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Aegis Juris fratman guilty of obstruction of justice in Atio’s death

(UPDATED) One of the principal suspects in the killing of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, John Paul Solano, has been convicted of obstruction of justice and acquitted of perjury by a Manila court.

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Photo by Julius Villavieja

(UPDATED June 18, 5:52 p.m.) One of the principal suspects in the killing of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, John Paul Solano, has been convicted of obstruction of justice and acquitted of perjury by a Manila court.

In a decision promulgated by Judge Carolina Esguerra of Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14, Solano was sentenced to an indefinite penalty of a minimum of two years, four months and one day in prison and a maximum of four years, two months and one day.

Solano, a member of Aegis Juris Fraternity brought Castillo to Chinese General Hospital after the initiation rites of the fraternity in 2017 after he was called to revive Castillo.

He initially said in his report to the police that he found Castillo’s body in Tondo, and later admitted to having given an incorrect lead to the police.

The ruling of the court states that Solano “gave false and fabricated information to mislead the police or prevent them from apprehending those responsible for the death of Castillo.”

In addition, Solano failed to convince the court that he lied because of fear of being involved in the crime, as the ruling stated that his claim was “imminent” and “speculative.”

His perjury charges were cleared due to police missteps, and he cannot be sent to prison unless a final decision has been made since both obstruction of justice and perjury are bailable charges.

Hopeful at conviction, resentful for UST’s ‘silence’

In an interview, Castillo’s parents said that they are looking at filing more complaints of obstruction of justice against several Aegis Juris members included in the Facebook group chat which discussed his death. This includes Cavite’s 5th District Board Member-elect, lawyer Kevin Anarna.

Horacio Jr. and Carmina Castillo said that the conversations in the chat group prove the obstruction of justice and the attempt to cover up the death of their son.

“We are very happy [about] the conviction of the obstruction. This is the first step to a perfect conviction,” said Carmina Castillo.

“So clearly, it can be shown ‘yong cover-up na nangyari. Hopefully, we will file cases again doon sa mga kasama, ‘yong mga lawyers, ‘yong mga involved doon sa cover-up,” Horacio Castillo Jr. added.

Castillo’s father also slammed the University’s inaction. “Wala silang cooperation, nothing,” Horacio Jr said.

The couple further added that the University has been very “silent” in the case.

Meanwhile, the ten other fraternity brothers who are currently in jail are still on trial for violating the anti-hazing law.

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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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