Tragic student ‘killed in university frat hazing ritual and dumped in field’
A student joining a frat didn't survive the initiation ritual and his body was later found in a shallow grave.
John Matthew Salilig, a third-year student in the Philippines, suddenly disappeared on February 18, the night he was set to perform a rite of passage to join the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity at Adamson University.
Salilig's body was found 10 days after his disappearance buried in a shallow grave in an open field in Imus City, an hour away from his university by car.
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Police saw the remains were covered in visible injuries, such as bruising on his thighs, which authorities determined were the result of abuse from the hazing ritual he had been subjected to at Tau Gamma Phi.
An autopsy later revealed Salilig died from "severe blunt force in the lower extremities" thought to have been dealt during the initiation ceremony.
Law enforcement officials now believe members of the fraternity opted to hide the body rather than report his death and face the consequences.
One of Salilig's brothers, John Michael, is also a member of Tau Gamma Phi and thought the welcome rites were safe, as he'd had to go through them himself.
"Even if I tried to stop him that time, I knew he would still attend [the rite]," he told VICE World News.
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"So [in the name of] brotherhood, I said, 'Go ahead, see you on Sunday.'"
Salilig first went missing on February 18, but friends and family weren't worried at first – the 24-year-old had a reputation for going missing and letting his phone battery die, so for some time it went unreported.
It wasn't until the next evening that some of his loved ones began to worry.
"I don't think he can forget to charge his phone [for such a] long time," one of his friends, who didn't wish to be named, told VICE.
"So that was the time when we got really worried about him."
The death has sparked backlash in the Philippines with many calling for local laws against hazing rituals to be taken more seriously.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a statement on March 1 that "justice will be served."
The statement said: "It is not through violence that we can measure the strength of our brotherhood."
Laws against the kind of initiation ceremony that killed Salilig already exist in the southeast Asian country – introduced in 1995, the Anti-Hazing Act bans physical violence at initiation rites and was introduced four years after first-year law student Leonardo Villa suffered a cardiac arrest after being attacked at a similar welcome rite.
However, only one person was convicted under the law in the 20 years after it was introduced, despite at least 12 people being killed in these kinds of rituals in the Philippines during this time.
In 2018, the law was changed and hazing was made completely illegal.
Criminal proceedings against the fraternity members are ongoing.
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