“The University of Santo Tomas expresses concern over the inaccurate portrayal that it was indifferent to the death of its law student, Horacio Castillo III,” read the official statement released by the university in its social media accounts. Photo from Horacio Tomas Castillo III's Facebook
MANILA, Philippines — The University of Santo Tomas (UST) has decried what it dubbed as “inaccurate portrayal” of its response to the death of alleged hazing victim and freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III last September.
The university said on Friday that at no point did they portray lack of interest concerning the death of Castillo, who died on Sept. 17 allegedly due to a fraternity hazing incident.
“The University of Santo Tomas expresses concern over the inaccurate portrayal that it was indifferent to the death of its law student, Horacio Castillo III,” read the official statement released by the university in its social media accounts.
“On the contrary, on the first day that the news broke out, the university manifested its grief, offered prayers and conveyed its profound sympathy to the family of Horacio,” it added.
The university issued the statement apparently in response to the remarks made by Sen. Francis Escudero, who expressed disappointment over UST’s supposed lack of interest in the case.
The senator said the university should have taken the lead in ensuring that those behind Castillo’s death are held accountable after the fatal hazing conducted by members of the Aegis Juris fraternity.
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But according to UST, it immediately acted on the incident after learning about Castillo’s death, citing the creation of a committee to investigate the matter.
“It closely coordinated with the Manila Police District and National Bureau of Investigation which led to the identification of the members of the fraternity and possible perpetrators of the crime,” it said.
“Despite the limitations under the Education Act and the Data Privacy Act, the University allowed representatives of the Legal Education Board and the Commission on Human Rights to observe the proceedings of the investigation committee,” it added.
The university earlier said it will leave no stone unturned in its investigation of the incident.
“We condemn in no uncertain terms hazing in any form or manner. Violence has no place in an academic institution, particularly in our university that values and promotes charity and compassion,” it said.
“No words can express our sadness for this unfortunate incident. We express our profound sympathy and offer our prayers to his family for their pain and anguish – a pain that we share seeing that the life of our very own student, with all of its aspirations and potentials, taken away because of a senseless act,” added UST.
Support for Divina
The 35 professors and instructors at UST’s Faculty of Civil Law expressed their support to its dean Nilo Divina, saying that “he had been fair and just to all students.”
The professors released a statement, which Divina posted on his Facebook profile just recently, amid his apparent implication in the death of Castillo at the hands of members of Aegis Juris fraternity, of which Divina is a senior member.
“We firmly believe that he has acted with utmost circumspection, propriety and impartiality as dean,” the statement said.
The statement also emphasized that the faculty members “have also witnessed Divina’s generosity and immense sacrifice to invest in student development and promote solidarity amongst the Faculty.”
A story went viral on social media last June, when Divina spent for 86 of the 112 Bar passers from UST to go on a three-day vacation in Boracay island. A UST Bar passer even revealed that each one of them received P5,000 cash and an expensive fountain pen from Divina.
In conclusion, they said that “we lament the efforts to implicate him in the recent hazing incident involving Aegis and are confident that he will be vindicated.”
The statement was signed by the faculty’s 35 members, including former UST Faculty of Civil Law dean Augusto Aligada Jr., University of Manila College of Law dean Salvador Poquiz, Manuel L. Quezon University School of Law dean Lope Feble and Court of Appeals (CA) justices Magdangal de Leon, Japar Dimaampao, Myra Fernandez, Amy Javier and Zenaida Laguilles.
Meanwhile, the Manila Police District (MPD) called out the lawyers who allegedly advised the members of Aegis Juris how to get away with charges against them.
“Obvious sa Messenger thread that they were trying to cover up the ongoing investigation,” MPD spokesman Supt. Erwin Margarejo told reporters yesterday, referring to the probe on Castillo’s death.
“They are officers of the court, they are lawyers, but they violated their own lawyer’s oath,” he added.
The principal author of the new anti-hazing bill in the House of Representatives yesterday called for the disbarment of lawyers who allegedly tried to cover up the hazing death of Castillo.
“I urge the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Supreme Court to conduct motu proprio administrative investigation of these lawyers and preventively suspend them from the practice of the legal profession while their investigation is ongoing,” Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy of party-list group Bagong Henerasyon said.
She also asked the Department of Justice to place the lawyers on the immigration lookout watch list.
They should be prevented from leaving the country “if and when they are formally charged,” she said. – With Ghio Ong, Evelyn Macairan, Jess Diaz