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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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61-year-old columnist nabbed at Misamis Airport

(UPDATED) She was then set for release hours later on the night of the same day after the witness asserted that she was not the actual subject of the arrest warrants.

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(UPDATED June 9, 9:50 p.m.) Sixty-one-year-old columnist Margarita Valle was arrested today, June 9, 2019 at Laguindingan Airport, Misamis Oriental by virtue of warrants of arrest dated years ago.

The former SunStar Davao columnist and currently a Davao Today columnist was arrested by joint operatives by virtue of two warrants of arrest. She was then set for release hours later on the night of the same day after the witness asserted that she was not the actual subject of the arrest warrant.

Judge Bernadette S. Paredes-Encinareal of Regional Trial Court (RTC) 10th Judicial Region, Branch 36, Calamba, Misamis Occidental issued the arrest warrant for multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and Damage to Property with no bail recommended dated December 29, 2011.

The other arrest warrant for arson was issued by Judge Aniceto Galon Jr. of RTC 9th Judicial Region, Branch 20, Pagadian City with bail recommended fixed at P24,000.00 dated September 4, 2006.

Valle was in Cagayan de Oro (CDO) after she conducted a writing workshop for the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and was about to board the plane for Davao City when she was arrested.

Valle’s son Rius Valle, who is one of the organizers of Lakbayan and Lumad Bakwit School in UST said that her mother was illegally arrested for “unknown reason.”

“She was set to go home after attending a training-workshop in CDO and about to board a plane to Davao when the arrest happened,” said Rius Valle in his tweet on Twitter.

In his Facebook post, Rius Valle said that those warrants of arrest are obviously “trumped up charges.”

Rius Valle added that her mother already made a phone call to Sister Mila Gimeno of the Missionaries of Assumption and confirmed that she was brought to Camp Avilon, Pagadian City.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in their Facebook post that the reason for Valle’s arrest remains unclear, adding that Maj. Napoleon Carpio of CIDG-10 confirmed her arrest but is not under their custody since she was arrested by CIDG-9 operatives.

Moreover, College Editors Guild of the Philippines condemned Valle’s “illegal arrest” in their statement, saying that it proves the “regime’s continuous efforts to silence individuals who are bravely fighting for human rights and democracy amidst the worsening political climate in the country.”

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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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