THE Supreme Court has ordered the release of Aegis Juris Fraternity leader Arvin Balag from detention in the Senate, where he was cited in contempt during the legislative inquiry into the hazing death of UST law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo 3rd.
The Supreme Court en banc mandated Balag’s release in a resolution dated December 12.
“Order in the interim the immediate release of petitioner Arvin Balag on the basis of his prayer set forth in his motion to resolve petition pending the resolution of the instant petition by the Court,” the ruling stated.
Castillo died after attending the “welcoming rites” of the fraternity last September 16.
Balag was released Thursday evening from Senate custody.
Balag had been detained at the Senate since October 18 after he was cited in contempt by the Senate Committee on Public Order for evading “basic” questions from the senators, such as whether he was president of the Aegis Juris Fraternity.
Balag’s lawyers sought a temporary restraining order against his detention and also an order for his release on October 25.
He claimed the contempt directive violated his constitutional rights. He said it also violated his right to fair trial and that the investigation was not in aid of legislation but “in aid of prosecution.”
Balag claimed he was also denied of his constitutional right to equal protection of the law, claiming other resource persons who refused to answer “incriminating questions” of senators were not cited in contempt.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the public order panel, held in September and October public hearings on the death of Castillo, who had participated in the initiation rites of the law fraternity.
Castillo, a first-year law student from the University of Santo Tomas, died on September 17 apparently from injuries suffered during hazing.
The Senate was about to release Balag on November 6 but his lawyers on that same day filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking his release.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Jose Balajadia said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and Lacson were informed of the Supreme Court directive.
Balajadia said he released Balag to his lawyers at about 7 p.m. on Thursday after he received the high court’s order.
WITH BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO