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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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Include youth in climate measures, environmental activists say

Environmental activists demanded the government Friday, Sept. 25, for the inclusion of youth participation in measures against the climate injustices in the country. 

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Environmental activists demanded the government Friday, Sept. 25, for the inclusion of youth participation in measures against the climate injustices in the country. 

“[A]dapt the youth agenda. You need to designate spaces for us. Co-power us and include us in plans and decision making,” Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Kisha Muana said. 

Muana stressed the need for a formal youth representation in local and national policies, citing the absence of policy actions concerning the youth’s needs in the government executive recovery plan.

According to Philippine Youth Climate Movement Director Ruzzel Morales, the youth can significantly contribute in provoking the system to generate changes. 

Morales called on the National Youth Commission to “genuinely advocate” the Filipino youth in the government. 

“Enough of your lip service. We want action and we want it now,” she said. 

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago urged Congress to take a stand on the environmental affairs of the country.

“Kailangan natin na patuloy ipadinig ang boses na naghuhumiyaw at naninindigan para sa pananagutan sa mga tao sa kinauukulan at para sa tungkulin ng bawat isang lingkod bayan na paglingkuran ang sambayanang Pilipino,” Elago said.

According to Elago, there are seven environment-related bills that are already in the period of debate in the Congress and Senate, while 13 have passed the third reading. 

The “Para sa Klimabukasan Global Day of Climate Action” digital strike and forum was co-organized by Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines, Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, I am Hampaslupa Inc., Living Laudato Si Philippines, Pangasinan Youth for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, STEP Philippines, SUSG Environment Committee, and We the Future PH inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg. Wendell Adrian Quijado

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CHR, Church opposes Duterte’s call to revive death penalty

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

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Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

“We believe in the need for a comprehensive approach in addressing drug sale and use, as well as other crimes anchored on restorative justice,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement. 

While the commission agrees to punish crimes, de Guia stressed that it should not result in further violations of human rights. 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – Commission on Prison Pastoral Care chairman and Legazpi bishop Joel Baylon and Balanga bishop Ruperto Santos cited that studies proved that capital punishment does not deter crimes. 

“The country will also lose the honor of one of the nations which condemned death penalty if capital punishment is revived,” Sorsogon bishop Arturo Bastes said. 

According to CHR, Duterte’s vow to uphold human rights above all does not coincide with restoring death penalty through lethal injection. 

The Commission also cited that it would breach the international agreement to abolish capital punishment, which the country ratified in 2007. 

“[A]ny moves to reinstate capital punishment in the country conflicts with the tenets of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” de Guia said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday, July 27, said the revival of death penalty for drug-related offenses now has a better chance of being passed in the 18th Congress. Raheema Velasco

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‘Have we really achieved acceptance?’—gender lawyer

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination.

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Screengrab from #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality webinar

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination. 

“[J]ust last year, Metro Manila Pride recorded 70,000 attendees. For the most part we thought that it’s a sign of society’s increased support for the community…[b]ut have we really achieved acceptance?” Atty. Claire de Leon said yesterday, June 27. 

The Gretchen Diez incident last year, according to Atty. De Leon, “drastically” shifted the perception of the public toward the LGBTQI+ community and the ongoing fight for the SOGIE Equality bill. 

Misconceptions surfaced after the incident that was followed by a “massive” misinformation campaign against the bill. 

“[N]akakalungkot na marami ding nagbabangga ng mga karapatan natin sa karapatan ng ibang sector. Nakakalungkot na ang ibang tao iniisip nila na this bill would take away rights from heterosexuals or cisgender persons,” Atty. De Leon said. 

However, she stressed that protecting the rights of a marginalized sector does not take away the rights of another.

“[I]f you think that allowing a sector to exercise their rights would take away the rights of others, [then] we must rethink how we see rights [and] how we understand rights,” she said. 

Anti-discrimination ordinances in LGUs

The lack of SOGIE-based national laws pushed LGBTQI+ groups to fight for anti-discrimination ordinances (ADO) within the local government units. 

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro announced last year, June 29, the passage of the city’s ADO during the Metro Manila Pride March. 

Quezon City on the other hand passed on November 28, 2014 the Gender Fair Ordinance, which was authored by Councilor Mayen Juico and was signed by the then-mayor Herbert Bautista.

Despite having implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) and ordinances, Atty. De Leon said that the process is not entirely implemented and effective. 

“May council [at] may members of the council pero walang office…[N]a-highlight lang nito na hindi natatapos ang lobbying, hindi natatapos ang laban natin sa pagpasa ng ordinance,” De Leon said. 

“Kailangan nating ma-push na meron IRRs at also kailangan nating ma-make sure na nai-implement talaga ang mga ordinances na ‘to,” she added. 

De Leon said that laws and initiatives against anti-discrimination, whether from the national government, LGUs, or private sectors, are necessary to build a more inclusive community.

“Discrimination still occurs and as long as discrimination under the basis of SOGIE persists, we need a law that would give us protection…[p]rotection must be available and accessible to each of us regardless of our SOGIE,” she said. 

SOGIE and Anti-terror bills

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According to Atty. Eljay Bernardo, the “vagueness” of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill can directly affect the LGBTQI+ community as a marginalized sector fighting for SOGIE bill. 

“If we request government, demand government of our rights, it could be construed as terrorism, as destabilization,” Atty. Bernardo said.

The imprisonment of the Pride20, according to him, uncovered how the law can be “twisted” against freedom of speech and assembly. 

Last Friday, June 26, 10 members of LGBTQI+ rights group Bahaghari along with eight from other progressive groups, and two drivers were detained at the Manila Police District. 

They were being charged with disobedience of persons in authority in relation to Republic Act 11332, or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Disease and Batas Pambansa 880, or the Public Assembly Act.

Atty. Bernardo said that the bill could put burden in LGBTQI+ groups, which could be an excuse to put the members of these groups under the surveillance of an anti-terrorism council. 

According to Atty. De Leon, the Anti-Terror bill could “silence all of us,” especially the marginalized sector. 

“[F]or us when activism is the only way of asserting our narratives, this can further render us voiceless. It seems like wala naman siyang direct effect, pero the dangers of it ay nararamdaman na natin ngayon,” she said. 

The webinar #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality was hosted by Pat Bringas and was organized by Metro Manila Pride.

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