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Militant student group decries death threat on SHS student amid activist crackdown

Prior to the death threat, the League of Filipino Students member had been receiving phone calls from the same number since Saturday, Dec. 2.

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Militant student group League of Filipino Students — UST (LFS-UST) has denounced a death threat sent to one of its members, a senior high school student, through an anonymous phone call received Dec. 4, Monday.

In a statement posted on the group’s Facebook page, LFS-UST detailed that a “much older man” told the student “maghanap ka na ng paglilibingan mo” in a call that lasted for one minute and 33 seconds.

The activist group rebuked the fatal warning given to its member, who requested to remain anonymous for security purposes.

“The League of Filipino Students-UST strongly condemns this lousy threat to our member in this time of crackdown on progressive organizations,” the post read.

The statement continued: “It is with great indignation that we find this threat during this time of political uncertainty.”

People bearing the names of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Army were allegedly sending the student Facebook friend requests amid the threats.

Yesterday afternoon, 3:51 p.m., the student also received a Facebook password reset code through a text message, suggesting attempts to hack and access LFS-UST member’s account.

The account has since been recovered earlier today.

Prior to the Monday call, the threatened student had been receiving phone calls from the same number since Saturday, Dec. 2.

The call came from the number 09063168000, which is still unreachable as of updated press time. The same number also sent death threats to a member of poetry collective KM64 last Dec. 6.

Kabataan Patylist has included the case of the LFS-UST SHS member in its “crackdown bulletin” for Dec. 5 and Dec. 6.

Earlier today, LFS-UST posted an update containing a series of phone screenshots from its member, who received more threats through text messages last midnight sent from the same number.

Progressive groups from other schools have reported similar cases of harassment and intimidation of their members by police and suspected military agents over the past months in the midst of the government’s crackdown on activists (READ: Anti-revgov protesters blocked from Mendiola on Bonifacio Day).

Following the collapse of the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), Pres. Rodrigo Duterte stated last Nov. 22 that he will order the arrest of progressive groups , which he referred to as CPP’s “legal fronts.”

The President has accused them of terrorism and conspiring with the New People’s Army (NPA), CPP’s armed wing.

“I will simply declare you all terrorists. Terorista kayo pati ‘yang mga legal front niyo,” he said, adding: “You are helping each other, conspiring to topple or whatever to sow terror.”

Yesterday, Nov. 5, the President signed Proclamation No. 374 declaring CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations. — with additional reports from P. Jamilla

by Angelika Ortega

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Assistant news editor of TomasinoWeb

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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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