are beat up to within an inch of their life for intentionally losing fights or for not paying on a losing bet.

But with online sabong the stakes are much higher because the total amounts of bets made per three-day derby run into hundreds of millions from all over the world. Aside from the amount of money lost, there is also the matter of “integrity” which certain operators want to protect, because if word ever got out that fights were fixed, the entire online sabong system could run dry of bettors. Others quoted the Bible: “If you walk with wicked men, chances are you too will fall into the pit that waits for them.”

In traditional sabong, justice is meted out on the spot, in front of participants and initiated primarily by the offended party or the cockpit operator. It was brutal and humiliating, all intended to teach the offender a lifelong lesson that cockfighting is an honorable sport. Afterwards, the guilty parties were then brought to the nearby police precinct to be charged for game fixing or “estafa.”

The sad thing about the missing 15 men from three different localities is that they seemed to have been rounded up, including “collateral individuals” or drivers and alalays who provided the ride or were hoping to earn some money if the fighters won. Little did these people realize that they would be collateral damage or, God forbid, be paying with their lives. Then there are the families, wives, mothers and children who have spent the last week in fear and anxiety praying for God’s intervention to bring their loved ones back alive and well.

As police commanders from Manila, Laguna and Quezon province try to piece the puzzle together, what sticks out like a sore thumb is that whoever masterminded the disappearance of the 15 men did so with impunity. The mastermind was either so ruthless and careless or was so confident that the police would not be able to solve the crime or that no one could touch them. We can only pray that this case is solved by the police for their own credibility and that the missing or “The Vanished” come back alive.

Either way, there are enough family members, innocent children that have been praying and, as is written in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians chapter 6 verses 7 & 8: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows, the one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

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