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Witness details grueling hazing rites that killed Adamson student John Matthew Salilig

The case of John Matthew Salilig is one of the latest string of incidents involving hazing.

Early this month, the 24-year-old Adamson University student was laid to rest at his hometown in Zamboanga City.

He went missing for 10 days before his remains were found in a shallow grave in Imus, Cavite. His skin bore lots of bruises—result of harsh initiation rites by the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity

The team of "Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho" dug into the incident and tracked down Roi, a 21-year-old Political Science student, who was there the night that the hazing took place. He is now a key witness in the case.

According to the autopsy report by the Cavite Provincial Crime Laboratory, John Matthew died due to severe blunt-force trauma to the lower extremities, after receiving 77 hits from a paddle.

What went down?

On February 17, fratmen of Tau Gamma Phi told the neophytes to prepare physically and mentally for the initiation rites. The following day, Roi told his parents he was going to a fun run.

Asked why he wanted to join the frat, he answered: "Sabi po nila kasi may financial and academic support which is mas nakaengganyo sa akin. Plus the brotherhood."

("They told me that I’ll be supported financially and academically. That was why I wanted to join.")

Roi recalled that they were driven from Buendia to Biñan, Laguna in an SUV. The hazing took place in a house that's under construction, allegedly owned by the father of one of the suspects.

He only saw John Matthew that night when he arrived at the house.

It turned out that John Matthew was already a member of the fraternity's Zamboanga Chapter.

According to his brother Michael, he only needed to undergo the welcoming rites. That means that the hazing process should have been milder than usual.

"Example number of paddles, 10 to... kasi member ka na. To be part of the community na lang po ng Adamson so you don't need to start at zero again, na kailangan mong mag-receive ng 77 paddles," Michael said.

"It just depends on the council na you'll want to be in the group," he added.

("For existing members, the number of paddles should’ve been fewer. To be part of the community in Adamson, you don't have to receive 77 paddles. It depends on the council that oversees these things.")

Eventually, the time arrived for the hazing to begin.

Roi said he and the other neophytes were all hit with paddles, but they weren't allowed to look.

However, he could hear John Matthew evidently in pain. It reached a point where John Matthew was saying that he wanted to vomit.

"Nakatalikod lang po ako. Pero naririnig ko po na dumadaing na po siya na sumasakit tiyan niya, nadudumi siya. Pero natuloy pa rin," Roi said.

("I wasn't facing him, but I could hear him saying his stomach hurts. But the paddling continued.")

One of the frat members even said, 'Huwag ninyong gagayahin 'yan, maarte 'yan. Tingnan mo, 'pag ganyan, pinipilahan ng mga brad.'

("Don't be like him– he's too dramatic.")

Regardless, John Matthew held on through the hazing rites, and even managed to joke around with Roi after.

Roi said they then ate instant noodles and John Matthew seemed fine. Afterwards, they were all taken to another frat member's house to rest.

During the car ride, John Matthew asked Roi, 'Tol, pwede bang pasandal ako sa 'yo?'

("Can I lean on you for a bit?")

"Sabi ko, 'Sige lang. Sandal ka lang, tol.' Sumandal pa siya sa ganito ko. Tapos nung nandun na kami, pinauna niya kaming bumaba dalawa 'yung isa kong kasama. Nung pagbaba ko po, nagse-seizure na si Matt," Roi said.

("I told him that he can lean on me. When it was my turn to get off the car, Matt was already having a seizure.")

Roi witnessed John Matthew's last moments. He said he was unconscious and vomiting. Concerned, Roi asked that John Matthew be taken to a hospital, but the frat members snapped at him, saying, 'Hindi pwede. Mapapahamak kaming lahat.'

("We can't bring him to the hospital. We're all going to get in trouble.")

John Matthew was instead taken to a room in the new house they were in. Roi made excuses so he could leave, despite the fact that they were forbidden to.

"Gumawa po ako ng alibi na nalo-locate na ako ng Papa ko. Anytime soon makakarating na siya kung nasaan kami that moment kaya ayun, pinauwi po nila ako."

("I lied and said that my dad would come pick me up anytime, because he had my location. So they sent me home.")

The next that Roi heard about John Matthew, he was gone.

Family cries for justice

Days after John Matthew was buried in Zamboanga, his family traveled to Manila to seek justice.

In an interview with KMJS, his father condemned the hazing act that took his son's life.

"Mabuti sana kung namatay na may sakit," he said. "Pero namatay na wala namang kalaban-laban. Ang pinakamasakit doon e syempre na-recover 'yung anak ko na talagang totally naked. Sa akin it's inhuman. It's an evil and cruel act."

("Perhaps it would've been better if he died of an illness. But he died so defenseless. The worst part was that he was totally naked when we found him. It's inhuman. It's an evil and cruel act.")

The pain is unimaginable for the family, especially since they have already been dealing with so much.

"Kumukuha lang ako ng lakas dun sa Taas, para na rin sa pamilya ko, sa wife ko, in particular, na ngayon may sakit 'yun. Na-stroke din 'yun, e. Tapos namatay pa 'yung tatay. And then ito nga si Matt din," he said.

("I could only find strength in God. I have to be strong for my family, especially my wife who had a stroke. Her dad died too, and now our son is gone too.")

"Dumating po sa punto na sabi ko hindi nga nakatikim ng kahit anong palo itong anak ko, itong bunso ko. Inalagaan. Binigyan ng magandang edukasyon tapos all of a sudden yung pangarap, 'yung hope niya, 'yung aspiration and dreams in life, it all shattered," he added.

("I've never raised my hand to my child. I took care of him, and tried to give him a good education. But all at once, his aspirations, his dreams, it all shattered.")

Remembering John Matthew

John Matthew's family will always remember him as a boy who dreamt big. He excelled in academics, particularly in Math and Science.

"He was planning na someday na hindi na tayo aangkat ng oil sa ibang bansa," Michael said. "Ganyan 'yung future dream niya na pini-picture out niya na rin."

("He was hoping that one day we wouldn't have to import oil from other countries. He had a whole future planned out.")

More than that, he was a sweet brother.

"He's the youngest so minsan mangungulit po 'yan. Saan kayo?' Ganyan. 'Anong gawa ninyo?' Tapos 'pag kakain ng midnight or pagkagising, magpi-picture siya. He'll post and send to us. Tatawag siya sandali sa akin tapos through video call. Sabi ko 'Oh bakit?' Sabi niya, 'Wala lang.' Tapos 'yun papatayin niya na."

("He's the youngest. He'd usually ask us what we're doing. When it was time to eat or when he woke up, he would send a picture. He'd even call us.")

Michael said that he knew his brother was going to the welcoming rites. He, too, was a member of the Tau Gamma Phi in Zamboanga.

He said John Matthew informed him, saying, 'Kuya, I'll be attending the activity tomorrow. At least alam mo 'yung whereabouts ko just in case.'

("Kuya, I'll be attending the activity tomorrow. At least you'll know where I am.")

Michael was the last man John Matthew ever spoke to. He admitted he feels burdened by this.

"Sana may nagawa pa ako more than that. Kasi looking forward, positive eh, and then knowing na Welcoming Rites, usually nga sa amin nga, no contact policy e. Ang pagkasabi nga sa akin, 'Wala lang', 'formality lang,'" he said.

("I wished I could've done more. They told me that the Welcoming Rites was only for formality.")

Where are the suspects?

After John Matthew's burial, his family formally filed a case, with the help of the other hazing survivors.

According to police, they have tagged 18 suspects in the case.

"'Yung pito dito, naaresto na natin previously at nasampahan na rin ng kaso sa DOJ," said PLCol. Virgilio Jopia. "'Yung isa naman died during our investigation. Siya ay namatay na last February 28. And we still have 10 remaining suspects at large."

("Seven of the suspects have been arrested, and we've also filed a case at the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, one of the suspects died during our investigation, and the other 10 are still at large.")

Detained suspects have been charged for violation of the Republic Act 11053 or Anti-Hazing Act. Among them are master initiator Daniel Perry.

Michael appealed to Adamson University to take responsibility. Meanwhile, the school said it doesn't acknowledge Tau Gamma Phi as a legitimate organization.

"This is for him and then for us, katahimikan namin," Michael said. "Gusto naming mabigyan ng proper justice deserved for the family and especially for him. No matter how painful that it takes."

("We're doing this for him and the entire family. We want justice to be served. No matter how painful it'll be.")

John Matthew's father, meanwhile, calls for an end to hazing.

"Sana wala ng ibang victims of hazing. Kung si Matt man ang huli so be it," he said. "Matt is gone pero we will fight for justice para sa kanya."

("We hope that there won't be another victim of hazing. If Matt would be the last victim, then so be it. Matt is gone but we will continue fighting for justice.") —JCB, GMA Integrated News