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Civil Law dean denies meeting Atio days before hazing

Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina filed a counter-affidavit denying that he met with Castillo on Sept. 12.

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Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina submitted a 30-page counter-affidavit denying any liability in the death of freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III. Photo courtesy of Mong Pintolo/The Philippine Star.

Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina submitted on Monday his counter-affidavit before the Department of Justice (DOJ) denying any liability in the death of freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, who was allegedly killed due to hazing rites.

Along with his 30-page counter-affidavit, Divina attached copies of CCTV footages from his law firm to prove Castillo did not meet with him on September 12, as Atio’s parents Horacio and Carmina claimed.

Atio’s parents, assisted by their lawyer Lorna Kapunan whom Divina sued for libel thrice, filed a complaint against the dean for murder and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law.

Kapunan’s son Lino, who is also co-counsel in the case, said Atio paid a courtesy call on Divina as a neophyte of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, which Divina is also a member of.

The Castillo camp used a text conversation as evidence between Carmina and her son on September 12, where Atio said he was at a law firm near “Petron gas along Buendia” where the Divina Law firm happens to be in that area.

Divina however said that he prohibited organizations at the UST Faculty of Civil Law including the fraternity from recruiting freshmen.

“Atio did not even mention my name or my law firm. Indeed, there must be at least a dozen law firms in the Petron area. In our building lane, there are several law firms. There is simply nothing in the foregoing text exchange that can be construed as indicative of actual prior knowledge on my part of the hazing that was to be conducted on September 17,” Divina said in his counter-affidavit.

Also, Divina said in his counter-affidavit that organizations wishing to conduct initiation rites seek approval not from his office, but from the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) which has the duty to appoint school representatives to be present during initiation rites.

Divina said that Aegis Juris did not ask permission from OSA and that he cannot be accused of a cover-up because he had done all he could to help with the investigation.

He also said that the reason why he did not immediately called Atio’s parents about their son’s death on September 17 was because he only heard an unconfirmed report from the Faculty Secretary Arthur Capili.

Divina only received initial details from news reports in the morning of Sept. 18.

“Up to that point, none of the police authorities had gotten in touch with me. I took it upon myself to write General Joel Napoleon Coronel, the head of the Manila Police District, requesting for a dialogue to enable us in the Faculty of Civil Law to implement whatever measures you think is necessary to assist the police in its investigation,” Divina said.

Also, Divina said that he does not know the officers of the fraternity and their contact details as he is a non-active member of Aegis Juris.

Divina added that he considers quitting the fraternity but said that the decision would have to be made after the case.

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Friends continue to seek justice for Atio

After the prayer vigil commemorating the 100th day since Castillo’s death, Gabriel Adora slammed the release of alleged Aegis Juris leader Arvin Balag from Senate detention just a week before. “[It] was not justified […] even in the spirit of Christmas,” he said.

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Friends of fatal hazing victim Horacio Castillo III light candles at the Manila Memorial Park, Thursday, Dec. 28. Photo by Elizabeth Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

Colleagues and friends of fatal hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Castillo III gathered at his resting place at the Manila Memorial Park last Thursday, Dec. 28, to continue demanding justice for the slain law freshman in commemoration of the 100th day since his death.

“We call out on everyone who has the power to change things to put their effort in giving justice to our friend,” Gabriel Adora, a friend and classmate of Castillo in Faculty of Arts and Letters, told the reporters after the prayer vigil.

Adora continued: “Sana po ma-realize ng mga taong nag-inflict sa kanya ng ganitong klaseng sakit that led to his death, and the suffering and desolation of his family speak out.

He also defended the University, saying that UST cannot be solely blamed for Castillo’s death.

However, Adora also urged the University administration to exert their efforts as an academic institution in making concrete actions and raising awareness on the issue.

“Sa part naman [ng UST], if hindi nila magawang i-publicize ‘yung issue by themselves, if hindi nila kayang gawing alarming ‘yung issue within the campus, kami na lang bilang students of UST because we understand bakit nila ginagawa ‘yun.”

Adora also slammed the release of alleged Aegis Juris leader Arvin Balag from Senate detention just a week before. “[It] was not justified […] even in the spirit of Christmas,” he said.

Balag was released from detention last Dec. 22 upon the orders of the Supreme Court.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson Sr., chair of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, told in a statement that the decision was made “all in the spirit of Christmas, not to mention our desire to avoid a constitutional crisis during this holiday season.”

According to Adora, contrary to the real spirit of Christmas which is salvation, the fraternity did not save anyone.

“‘Yung kaibigan nga namin, namatay na, ‘yung pamilya niya, naggi-grieve pa rin hanggang ngayon para sa kanya, yet pinakawalan nila [si Arvin Balag]. So, I think I speak in behalf of everyone na mga kaibigan ni Horacio at sa mga relatives niya na it’s very unjustified and we call upon all those who can bring light to what just happened para naman hindi agrabyado, especially ‘yung family.”

During the vigil, Kaye Esmao, a friend of Castillo, prayed for the speedy disposition of justice and for hazing to be exposed as an inhumane practice being done to students in the country.

“We pray that Hor’s soul may be at peace despite what happened to him. We also pray that his family through the proceedings that are currently happening right now,” Esmao added.

Castillo’s family was invited but was not present on the said gathering.—B. Laforga

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Thomasian remains missing after ferry capsizes

UPDATE: “Kasama niya mother niya, dahil daw sa lakas ng alon, nagkahiwalay sila sa tubig,” the student’s cousin told TomasinoWeb in an interview.

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Photo from Mercraft Shipping Lines's FB page.

(UPDATED Dec. 26, 12:20 p.m.) A UST Junior High School student remained missing, along with two other passengers, after a ferry bound to Polillo Island capsized on Dec. 21.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed that Jake Noel Mendiola, 14, remains missing after M/V Mercraft 3 sunk between Polillo Island and Barangay Binahican in Infanta, Quezon.

Mendiola’s cousin Cheysser Zabala said that Mendiola planned to go home to Burdeos, Quezon, along with his mother Dulcenia, for Christmas vacation.

“Kasama niya mother niya, dahil daw sa lakas ng alon, nagkahiwalay sila sa tubig,” Zabala told TomasinoWeb in an interview. “Ayon si tita (Dulcenia), nakabitaw na siya pero inaangat siya ni Jake.”

Zabala said that Mendiola’s other cousin and survivor, Donnel Jade, also came with them when the ferry took off at 9 a.m. from Ungos Port in Real, Quezon.

“Ayon naman sa tita, may hinahawakan nga silang mag-ina at nung na nakabitaw siya, lumubog siya at parang, nawalan siya malay. Namalayan lang kasi sya [nung] inaangat siya ng isang lalaki at binigyan hawakan. So pag tingin niya, wala na si Jake,” Zabala said.

Zabala also said that the front of the ferry was already damaged by 10 a.m. and that it remained afloat for an hour before it began to sink.

“Malalaki kasi [yung] alon kaya talagang nagkakahiwalay daw [sila] at [na]hirap[an] magkakitaan. Yun [yung] last kita [ni] tita kay Jake,” Zabala added.

The other missing passengers are Zandy Tapar and Odelun Azur.

The fast craft ferry owned by Mercraft Shipping Lines reportedly carried 256 passengers and crew when it sank.

However, police officials said in an interview with radio station DZRH that they would also investigate the matter of overloading. M/V Mercraft 3 had a maximum capacity of 286 passengers, according to the PCG.

A total of five casualties have already been recorded and 11 passengers were reportedly injured.

This is a developing story. Please refresh the page for updates.

by Heather Marian Amoroso

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SC orders release of Aegis Juris leader from Senate detention

The Supreme Court has ordered the immediate release of Aegis Juris leader Arvin Balag from the Senate detention facility.

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Aegis Juris leader Arvin Balag speaks before a Senate hearing on the fatal hazing of Civil Law freshman Horacio Castillo III. Photo courtesy of Angie de Silva/Rappler.

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the immediate release of one of the primary suspects in the death of hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Castillo III from the Senate detention facility.

Arvin Balag, a principal suspect and the alleged leader of Aegis Juris Fraternity, was released through an SC resolution dated Dec.12.

“Order in the interim the immediate release of petitioner Arvin R. Balag on the basis of his prayer set forth in his Motion to Resolve Petition pending the resolution of the instant petition by the Court,” the resolution read.

Balag has been detained in the Senate since Oct. 18 after he was cited in contempt for refusing to answer questions during an inquiry on the hazing case of Castillo.

He had filed a petition in November where he mentioned the probe was not in aid of legislation, but “of prosecution,” calling the SC to nullify the contempt citation against him.

He also added that the contempt order had violated his right to fair trial.

Balag is one of the 42 suspects for the death of the 22-year-old freshman law student during the fraternity’s initiation rites on Sept. 16.

According to fraternity member Marc Anthony Ventura, Balag made the fifth and final paddle hit that was the one who delivered the fifth and final paddle hit that left Castillo unconscious.

Balag was initially identified as Aegis Juris president based on the fraternity’s records, but he claimed that he had resigned as an officer last August.

by Carisse Nicole Dumaua

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