THE UST community is up in arms over the killing of Horacio Tomas Castillo III, whose fatal hazing has raised concerns over a possible cover-up and the effectiveness of a 22-year-old law.
University officials, in a statement, condemned the killing “in no uncertain terms” and vowed to bring to justice members of the UST-based Aegis Juris Fraternity.
At least three Aegis Juris members, including John Paul Solano, have come forward and denied involvement in the fatal hazing that took place on Sept. 17 at their fraternity library outside UST.
The UST statement on Sept. 18 said “violence has no place in an academic institution.”
“We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the perpetrators [will] be meted with appropriate sanctions and brought to justice,” it said.
But why the hazing by a fraternity long recognized by the UST Faculty of Civil Law happened in the first place raised questions on whether the school had done enough to prevent it.
The law school dean, Nilo Divina, is among the most prominent members of Aegis Juris. But he claimed he was on leave from the fraternity and had not been informed about the initiation rites.
Fraternity alumni are divided over how to deal with issue, as some wanted a coverup, said lawyer Paterno Esmaquel, an Aegis Juris founder who has volunteered to be Solano’s counsel.
“This is the end of your fraternity, believe me,” Castillo’s uncle Gerardo told the Varsitarian.
“I don’t know if any neophyte will ever join your organization.”
Castillo’s body was initially reported to have been found in Tondo, Manila by Solano, who rushed the freshman to Chinese General Hospital early on Sunday, Sept. 17.
But police later found that Solano was a member of Aegis Juris and named him a principal suspect.
Solano, a medical technologist, later admitted he had been told by fellow fraternity members to make up the story.
He told a Senate investigation on Sept. 25 he had only been asked to attend to Castillo, 22, who he found “half-dead” at the fraternity library on Laon-Laan Street.
Hundreds of mourners turned up for Castillo’s funeral at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque last Sept. 27.
College of Education Regent Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P., who led the Requiem Mass, condemned the senseless killing, saying a “brotherhood that seeks to harm just to bond does not come from God.”
“The only picture I know, as a priest, that seeks to harm in order to bond is no other than the demon himself – the prince of darkness,” he said in his homily.
Cabading was accompanied by two vice rectors – Fathers Pablo Tiong O.P. and Roland Castro, O.P.
“The death of our brother, Horacio, does not end in nothing… it is faith that compels us to act,” Cabading said.
At the Quadricentennial Square last Sept. 18, students held a candle-lighting ceremony in memory of Castillo, 22, who finished political science at the Faculty of Arts and Letters.
Artlets Regent Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P. said the death of Castillo should remind Thomasians of the need to denounce the culture of violence and uphold human dignity.
“A Thomasian should do no harm to another Thomasian. Even the sin of a Thomasian will become a responsibility for all of us. [We] are praying for the conversion of those involved in this criminal activity. Let them fall to God’s justice,” Aligan said during a Mass for Castillo at the Central Seminary chapel last Sept. 22.
Castillo’s parents, Horacio Jr. and Carmina, in separate media interviews, said their son had sought permission to join “welcome” rites for new members of Aegis Juris on Sept. 16, after week-long initiation activities.
Castillo promised to be home the following day. He never came back.
His parents came looking for him at the fraternity library. On their way home, the mother said she got a text message from an anonymous sender saying her son had been brought to Chinese General Hospital.
They found their son at Archangel Funeral Homes in Sampaloc.
Horacio Jr. said his son’s body was bloated, had hematomas on both arms, and bore bruises and burns from candle wax and cigarettes.
Carmina said her son succumbed to a massive heart attack because of severe trauma.
“He died alone… He was only 22,” she said in one interview. “He wanted to be a senator. He wanted to be president. They took that away from him.”
Closed-circuit television footage later showed Solano arriving at the fraternity office and library in the morning of Sept. 17.
He was seen riding a motorcycle that followed a red Mitsubishi pickup and a black Toyota Fortuner to the Chinese General Hospital.
Solano and 16 other Aegis Juris members were placed on an immigration lookout bulletin.
On Sept. 25, they were charged with murder, violation of the Anti-Hazing Law and robbery (see related story on page 14). Castillo’s mobile phone, cash and credit card were missing.
Police also charged Solano with perjury and obstruction of justice for giving false testimony.
On Sept. 22, he turned himself in to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who headed the Senate inquiry into Castillo’s killing.
The Manila Police District took custody of Solano, but the Department of Justice later ordered his release for a preliminary investigation.
Aegis Juris members Aeron Salientes and Jason Adolfo Robiños also surrendered to the police but denied involvement in Castillo’s fatal hazing.