Perhaps because he has largely paid lip service to the extra-judicial killings (EJK) of the Duterte administration whose Senate coalition he’s a diehard of, and perhaps too because he and his father had supported Ferdinand Marcos and his corrupt and oppressive strongman rule, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero could sound cheesy and brag about his dubious credentials as an advocate of peace and non-violence at the cost of the University already reeling from the trauma of the fatal fraternity hazing of Horacio Tomas Castillo III.
Chiz is one cheese that stinks.
In a Senate press briefing, Escudero alleged UST was “lacking concern” and silent on the death of Castillo. Where has he been all along? The University authorities have cooperated with the investigation since Day One, as the Manila Police District itself has acknowledged. University authorities such as Vice Chancellor and Philippine Dominican Province Prior Provincial Napoleon Sipalay Jr., O.P., Faculty of Arts and Letters Regent Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P., and Dean Michael Vasco have led the campus community in commiserating with the Castillo family in their hour of grief.
Official statements of UST have condemned the killing and other senseless acts of violence, including EJKs and the reimposition of the death penalty, the last two matters of course Escudero and his bloodthirsty pro-Duterte Senate cohorts would rather also ignore and feign not to have knowledge of. Mahirap gisingin ang nagtutulog-tulugan. Mahirap makarinig ang nagbibingi-bingihan.
But as we have said in the previous editorial, the Castillo incident should be seen in the broader and more sordid panorama of killings and violence thriving in the nation’s culture of death.
While the Senate majority has ignored EJKs and practically abolished the budget of the Commission on Human Rights, it has been quick to jump on the Castillo bandwagon: they include someone involved in bloodthirsty sport turned Bible-thumping pastor who revels in the literal interpretation of the Old Testament, particularly its more bloodthirsty aspects; a crass comedian whose most memorable role is as a cretin and dunce on a TV sitcom titled “Iskul Bukol” (Literal translation: Academy of Blockheads. You can take the senator out of “Iskul Bukol but you cannot take “Iskul Bukol” out of the senator!): and a Mindanao lawmaker whose integrity and intelligence are as thorny as the exotic pineapple (with apologies to the pineapple, of course).
Escudero’s unfair remarks therefore are calculated to stir up frenzy against UST the better to lengthen the 15 minutes of notoriety that the Castillo case has acquired so as to remove from the public’s concern the genocidal rise of EJK’s and violence, abetted exactly by lawmakers and officials who turn a blind eye on the corruption and violence perpetrated by the administration to whom they have given their support and loyalty in the tried and tested old-politics tradition of nepotism, horse-trading, and influence-peddling.
It is easy to see that the Senate hearing has merely allowed senators to grandstand while enabling the killers of Castillo and their accomplices to buy time and buttress their defense, if not altogether make a clean getaway. Previous high-profile killings due to hazing, involving both law and non-law fraternities, have been thrown out of court.
Clearly what the Senate should do would be to fill loopholes of the law or pass another law that bans hazing altogether. But since the Senate is filled with fraternity brethren, it wouldn’t do that.
It would just grandstand and crucify institutions like UST that have stood all these centuries for peace, non-violence, justice, and moral integrity, values that are hardly visible in the Duterte administration and the instrumentalities of the state.
Aegis Juris Fraternity has conveniently exploited for itself Senate grandstanding in order to improve its legal position, with members invoking their right against self-incrimination and generally refusing to cooperate with the Senate inquiry, which only abets grandstanding senators like Escudero to do more of the sordid same. Aegis Juris means “shield of justice” and it is obviously using its legal shield to evade justice and perpetrate larger injustices against the victim, his family, and his school, UST.
Aegis Juris may have officially stated it would cooperate with the investigation, but it appears to have been doing the opposite.
In the Senate inquiry on Oct. 18, the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed a closed-circuit television footage from Novotel in Quezon City where at least 19 fraternity members, incumbent and alumni, attended a meeting in the afternoon of Sept. 17, the Sunday of Castillo’s death. It was later disclosed by the PNP that before the meeting, the members exchanged Facebook messages, discussing how they would “cover up, conceal, avoid and evade prosecution.” Member Ralph Trangia even fled to Chicago. All of this smacks of obstruction of justice.
During the Senate inquiry, the members kept refusing to answer even the most basic questions, invoking their right against self-incrimination. It is obvious they were protecting their hide and their fraternity due to loyalty and sheer self-preservation, twisted values that Aegis Juris shares with other Greek-letter fraternities, values that are cultivated by secret societies and criminal syndicates such as the Mafia and the Yakuza.
These same values are in full display in state instrumentalities, including the Senate and the criminal justice system. They thrive on the old boys’ network of nepotism, horse-trading,influence-peddling, and yes, political granstanding like Chiz Escudero’s. As we have said all along, the culture of death and impunity has been alive all along on and off campus.
And that culture has started to smell foul and stinking like Chiz, er, cheese (with apologies to cheese, of course).