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Ust law student dies in ‘hazing’

By JAIMIE ROSE R. ABERIA, with a report from Mario Casayuran

The father of a first year law student of the University of Santos Tomas (UST) is seeking justice for the death of his son in alleged fraternity initiation rites.

Police said the victim, 22-year-old Horacio Tomas “Atyo” Castillo III was wrapped in a blanket when found by a witness on a sidewalk in Balut, Tondo, last Sunday, a day after he told his parents he would be attending the overnight “welcoming rites” of the Aegis Juris Fraternity – a law-based fraternity duly accredited by the university.

The victim was brought to Chinese General Hospital but was declared dead on arrival. His body was covered with bruises and had candle wax drip marks

Castillo’s father Horacio said his son did not want to join a fraternity, but was later convinced when promised that there would be no hazing involved.

“He told us there will be an initiation, he will be asked to do something, but no body harm will be involved,” the older Horacio said in a radio interview.

Horacio said his son went through extreme pain because he had hematoma and burns on the different parts of the body.

Last Friday, the victim told his parents the initiation was over and the fraternity will welcome him as a new member on Saturday.

“He went to UST on Saturday and he promised he will be back Sunday morning,” Horacio added.

But Sunday morning came and Horacio III was still not home and not answering texts and calls.

“We tried calling him but his phone was off. This went on until Sunday 6 p.m. and my wife got worried because my son would usually call her and text her and now there’s not even a call or a text,” he said.

His son, he said, left a pamphlet of Aegis Jvris, which had the contact details of his recruiters so they started calling the numbers but still received no response.

“Siguro kakakulit, may nag-anonymous text that my son is in Chinese General Hospital,” he said.

Horacio lamented that his son’s life could have been saved if he was given immediate treatment at nearby hospitals in Sampaloc.

“My son was saying it’s a good frat, maka-Diyos sila. Ang daming hospital sa Sampaloc, they could have given him immediate treatment but they dumped him in the sidewalk,” he said. “We want justice. My son is only 22 years old.”

MPD spokesperson Erwin Margarejo assured the family that they will look into all possible angles in the incident.

“All angles tinitignan natin, including hazing. Usually kasi kapag may hematoma, leading na may torture or may hazing,” he said.

He also called on witnesses to come forward and coordinate with them.

“Makakaasa kayong lahat ng information will be treated confidentially,” Margarejo said.

As of yesterday, police were gathering statements from the family of the victim.

UST, meanwhile, said that they are saddened by the unfortunate incident and that they condemn hazing in any form or manner.

“We express our profound sympathy and offer our prayers to his family for their pain and anguish – a pain that we share seeing that the life of our very own student, with all of its aspirations and potentials taken away because of a senseless act,” he said. “Violence has no place in an academic institution, particularly the University of Santo Tomas that values and promotes charity and compassion.”

The UST Civil Law Student Council is set to hold a prayer vigil at the civil law lobby 6 p.m. Monday for the “untimely demise of Horacio Castillo III as well as all the victims of hazing.”

Members of Aegis Juris Fraternity have been suspended from entering the UST premises starting yesterday to give way to investigations on the death of 22-year-old Horacio Castillo III.

A memorandum order signed by lawyer Nilo Divina, Faculty of Civil Law dean, said that officials and members of the fraternity “would not be allowed to enter the campus or the Faculty of Civil Law or attend classes until further orders” to ensure unobstructed investigation.

Divina said investigations are now underway to determine the culpability “so that appropriate sanctions may be imposed.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian yesterday called on the leadership of the UST to take the lead in seeking justice for Castillo III.

Although he saw the facts surrounding Castillo’s death as quite similar to hazing deaths reported in recent years, Gatchalian noted one key difference: Unlike most incidents, the fraternity linked to Castillo’s death is a duly accredited student organization of the educational institution it calls home.

“The fact that the fraternity being implicated in this hazing death is recognized by the university itself as a legitimate student organization means that UST cannot pull the same tricks used by other schools in the past to evade responsibility for the criminal actions of their students,’’ he said.

“UST has an even greater obligation than ever to uncover the truth of this incident and hold Atyo’s killers accountable for their sick crimes,” he added.

In light of this tragedy, Gatchalian renewed his call for the passage of revamped legislation to replace the 22-year old Republic Act No. 8049, otherwise known as the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.

Gatchalian’s proposed replacement measure, Senate Bill No. 199, would repeal RA 8049 to institute a more comprehensive anti-hazing regime by providing a more prohibitive definition of hazing.

It would expand the scope of liabilities and increasing the penalties for hazing offenders, and mandating educational institutions to play a central role in hazing prevention and awareness. The bill, originally filed by then-congressman Gatchalian as House Bill No. 5760 during the 16th Congress, was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading but failed to gain Senate approval before the end of the term.