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DOJ reopens investigation on Atio’s hazing case

The Department of Justice reopened the investigation on the death of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III after the witness Marc Anthony Ventura submitted his affidavit.

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Photo grabbed from Horacio Castillo III's Facebook account.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors reopened the preliminary investigation on the death of hazing victim and UST freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III after suspect-turned-state witness Marc Anthony Ventura submitted his affidavit. 

The panel received Ventura’s affidavit last Jan. 3 and was not taken into consideration in the preliminary investigations of the case. The affidavit contained the names of Aegis Juris Fraternity members who executed the hazing rites on Castillo.

“In the interest of justice and in observance of due process, the Panel hereby motu propio reopens the preliminary investigation of these complaints in order to give them the opportunity to submit their countervailing evidence,” the order issued by the panel said.

Fratman John Paul Solano submitted an affidavit stating that the death of Atio was not due to hazing but instead of a pre-existing heart condition.

Ventura is the only fraternity member who has admitted participation in the hazing rites which Atio’s mother, Carmina, considers as a “breakthrough.”  

“As I understand they are already accepting the testimony of Ventura as part of the evidence, strengthening our case against the many respondents in our anti-hazing complaints,” Carmina said.

She added,“This breakthrough can definitely speed up the case when filed in the proper courts. They cannot deny the fact that a crime was committed and there is a vital witness to the crime.”

Carmina attended the hearing yesterday, Jan. 12.

Revelations

In his affidavit, Ventura said that he only participated in the rites when they were thumping Atio’s arm with a spatula to ease the swelling.

Ventura then revealed the members who hit Atio. They were Zach Abulencia, Daniel Ragos, Sam Cagalingan, Alex Cairo, Luis Kapulong, Edric Pilapil, and one unidentified member, who he couldn’t remember because the lights were turned off during that time.

In addition, Ventura said that the spatula round was composed of the same people with the addition of Miguel Salamat, Robin Ramos, Mhin Wei Chan, Oliver Onofre, Marcelino Bagtang, Hans Rodrigo, Ralph Trangia, Joriel Macabali, Grand Praefectus Arvin Balag, and Master Initiator Axel Hipe, and with the exemption of Kapulong.

The paddling, or the final stage of the hazing rites, was done by Hipe, Trangia, Balag, and an unidentified member whom Ventura cannot recall. According to Ventura, Atio went down on his knees after the third hit.

Atio was given time to rest before being hit by the unidentified member and Balag. Yet he already collapsed but was still making sounds as he was unable to speak.

Ventura said that Balag was the one who was giving orders, including the decision not to immediately bring Atio to the hospital.

Atio was already loaded inside Trangia’s truck, but he was taken back to the fraternity library where the medical technologist Solano tried to revive him.

After his testimonies, Ventura has been admitted to the Witness Protection Program run by the DOJ.

by Heather Marian Amoroso

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Write the truth—Atom Araullo, DepEd to campus journalists

Araullo said that it is not enough to present the facts, and as journalists it is part of the responsibility to reveal the truth behind the facts and make it into a story in which the audience can relate to.

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Screengrab from #CampJourn webinar

Media professionals gathered yesterday in a webinar, “#CAMPJOURN: Campus and Community Journalism in a Time of Pandemic,” to encourage campus journalists to report the truth despite the changing journalism landscape.

GMA7 news broadcast journalist Atom Araullo highlighted the importance of the balance in reporting and power in storytelling.

“Sa trabaho natin, napakahalaga na nakukuha natin yung tamang impormasyon… But you also have to make sure that yung information mo is something that will illuminate kung ano yung katotohanan,” he said during the online forum.

Araullo said that it is not enough to present the facts, and as journalists it is part of the responsibility to reveal the truth behind the facts and make it into a story in which the audience can relate to.

“People say that there are two sides of a story. That’s true,” he said. “Pero the truth is just one thing. There is just one objective reality.”

Department of Education Bureau of Curriculum Development Director Jocelyn Andaya told campus journalists to “keep writing.” 

She stressed that during the ongoing pandemic, there is a need for a purpose and this is the time in which correct and fact-checked news stories are needed. 

“[D]on’t just write because you want to this time,” she said. “Sometimes I was told by campus journalists…’it takes courage to defy,’…It takes courage, but defiance has to be tempered with correct information.”

“You have to make sure that what you write about is true,” she said. 

Emotion in news stories

Journalists, according to Araullo, are not just robots gathering information, which means that emotions and critical thinking are two factors to be considered and taken advantage of when writing a story. 

“Bilang journalist, yung personal feelings mo, hindi mo ‘yan mahihiwalay sa eventual story na gagawin mo,” he said “[Y]ou can be an effective journalist even if you acknowledge…na ikaw ay isang tao na mayoong emosyon at mayroong panindigan.”

Araullo considers emotions as a “good thing” when it comes to projecting news because the act of feeling, for him, gives the journalist an idea of the plight of the ordinary citizens. 

“Kahit na anong pilit, kahit na anong subok mo, at kahit na lokohin mo yung sarili mo na kaya mong gawin ‘yon, it’s not possible kasi you have to make choices along the way.” he said.

“[Y]ou have to choose how to write it. With all of those choices, you are already shaping the story,” he added.

Araullo emphasized that there is also the need to consider other fundamentals of journalism like accuracy and balance and the importance of putting context in stories. 

“[A]no ba yung surrounding situation na kinalalagyan nitong mga facts na ito? Sigurado ba ‘ko na yung facts na ito ay hindi cherry-picked?” he said.

Issue to impact

Araullo said stories should not only induce feelings of happiness, sadness, or anger, but also urge the citizens “to find solutions necessary to make change.”

To do that, he said that journalists must hone their storytelling prowess, “from stories to solutions, from issues to impact, ” and create connection with the audience.

“[N]aghahanap ka ng isang paraan na maintindihan ng audience na kahit na hindi siya yung nakakaranas nitong istoryang ‘to, nararamdaman niya kung anong epekto nito doon sa nakakaranas ng istorya,” he said.

Additionally, Internews media specialist Kat Raymundo emphasized the “framework of accountability.” 

Media, according to her, serves as a “tool” that could either be helpful or used for political reasons, which is why journalists must use it to empower people to provide for their needs.

“[W]e must restore public trust and credibility, and journalism in a changing world must work on self-regulation and social responsibility,” she said. 

Raymundo urged the budding journalists to stop being “passive consumers” of news and instead make use of the old and new media as an “informed citizen” who interacts with other media users.

“Let’s be aware, complain, or even [encourage] criticism, because media development will not happen if the public does not demand more from this powerful institution,” she said. Coleen Ruth Abiog and Jayziel Khim Budino

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Threats to PH justice system, press freedom exposed in pandemic

“We are facing both old and new challenges as paces for the very same freedoms that journalists share with citizens like freedom of expression and […] information have been further restricted under this administration and during this health crisis.”

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Screengrab from the Eyes on the Court webinar

Free Legal Assistance Group lawyer Chel Diokno believes that the ongoing pandemic exposed the “flaws” in the country’s justice system because of the numerous “questionable” arrests of individuals for alleged breach of quarantine protocols.

Diokno emphasized this during the Eyes on the Court webinar of the Court Appointments Watch held on May 20, saying that the implementation of quarantine protocols allowed the “weaponization of the law” and for authorities to go after the “enemies” of the administration.

“I think we all know that the power to arrest a person is one of the greatest powers given to the state. Sad to say it is also one of the most abused powers historically,” Diokno said.

For Diokno, the power of the police to make warrantless arrests was abused during the pandemic and was “broadened to cover offenses that never intended to be the subject of warrantless arrest.”

He mentioned the cases of Bambi Beltran and Ronel Mas who were arrested, and Linn Oridor who was asked to be deported due to their posts on social media which allegedly violated the Bayanihan Act’s provision on fake news which, for him, are legitimate expressions of opinion.

These posts, according to Diokno, should be considered more of a “hyperbole and protected speech.”

“Obviously yung mga nagpost sa Facebook na ‘bibigyan ko ng 100 million ganyan ganyan,’ wala naman silang kakayanan na magbigay naman talaga ng ganyang pera or any kinds of means to do that,” he said.

“Lahat ng mga bagay na ito ay talagang nakaka-distorbo because these are really of great concern to our democracy. When you speak about freedom of speech that is supposed to be the cornerstone of our democracy,” Diokno said.

He also reiterated that the “on the ground” situation in detention centers needs to be fixed especially because quarantine violators cannot observe physical distancing due to overcrowding and detainees are being beaten up and not given food.

Diokno adds that most of these quarantine violators are the poor who have no access to the courts, lawyers, and have not enough money to post bail; or if lucky to “scrape up the money for bail,” they still find a hard time complying with the requirements.

He also said that those who committed light offenses should be freed immediately and be given recognizance, given that these offenses do not need to post bail.

Freedom of expression, information further curtailed

Moreover, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism senior reporter Karol Ilagan regards the pandemic situation as a “threat” in truth-telling in the country.

She reiterated that this critical time of reporting reliable and verified information comes along with the threats to press freedom, journalists’ safety, and the spread of disinformation.

“We are facing both old and new challenges as paces for the very same freedoms that journalists share with citizens like freedom of expression and […] information have been further restricted under this administration and during this health crisis,” said Ilagan.

She emphasized that the Bayanihan Act’s provision penalizing fake news “can easily be used by those in power to file complaints against individuals.”

She also mentioned that aside from the forced closure of the country’s biggest network ABS-CBN, numerous community papers around the country also ceased operations due to the lockdown.

“Kailangan po tandaan natin ‘yung konteksto nito is that the House has sat on the issue for several months hanggang sa makarating po tayo sa May 5 kung saan ABS-CBN went off-air,” Ilagan said.

Media workers and practitioners, according to her, are “under intense pressure” due to these events, especially contractual workers who are under no-work-no-pay scheme and may also face lay-offs in the coming months.

Ilagan also said that the public’s right to know and the access to information is even higher during the pandemic, but has been limited due to the limited working hours and work force during the lockdown.

She urged journalists to try to reach out more to communities who were “separated” during the lockdown to help stop the spread of disinformation.

“May mga collaborative efforts na rin po so kung baga parang mas kailangan po nating magtulungan between and among news organizations and at the same time also between and among academe, experts, and the media,” Ilagan said. With reports from Jayziel Khim Budino and Coleen Ruth Abiog

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UST health workers group continues labor despite management dismissal

Workers from the University Hospital are facing another threat in the form of dismissals implemented by the hospital management, Ugnayang Nagkakaisang Manggagawa–University of Santo Tomas (UNM–UST) announced today in their Labor Day press release. 

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Althea Almario/TomasinoWeb

Workers from the University Hospital are facing another threat in the form of dismissals implemented by the hospital management, Ugnayang Nagkakaisang Manggagawa–University of Santo Tomas (UNM–UST) announced today in their Labor Day press release. 

“We have struggled against the immense power of our employer but despite all odds, we remained steadfast and strong in keeping our heads high in the fight of our rights,” UNM-UST said.

Sacked workers, according to UNM–UST, became “casualties of unwarranted dismissals” that came in the guise of business losses. 

The remaining staff members of UST Hospital vowed to “remain strong” and committed to upholding the rights of the workers despite their disregarded pleas for additional benefits. 

Over the last three months, the workers have been fighting the coronavirus pandemic despite “being unequipped of what is [ahead] of them.”

“[T]he workers of USTH had to stay away from their families so that they may help and care for others who were admitted at our employer’s hospital,” the organization stressed. 

UNM–UST with the #CompassionNOTermination assured that the hospital staff are not alone in the ongoing fight for their “basic right of security of tenure.”

“[T]his is not only your fight but a fight of all the workers of the hospital. Mabuhay ang mga manggagawa ng University of Santo Tomas Hospital,” the organization said. Jayziel Khim Budino

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