CIVIL Law Dean Nilo Divina has denied allegations that he was negligent or part of a cover-up in the fraternity hazing death of law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, citing his efforts to help in the criminal investigation.

“I was not part of any cover up. I was not even mentioned in the group chat. I even assisted in the surrender of [John Paul] Solano which made the investigation move forward because without Solano, they could not have moved forward,” Divina told the Varsitarian in an interview.

A Senate committee report released on Jan. 25 found that Aegis Juris Fraternity alumni attempted to cover up Castillo’s death and even coordinated through an online messaging application.

Divina said it was “unfair” for him to be included in disbarment proceedings together with 20 other lawyers as recommended by the Senate committee, given his efforts to assist in the probe.

Main suspect Solano, a medical technology alumnus, tagged six other Aegis Juris members involved in Atio’s death. But it was Mark Anthony Ventura who agreed to cooperate fully in the investigation, and applied to join the government’s Witness Protection Program.

‘Dignified silence’

Divina maintained the University was not negligent because hazing is prohibited by UST “in all forms.”

In February 2017, the Civil Law Student Welfare Development Board released a memo ordering all fraternities and sororities in the Faculty not to recruit freshmen, and to “strictly follow the Anti-Hazing Law.”

Violators are subject to disciplinary action and sanctions based on the UST Student Handbook.

Divina said the University’s silence was “dignified” and did not mean that it was indifferent. An independent committee was also formed to investigate the hazing death, he noted.

“I just want to call it dignified silence. But that doesn’t mean UST is lacking anything. UST is not indifferent, not apathetic. UST cares and UST is doing [something] about it, in the usual, dignified way,” Divina said.

In a statement released last Feb. 18, the University administration said a committee investigating the hazing death found eight law students “guilty of violating the Code of Conduct and Discipline,” meriting the “supreme penalty of expulsion.”

The committee, formed by UST Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. last Sept. 19, said it observed due process and conducted hearings in the presence of representatives of the Legal Education Board.

‘I spoke with one of the parents’

Divina said he reached out to the parents of Atio.

“Despite the charges filed against me, I went to them and I assured them that I will assist them in bringing about justice for Atio. I don’t think it’s true that I was not expressing my condolences,” he said.

“Even in the hearing it was very clear [that I reached out to them]. Probably, they must have forgotten that I spoke with one of the parents the [day after Atio’s death], Monday,” Divina added.

Divina said he offered financial assistance to the family of Atio but the parents declined.

“I went to the wake on Wednesday… I offered to shoulder the [expenses]. I initially offered P300,00 [and] it was readily given through my former student Claire Castillo, their niece, but it was not accepted,” he said.

Carmina, Atio’s mother, claimed in a Senate probe last October that she “never spoke” with Divina.

No complaints

Divina said he accepted the difficulties as “heaven-sent opportunities” for “reparation and sanctification.”

“I have never been absent in my lectures, in my classes. My students see me, cheerful and serene [because I am] a Thomasian… [If I were not] a Thomasian, I don’t think I would have survived [and] accepted the difficulties,” he said.

Divina also said he would not step down from his post as there was no basis for him to end his third and last term as law dean abruptly.

“As you know, no one among my students asked me for my resignation because I would like to believe that they know that I am committed to promote their welfare. I am here for them. It is a matter between me and the stakeholders of UST,” he said. 


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