Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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opinion / Columnists

Frat men abide by ‘omerta’

opinion / Columnists
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Frat men abide by ‘omerta’

Listening to the exchange of messages that feverishly flew in the immediate wake of the death of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, one can’t help but feel anger at these supposedly educated and learned lawyers and law students. Through their messages, one could sense an overriding concern to evade the law, deceive law enforcers, and worst of all prolong the agony of Atio’s family.

The “brods” expressed their worries about the fate of all the Aegis Juris members who were present at the hazing, saying their future would be jeopardized. I wondered to myself: Surely they haven’t forgotten that another young man died? And that his parents and all those who cared about him were not just grieving but also seeking justice for his senseless death?

But not only were the frat members worrying about their frat brothers. They were also actively seeking ways to delay, frustrate, if not altogether derail, the investigation into Atio’s death.

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Sen. Grace Poe’s voice rose and thundered when several Aegis Juris members invoked their right against self-incrimination while refusing to answer her questions. Committee chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson even threatened to send them to the Pasay City Jail over the long Senate recess.

But the frat members were steadfast in their silence, upholding the supposed “omerta” or code of silence operative in the Mafia and in fraternal societies. Perhaps they were—are—counting on “big brother” to save them from the rightful clutches of the law.

What a sad commentary on the way lawyers are trained, but especially for the Aegis Juris leaders and members, who are studying at or graduated from the Catholic University of Santo Tomas. But it’s not just UST or AJ under the microscope. What about the missing P1,000 that saved from charges of plunder two of President Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s frat mates in San Beda College’s Lex Talionis? Lord save us from frat men of their ilk!

I just received my new passport, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how easy, quick and convenient the entire process has been.

For my last passport, I got in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, visited his office at the DFA’s main office, then was told to proceed to the passport-issuing office in Pasay. They had informed the personnel to “facilitate” my application, I was told. Wading my way through the crowds at the passport-issuing office, I still had to wait about 15 minutes before my name was called. It was a relatively painless procedure although my disheveled appearance in my passport photo would attest to the heat, congestion and confusion I experienced. At one point, the lady at the counter asked me to enter the office behind the counter, and, expecting another bureaucratic encounter, found myself taking a selfie with the clerk and a companion.

When I recounted my passport experience, friends and family exclaimed, “But you finished in one day! Others would have to come back many times before finalizing the process!”

With that passport about to expire, I was contemplating approaching the DFA again but my son advised me to try the passport office at Megamall instead, saying “senior citizens” like me don’t need to set up an appointment at all. True enough, when I got to the passport office, the clerk who asked for an ID at the receiving desk told me to take a seat behind the counter and fill out the form there. It took a wait of just five minutes or so before I was called for the picture taking, then was told to proceed to another counter for the payment. Another stop at the courier counter, and I was done!

And now I have my new passport, and I must say kudos to the DFA and to all the entities behind this new, more efficient operation which I had been observing in previous years. To everyone—former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and current Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (but not to former secretary Perfecto Yasay who sought to scuttle the program), the DFA officials working out the details over the years, and the folks over at APO charged with gathering the data and printing the passports—this taxpayer thanks you with a more-than-grateful heart!

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TAGS: Aegis Juris, Fraternity, hazing, Horacio “Atio” Castillo III
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