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opinion / Columnists

Collateral damage from Atio’s death

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Collateral damage from Atio’s death

The death by hazing of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III has certainly had an impact far beyond his family, his friends, his prospective “brods” at the Aegis Juris fraternity, his classmates at the UST Faculty of Civil Law, and indeed, all his fellow Thomasians.

TV footage of his corpse, with the dark blue and deep maroon contusions on his legs and arms, could not but move even the casual viewer. Especially when this gruesome sight was beheld in contrast with a photograph showing a chubby, smiling young man wearing glasses, exuding optimism, even humor.

It is the sense of wasted youth, of the loss of a young person of promise, that draws the deepest feelings. One can’t blame his parents for pulling out all the stops to pursue justice for their son. For indeed, like other hazing victims before him, Atio was treated in a manner farthest from the ideals of “brotherhood” that drew him to join a fraternity in the first place.

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The early story peddled by John Paul Solano, who said he brought Atio’s remains to the Chinese General Hospital where he was declared “dead on arrival” is hair-raising. As Solano first said in his account,
he “found” Atio’s body abandoned on a sidewalk in Tondo.

Only later would the full details emerge. Solano eventually said he was “summoned” by his “brods” in Aegis Juris supposedly to provide first aid to Atio in their “library” near the university. Finding the recruit unresponsive, Solano and the other frat members loaded him onto the pick-up owned by Antonio Trangia and son Ralph Trangia, a frat official, and drove the unconscious young man to Chinese General. CCTV footage also showed Solano trailing the pick-up on his motorcycle.

When doctors at the hospital declared Atio dead, the frat members fled. It would take Atio’s family more than a day of frantic searching before they were told where the young man’s body was. So much for brotherhood.

As dean of the UST Faculty of Civil Law, lawyer Nilo Divina cannot help but be “involved” in the entire issue of Atio’s recruitment, hazing and death. Especially since Divina has been a member of the Aegis Juris since his student days, although he says he has been on leave from the fraternity since he was appointed law dean in 2009.

Count Divina, too, as among the “collateral damage” wrought by the death of the young Castillo. Certainly, his reputation as an educator of future lawyers has been tarnished. And since he also happens to lead Divina Law, one of the top rising law firms in the country today, his reputation in the legal community has been damaged as well.

In a statement, the Castillo family called on officials of the law school to ensure “swift justice” for Atio, pleading for “a thorough, impartial, and swift investigation into Atio’s murder.” Calling specifically on Divina, the Castillo family also asked him “to exhibit heroic leadership and champion the rights of Atio, his fallen student, regardless of his affiliation with this fraternity.”

Divina himself agrees. He believes, in fact, that the Anti-Hazing Law, which bans this harmful, senseless practice but subject to many conditions, should be strengthened with an outright ban on hazing, especially the physical and psychological torture that newbies are made to undergo.

All he wants, says Divina, is that the many “lies” being spread about his involvement in the Castillo case be corrected, if not rescinded entirely. Early on, there were reports that it was Divina himself who convinced Atio to join Aegis Juris since the older Castillos were friends of his. No truth at all to that, says Divina, and in a Senate hearing, Atio’s father denied that he knew Divina personally.

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And despite a lawyer’s claim that officials of Aegis Juris rushed to Divina’s home after the tragic initiation to ask for his help, Divina says it is nothing but “another outright lie.”

I’m inclined to believe that Divina already feels the burden of responsibility and guilt in relation to Atio’s passing. But it would be unfair to ascribe to him deeds and motives without proof or certainty.

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TAGS: Horacio “Atio” Castillo III
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