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Divina on disbarment raps: My conscience is clear

A senate committee report on the fatal hazing case of law freshman Horacio Castillo III recommended the disbarment of Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina and other Aegis Juris lawyers.

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Photo courtesy of Mong Pintolo/The Philippine Star.

Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina emphasized that his conscience is clear on Wednesday, following the recommendation of a Senate panel for his disbarment, along with 18 other lawyers of the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

In a committee report on Tuesday, the Senate Committees on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and Justice and Human Rights, led by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, has called on Divina to resign from his post as the least he can do to make up for the “injustice” done to hazing victim Horacio Castillo III’s family.

Castillo died during the hazing rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity (READ: UST law freshman found dead after frat hazing).

Divina is an alumnus of the said fraternity.

“My conscience is clear. I did not do anything wrong, illegal or unethical. I did all I could have done under the circumstances to prevent incidents of hazing from happening during my watch as Dean,” Divina’s statement read.

Divina had already dismissed calls to take a leave of absence from his post last October as investigations on the death of the law freshman were ongoing (READ: Civil Law dean rejects idea of stepping down amid Atio’s death probe).

The Senate report, posted in its official website, noted photos that showed Divina’s “active participation” during fraternity anniversaries and his “discretionary acts” before and after Castillo’s death refute his “never-ending claims of temporarily severing ties” with the fraternity.

Also, Divina expressed dismay over the committee’s questioning of his statements despite his assistance to the case.

“I understand that as a Dean who happens to also be a member of the Fraternity, all my actions, despite conscious efforts on my part to be totally impartial, will naturally be subjected to extraordinary scrutiny,” Divina said.

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“Nonetheless, I remain confident of vindication regardless of the accusations hurled or charges that have been filed or may still be filed,” he added.

Moreover, Divina stated that he would not allow the faults of some and the unfair accusations of the few to get in the way of fulfilling his job as a dean.

“I regret with all my heart what had happened to Atio but a wrong can not be rectified by another justice,” Divina said.

Divina, along 20 of his associates in DivinaLaw, is also facing disbarment raps from Patricia Bautista, the estranged wife of former Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista (READ: Comelec chair’s wife files disbarment case vs. Civil Law dean, 20 others).—A. Ortega

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Thomasian publications, media groups condemn attacks on press freedom

Student publications and media organizations of the University joined the calls to defend press freedom in the midst of the government’s ‘attacks’ on journalists and the media.

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Several publications and media organizations of the University lambasted the government’s “attacks on press freedom” in a statement on Thursday, following the ban of a Rappler reporter from Malacañang.

“We, student publications, writers and media organizations of the University of Santo Tomas, strongly manifest our unity with other media organizations in condemning the Duterte administration’s efforts to stifle press freedom in the country,” the statement titled “Uphold the truth! Defend press freedom!” read.

It added: “In these crucial times when our freedoms are being attacked and threatened, we, campus journalists, writers, and media practitioners, must stand and fight to defend our rights.”

Rappler reporter and Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) member Pia Ranada was prevented from entering the New Executive Building in Malacañang on Tuesday morning, Feb. 20. A day after, Ranada said she was informed by Malacañang that she could no longer enter the entire palace complex.

In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque revealed that it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who ordered his officials to ban Ranada and Rappler from covering his events in the Malacañang.

Nonetheless, the MPC stated that Ranada would remain a member unless the Court of Appeals upholds the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling on Rappler’s registration.

Last month, the SEC revoked Rappler’s certificate of registration, sparking protests from various media groups, militant organizations, and politicians (READ: Media groups protest attacks on press freedom).

The groups, moreover, expressed concern over the President’s “repeated” disregard for the law.

“It is alarming that President Rodrigo Duterte himself—who has repeatedly shown contempt for human rights, rule of law, and checks and balances—is now going after the free press to silence and intimidate critics of his administration,” the document stated.

In his second State of the Nation Address, the President also attacked other major media outfits such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, accusing them of being biased in their reports about him. The statement also cited the blocking of the license renewal of the 54 radio stations of the Catholic Media Network, which is owned by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders declared the country the deadliest country in Asia for journalists, with a record of four journalists killed last year.

Other reported killings of journalists were also recorded by local media groups such as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in the first 16 months of the Duterte administration, including death threats from local officials and pro-administration bloggers.

The statement also condemned threats on campus publications, particularly the military surveillance and red-tagging of campus journalists in Bicol, and Mocha Uson’s tirades on Ateneo de Manila University’s Matanglawin after it lampooned Uson’s blog in 2016.

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Furthermore, the groups stated that they “will continue to serve the people and stand for freedom, democracy, and most importantly, veritas: The truth.”

The signatories of the statement include Amierielle Anne Bulan, editor-in-chief of The Varsitarian; Philip Jamilla, executive editor of TomasinoWeb; Noelle Aetana Malagkit, chief communications officer of the Tomasian Media Circle and Talents; Joshua Carl Palomera, president of the Thomasian Writers Guild; Mikkah Factor, editor-in-chief of The Flame; Mary Joy Abalos, editor-in-chief of La Stampa Tomasino; Ristel Mae Tagudando, editor-in-chief of The Purple Gazette; Patricia Lee Yanga, president of the UST Journalism Society; and Neal Andreu Tayco, president of the UST Literary Society.

University officials have not expressed their stand regarding the matter as of press time.—M. G. Parlade

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Journalists urge Thomasians to be more aware in battling fake news

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“The responsibility falls on you to be aware.”

This is what an editor from the Philippine Star (PhilStar) advised aspiring journalists during a forum last Monday, Feb. 19.

Matikas Santos, an online editor at PhilStar,  said that the best way to stop the proliferation of fake news is to be knowledgeable of what is fake and what is not.

“It goes down to a lack of personal knowledge. If hindi ka aware sa basic facts ng mga bagay-bagay, ng mga issue, you’re more likely to believe whatever anybody tells you,” said Santos.

He told students to be objective and not readily accept information given by anyone, even by authority.

“The first step to really fighting fake news is to really look at ourselves, and the way we perceive, the things we see on social media.”

Moreover, PhilStar reporter Jan Viktor Mateo said that journalists should be transparent on how they verify their sources in order to avoid the spread of misinformation.

“We should know which of these sources of information are credible enough for you to actually believe and for you to trust before sharing any information,” Mateo said.

“It’s not so difficult to verify information if you know how to look for it,” he added.

The forum titled, “How Press Works: The Real Story Behind Fake News”, was organized by The Flame, the official student publication of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters.—H.M. Amoroso

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UST expels 8 law students linked in Atio Castillo hazing

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The University expelled eight law students linked to Horacio “Atio” Castillo III’s death after being found guilty of violating the Code of Conduct and Discipline.

The Committee formed by UST Rector Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P.  last September,  issued its first resolution after administering hearings with representatives from the Legal Education Board. 

The panel, composed of six UST administrators and a representative from the Central Student Council, said it will continue the investigation until all students involved in Atio’s hazing are held administratively liable. However, the University has not named the expelled students.

“I understand that their names should be kept confidential but the University’s action has already reached national news.  I also hope that the result of their independent investigation was given to these students before they have arrived at such decision,” said UST Civil Law Student Council President Jonathan Santos in an online interview with TomasinoWeb. 

He added, “It’s just one part of due process. Many more things to consider before resorting to expulsion.”

The suspects in the hazing incident were immediately identified after UST coordinated with the Manila Police District and the National Bureau of Investigation last September.

The University had also released a statement yesterday after it had filed charges and submitted reports and documents to the Department of Justice.

“The University reiterates its commitment to ferret out the truth, determine liability, and impose the appropriate sanctions. In the Eucharistic Celebrations held at the UST Faculty of Civil Law, at the Santuario de San Antonio during the wake and at the UST Chapel during the day of mourning for the death of Horacio, UST has always been one with the Castillo family in the steadfast call for everyone to pray and work together to achieve justice for Horacio and for truth to prevail,” the statement read in defense to the allegations of being apathetic to the freshman law student’s death.

The 22-year-old Castillo died September of last year after undergoing initiation rites with Aegis Juris, a fraternity in the Faculty of Civil Law wherein the faculty’s dean Nilo Divina was one of its alumni. – W. Orlina

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