Fraternities are not gangs

Don’t just  blame  the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) Fraternity “brods” of Anthony Leal Nepomuceno who stood by his side after the National Bureau of investigation (NBI) filed multiple charges of frustrated murder and attempted murder against him.

That does not mean that he is innocent even if  the NBI claimed  there were really witnesses who identified him as the perpetrator of the Bar exam blast last September 26, which injured more than 47 people. One of the victims, Raisa Laurel lost one leg in the bombing  which was alleged triggered by a fraternity war between the APO and its rival Tau Gamma Phi Fraternity.

The law says Nepomuceno is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. It’s not because he is a favored accused simply because he is being backed by his influential brods. He is even being defended by a battery of topnotch lawyers belonging to the APO because he claimed he was innocent, although he went into hiding for than a month only to surface before Vice President Jejomar Binay , a fellow APO member.

His brods believe him because of their fraternal ties.. But   former Justice Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello says  he would be the first to back out if there is single clear-cut evidence that Nepomuceno participated in the bombing.

It is really difficult to understand the fraternity system. Some fraternities like the freemasonry even take its roots in the medieval times when people bond for a common good. It‘s just unfortunate that APO has been involved in a string of controversies in recent months.

Before the bomb blast, APO members were also implicated in the killing of a neophyte during a hazing “initiation” again only to be cleared for lack of evidence. No less than the Makati police who handled the investigation turned out to be an APO member. The victim was also a student at the University of Makati, the political fiefdom of Mr. Binay.

Again, that doesn’t mean they are tolerating criminality which is now being looked at as if it is being condoned by fraternities if their members were  involved.

This is really disgusting if we are to look at how fraternity brothers look at their members who committed a crime. But I don’t think it is just sheer brotherhood that matters. At stake is the future of these young men, who would certainly rot in jail if proven guilty of such heinous crimes.

It’s the obligation of a fraternity member to defend his “brod”, but in the end justice should still prevail. Nepomuceno is entitled to his day in court. If found  guilty, he should be jailed.  I’m sure his fraternity brods would no longer defend a criminal after all the legal remedies they have done for their brod.

Sadly, the fraternity system remains on trial even after the Nepomuceno case has been resolved. People now look at the fraternities as no different from the gangs that  thrive in the hoods. That’s the public perception because there are some so-called Greek-letter “fraternities” which are actually operate as gangs and  recruit their members in the communities.

Fraternities like APO are university-based organizations and not community gangs, which claim brotherhood as their symbol of unity. These new bond of hoodlums are not really fraternity;; but mere thugs who enjoy the lifestyle of a criminal.

I’m not a member of the APO, nor am I defending the fraternity members’ actuation. But like those who face the ordeal against the fraternity system, I too feel concerned.  I belong to the Beta Sigma Fraternity — or the Brotherhood of Scholars in the University of the Philippines. . But I have close friends and relatives who belong to the APO and are respected  members of society. It’s really painful for them to be perceived as,  villains if not just street thugs..

The Nepomuceno case is already in the courts, but the trial against the fraternity system lingers.  The fraternities are based on principles. The Alpha Phi Omega, for instance, has become popular  because it is supposed to be a service fraternity.

It is  time to look at the status of the street gangs posing as fraternities. They are the real scourge. Joel Paredes

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