FACULTY members and alumni of the Aegis Juris law fraternity of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) may have been involved in hazing rites that led to the death of a 22-year-old law school freshman abandoned on Sunday at a sidewalk in Tondo, Manila.
“We are looking at the involvement of at least six Aegis Juris members who are officers or members of the organization and also the possibility of the involvement of faculty members and alumni, graduates of UST who are members of Aegis Juris,” Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, head of the Manila Police District (MPD), told reporters on Monday.
Police have obtained the names of some of the fraternity officials “but we are keeping it confidential as of this moment because follow-up operations and investigations are ongoing,” Coronel said.
“We are coordinating with the school authorities of the University of Santo Tomas to provide us the details on that. Because under the anti-hazing law, the school authorities should be informed if there are such activities by any organization under their jurisdiction, and that they have to tell us who are the officers and members of the fraternity, those who attended,” he added.
The father of alleged hazing victim Horacio Tomas Castillo 3rd said the first-year law student was a victim of hazing based on autopsy results. The findings showed he suffered cardiac arrest as a result of severe trauma.
Horacio Castillo 2nd told reporters his son and namesake had hematomas on both upper arms, while bruises and candle wax burns were seen in different parts of the body.
“These people are animals…I don’t know how they can do this to people,” he fumed.
“We want justice for our son. You don’t bury your sons and daughters. They are the ones that should bury you,” he said in a radio interview.
The mother, Carmina, said Horacio 3rd dreamed of becoming a senator and president someday.
“They took that away from him,” she told radio station dzBB.
Police said the victim, a resident of San Lorenzo Village in Makati City, was declared dead on arrival at Chinese General Hospital on Sunday at 11:45 a.m.
His body was found at 7:50 a.m. on Sunday at the corner of Honorio Lopez Boulevard and Infanta Street in Balut, Tondo by John Paul Solano, 27, a medical technologist of San Lazaro Hospital.
The victim, 5’7” tall, wore a white t-shirt with the words “Political Science, University of Santo Tomas” and blue jersey short pants. He was barefoot.
From the hospital, the body was brought to Archangel Funeral Homes in Sampaloc, Manila for autopsy.
Horacio 2nd and Carmina said they allowed their son to join the “welcoming rites” of Aegis Juris Fraternity on Saturday, confident that there would be no hazing. Horacio 3rd told them the fraternity’s weeklong initiation activities were finished.
Their son also gave them a pamphlet listing prominent alumni of the fraternity founded in 1979 and dubbed the “factory of lawyers,” including the dean of the UST Faculty of Civil Law, Nilo Divina.
Other alumni are Isabela Rep. Edwin Uy, Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco, and lawyers Gabriel Robeniol, Arthur Doblado and Irvin Fabella, according to website of the law college.
“He told us there will be an initiation, he will be asked to do something, but no harm will be involved,” Horacio 2nd said.
“He went to UST on Saturday and he promised he will be back Sunday morning,” the father, in tears, told reporters at the Homicide Section of the MPD where he was giving his sworn statement.
Horacio 3rd was not home by lunchtime and was not answering calls and text messages.
“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,” the father said.
They also tried to call the numbers in the Aegis Juris pamphlet but were unsuccessful.
UST condemns hazing
The UST administration issued a statement assuring the family of a thorough investigation.
Divina suspended all Aegis Juris fraternity members and barred them from entering the UST campus in Sampaloc, Manila.
“[W]e condemn in no uncertain terms hazing in any form or manner. Violence has no place in an academic institution, particularly in the University of Santo Tomas that values and promotes charity and compassion. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the perpetrators [will]be meted the appropriate sanctions and brought to justice,” the UST administration said in a statement.
“Investigation is on-going to ferret out the truth, determine liability and institute the necessary legal actions.”
Students held a prayer vigil on campus at 6 p.m.
“Another unnecessary death, we have to ensure that perpetrators will be put to justice! Make fraternities and sororities accountable by signing an agreement each school year to commit that they will not put their neophytes in any kind of hazing, and if such transpired then they will all be accountable for the consequences.
The community must never tolerate this culture,” the UST Civil Law Student Council said in a statement.
In a statement to ABS-CBN News, Aegis Juris said “The Fraternity extends its condolences to the bereaved family of Horacio at these very trying times. Rest assured that the Fraternity will extend its utmost cooperation in the investigation of this unfortunate incident.”
Under the Anti-Hazing Law or Republic Act 8049, violators face life imprisonment.
Hazing is defined as an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization, “by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish, and other similar tasks.”
WITH FRANCIS EARL CUETO AND RJ CARBONELL