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Aegis Juris fratmen plead not guilty to hazing charges

All 10 accused members of the Aegis Juris fraternity on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to the hazing charges filed against them for the death of UST Civil Law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.

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Photo by Angelika Ortega/TomasinoWeb.

All 10 accused members of the Aegis Juris fraternity on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to the hazing charges filed against them for the death of UST Civil Law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.

Facing charges for violation of the Anti-Hazing Act of 1995, the fratmen denied the allegations during the arraignment at Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 20, Horacio Castillo Jr., Atio’s father, said.

“Expected naman ‘yun ang defense nila, na i-deny lahat ng issues. ‘Yun yung pinaka-alibi nila,” Horacio Jr. told TomasinoWeb.

He also asserted that even though the case is “not bailable,” the accused will try to petition for bail.

“They (fratmen) will try to petition for a bail. They will try. Nagbabakasakali sila na baka makuha nila sa bail,” Horacio Jr. said.

Carmina Castillo, Atio’s mother, meanwhile, expressed her strong resolve to take down the fraternity and give justice to her son.

“Ang gusto ko is matuloy ‘to lahat. I want justice para sa anak ko, and hindi ako titigil… That’s the only justice I can get para sa anak ko,” she told the reporters.

Carmina added: “We are now ongoing with the trial. I’m happy about that. Arraignment has been finished and we are going on now. Ang main goal ko is to erase the name of that fraternity from existence, burahin talaga sila.”

The mother, however, commended the Department of Justice for the “smooth pacing of the case.”

Detained at the Manila City Jail, the 10 accused fratmen are Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Munro Hipe, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat and Robin Ramos.

The next hearing will be on August 14, where both sides are expected to present their evidence and witnesses before the Manila RTC.

The arraignment was originally scheduled last May but was postponed and moved due to pending motions filed by Trangia.

Atio died last September allegedly due to hazing rites performed by some members of the Aegis Juris fraternity.—with reports from Angelika Ortega

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Putting awareness in actions: going green the Thomasian way

After inciting awareness on the status of our environment, Greener UST is now back on its second phase to solidify our environmental awareness into actions.

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Becoming environmentally conscious can be an arduous task for a single person working towards an ambitious goal. This challenging aspect of having an advocacy to promote was addressed by representatives of the Thomasian community last Monday and through their collaborative efforts, they forged a link together to put forth a long-term cause for the environment and for both the present and future Thomasians.

After inciting awareness on the status of the Philippine environment and receiving positive feedback during its first phase, Greener UST is back on its second phase and is now solidifying our environmental awareness into actions through The Green Congress: Project Pitching.

“Hinihintay talaga namin itong second phase for the project para ma-involve ‘yung mga students but we’re still implementing the movement sa mga projects and, so far, ‘yung biggest changes na nangyari is for this Agape and Paskuhan movement, ‘yung bagong committee, which is yung Waste Segregation Committee,” shared by UST Central Student Council (CSC) Auditor and Project Head of Greener UST, Adrian Lee Fernando, in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

Representatives from the Local Student Councils (LSC) and university-wide student organizations gathered last November 26 at the Tan Yan Kee (TYK) Auditorium to pitch for possible projects and environmental campaigns gearing towards a greener university life with long-term effect, “It’s one of the frustrations of Fr. Dexter,” Mr. Allan de Guzman, the Office Staff for Student Activities said, “…dapat hindi lang pang Paskuhan, dapat pang future.” Paskuhan, as one of the University’s biggest event, requires careful and detailed planning–starting from the overall decorations, logistics, pocket events, and of course, the much-awaited concert and firework display. However, the aftermath of the festivities is not as pleasant to the eyes compared to the glistening decor as overfilled trash bins improperly thrown wastes litter the University grounds and De Guzman was firm to remind the participants the need for environment-related agendas such as these, to not be short-lived hence, he also reiterated the importance of documentation in solidifying plans.

The usual seminars on environmental awareness and policies such as plastic-free, were expected by Fernando to be pitched during The Green Congress; however unexpected yet promising and innovative events fit for the Thomasian community were also convened and recommended, “[…] Hindi ko na-expect is yung environmental fair kasi sa tagal na ng stay ko sa UST, hindi pa tayo nagkakaroon ng gan’ong fair in support, sa mga projects”, he said.

Using Social media in promoting this environmental cause within the University was also the common denominator among the ideas of the participants, De Guzman and Fernando also encouraged this initiative because of its money-saving benefits as well as its maximizing effect inside the University. In the end, the plausible events were sifted from the pitched ideas of the LSCs and were then categorized into three: Policies, Strategies, and Projects await for the Thomasians.

Going environmental-friendly has been one of the goals of the University for almost ten years now when in 2008, a complete ban on the use of styrofoam made materials were implemented. Today, these renewed small plans of actions are becoming catalysts for change. Even with small steps, these efforts are becoming self-evident within the campus and Fernando was grateful that their continued efforts in achieving a greener University has been getting enthusiastic support from the students, faculty members, and even, people in the administration.

In reality, looking out for the environment is easier said than done but with the collective and synergistic efforts initiated by a group of individuals with a determined belief in the same cause, success is not far from the horizon. As Thomasians, we must always practice what we preach and put our awareness into actions in order to have progress. In putting forward an environmental cause, we must understand that the concept of praxis is very much needed in anticipating a greener and environmentally responsible University culture.

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Mental health forum sheds light on Mental Health Law

Last October 16, the Central Student Council organized Vitellius: the Mental Health Week which aimed to encourage Thomasians in spreading mental health awareness, support and self-care.

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Photo by Alexa Taay

As the society continues to progress for a more inclusive society, several platforms were made available to dispel the stigma surrounding various issues, especially the mental health.

Last October 16, the Central Student Council organized Vitellius: the Mental Health Week in line with World Mental Health Day and the newly-minted Mental Health Law,  which aimed to encourage Thomasians in spreading mental health awareness, support and self-care.

A roster of speakers including principal sponsor and bill author Senator Risa Hontiveros and psychology and medicine professionals, Mr. Renz Argao, Mr. Ferdinand Nykko Bautista, R.N., Dr. Marc Eric Reyes and Dr. Ma. Gia Sison shared their insight and experiences in front of a Thomasian audience in the UST Medicine Auditorium.

“(…) the more long-term implications of having a mental health law in the first place is addressing the terrible stigma which surrounds mental illness and a move away from institutionalizing people with mental health concerns,” said Senator Risa Hontiveros in a bid to continuously engage and educate others regarding mental health. Keeping conversations alive on Mental health transitions our culture into one that would normalize mental health dialogues without attaching stigma.

The presence of Republic Act 11036 opens the implementation of Suicide Prevention Protocols and Policies within schools and universities. Dr. Marc Reyes advised action to sustain mental health awareness after the World Mental Health Month. He emphasized on training faculty, staff and students into Suicide First-Aid Responders who will follow the guidelines and training manual drafted by mental health professionals.

Sustained mental health awareness beyond the month of October gives a person the courage to accept and acknowledge the possibility of having mental health problems. According to Dr. Gia Sison, the self-stigma on mental problems prevents the individual to seek help from peers, guidance counselors and therapists. She stressed that acknowledgment is a milestone because it prompts self-care, peer support and eventual mental health advocacy.

Other topics touched upon the forum include improving resiliency through making connections, accepting change, and creating safe spaces discussed by Mr. Renz Argao, the importance of taking care of oneself by Mr. Ferdinand Nykko Bautista.

In solidarity and support for Mental Health Awareness, attendees are given green ribbons representing mental health support upon registration. Aside from the forum, the Central Student Council celebrated Mental Health Week by hosting a Poster Making Competition and Open Mic Session events last October 17 and 19 respectively.

Republic Act 11036 or the Mental Health Law was signed earlier this year last June 21. The landmark law is responding to the rising number of Filipinos suffering through some form of mental illness. Funding and budget are intended to provide accessible health care and facilities in schools and barangays to persons with mental health needs.

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Atio’s parents hopeful as trial continues

With “strong” evidence paired with the assembly of a “good” prosecution team, parents of the slain UST Civil Law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III remained hopeful that justice will be served for their son as the hearing of the case continued on Tuesday, Sep. 4.

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Photo by Robert Lionel Garcia/TomasinoWeb.

With “strong” evidence paired with the assembly of a “good” prosecution team, parents of the slain UST Civil Law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III remained hopeful that justice will be served for their son as the hearing of the case continued on Tuesday, Sep. 4.

“Pinakamalakas na ebidensya [is] me discovering our son dead, na meron siyang tama sa braso. Indication na ‘yan ng hazing,” Carmina Castillo, mother of the 22-year old alleged hazing victim, told the reporters.

The parents also lauded the prosecution for assembling a “strong and great team” fighting for Atio.

“With a lot of people na tumutulong naman. We are very happy and we’re very glad na nakita n’yo naman ang gagaling nung prosecution. They assembled a very good team to fight for Atio,” Horacio Castillo Jr., Atio’s father, said.

They, moreover, believed that there would be “perfect conviction” of the accused.

“And talagang sigurado ako perfect conviction. Even those na hindi pa nandon, yung idadagdag pang mga tao perfect conviction pa rin ang kalalabasan,” Carmina said.

‘A piece of wooden trash’

One of the evidence presented during the hearing was the paddle which was allegedly used to hit Atio.

It was “painful” to see the evidence, particularly the paddle, Atio’s mother expressed.

“Mas masakit na makita namin yung paddle, and you know for Aegis Juris (AJ), for them, [it is their] crowning glory. But to us, it’s a piece of wooden trash na ginamit nila sa pagpatay sa anak namin,” Carmina said.

According to hazing suspect-turned-state witness Marc Ventura’s affidavit filed on Oct. 24 last year, Atio received a total of five hits from the paddle, where the fifth strike resulted in Atio’s collapse.

Carmina also claimed that the accused waited for Atio to die, saying AJ members “didn’t do anything when their son was getting weak.”

“I will stress hinintay nilang mamatay. Mahina na ‘yung anak ko, nanghihina na, wala pa rin silang ginawa. Talagang the purpose was to wait for him to die,” she said.

Aside from presentation of evidence, AJ member Ventura stood in today’s hearing for his cross-examination.

In the first hearing last Aug. 14, Ventura appeared before the court and testified against the fraternity.

Meanwhile, all 10 accused AJ members were present in today’s hearing, namely: Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Munro Hipe, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat and Robin Ramos.

Last July 24, the accused pleaded “not guilty” in the violation of the Anti-Hazing Act of 1995. (READ: Aegis Juris fratmen plead not guilty to hazing charges)

The hearing was conducted at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20. With reports from Angelika Ortega

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