Frat man tells senators: We’re bound by ‘tradition’
MANILA, Philippines — Facing senators on Tuesday, the 22-year-old leader of the Adamson University chapter of Tau Gamma Phi said he and his fraternity brothers were just following “tradition” when they repeatedly struck John Matthew Salilig with a wooden paddle as part of their “welcoming rites” that resulted in the chemistry student’s death.
Tung Cheng Teng Jr. introduced himself as the Grand Triskelion or leader of the Tau Gamma Phi chapter who led the initiation rites held at a fraternity member’s house in Biñan City, Laguna province, on Feb. 18.
In response to a series of questions from Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, Teng admitted that hazing had been a part of their membership process.
“Why do you have to engage in hazing to join a fraternity? Is that necessary? Is it really needed? ” Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief, asked Teng, who appeared at the Senate hearing in an orange prison uniform.
“For me, maybe it’s not. But I was just following the tradition [of Tau Gamma Phi],” Teng replied in Filipino. “I was afraid not to comply because I might be subjected to DA [disciplinary action].”
Facing charges for violation of the anti-hazing law, Teng and five other frat members surrendered to the Biñan police on March 2, hours after being tagged as persons of interest in Salilig’s death. A seventh member turned himself in the following day.
The seven suspects did not have a lawyer when brought to the Senate proceedings.
Dela Rosa appeared surprised by Teng’s response and went on to compare the fraternity’s rules with that of the communist New People’s Army in terms of disciplinary action imposed on members who refused to follow orders.
“If that’s the case, then [disobeying your frat] is really frightening,” he said.
More from ‘community’
Aside from members from the Adamson chapter, Teng said, several other alumni — including those belonging to the “community chapter” of Tau Gamma Phi in Biñan — joined the initiation and took turns hitting Salilig and three other neophytes, the whacking particularly focusing on their thighs, he added.
Teng did not explain why Salilig still had to undergo the ordeal when the latter was already considered a Tau Gamma member since 2020 after passing initiation rites in Zamboanga City.
Roi Osmond de la Cruz, a neophyte who underwent hazing with Salilig on Feb. 18, attended the hearing and identified Teng and the six other fraternity members present among those who carried out the initiation rites.
Dela Cruz said he later saw some of them inside a house in Parañaque City, one owned by a certain “Scotty,” where he and Salilig were brought after their ordeal.
Responding to questions from Sen. Francis Tolentino, he said he saw how the Tau Gamma Phi members tried to revive Salilig after he had a seizure and fell unconscious.
“I requested them to bring [Salilig] to the hospital, but they only got mad at me. They told me that it was not allowed,” Dela Cruz said.
He identified those who snarled at his pleading as “Bonez” and “Thugz,” two of the 10 other suspects tagged by the police and who remained at large.
Tolentino then turned to Daniel Perry, the 23-year-old Adamson student who had admitted being the “master initiator” at the Feb. 18 hazing.
Perry said he was also among those who dug a shallow grave in Imus City, Cavite province, where they buried Salilig’s body.
Set to graduate
He said he had led three initiation rites in the past, but that he recently decided to “lie low” from the fraternity since he was already set to graduate this school year.
“You just wasted your future. You and the others will not be able to graduate… Do you even realize that?” said Tolentino, who was presiding over the hearing as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights. “You will go straight to [the national penitentiary in] Muntinlupa.”
Addressing Dela Rosa, Perry admitted being aware that they were violating the anti-hazing law.
This prompted Tolentino to remind Teng, Perry, and their fellow Tau Gamma members of their right to counsel, after noticing that they did not have a lawyer during the hearing.
The senator offered to provide them with lawyers, but they all declined.
“We don’t want you to say things that would only further incriminate yourselves,” Tolentino said.
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