A ‘welcome opportunity’
One of the allegations being raised against Nilo Divina, founder of the firm Divina Law and dean of the UST Faculty of Civil Law, is that he was involved in the decision of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III to join the Aegis Juris fraternity.
Divina is a member of the same fraternity, although he says he went on leave from the organization when he was appointed law dean. Castillo’s parents say the reason their son was confident about joining Aegis Juris was that the dean of his college had been a member.
At 1 a.m. on Sept. 17 last year, Castillo took part in Aegis Juris’ initiation ceremony (he seems to have been the lone initiate). After four hours of what sounds like torture (paddling and having candle wax poured on him), Castillo collapsed and lost consciousness and was then taken to the Chinese General Hospital where doctors declared him dead.
Divina says the first time he heard about the tragedy was late in the morning of Sept. 17, when he was informed about the death of a student. “At that time, I didn’t know the details, and so asked that the matter be investigated, including who the student was and how he died,” Divina explains. Only when news of Castillo’s death broke out in the media the next day did he know the full details, says Divina. He then contacted a relative of the Castillos to ask if it was all right to pay a visit to Atio’s wake, which he did, talking to the Castillo couple and even offering to shoulder Atio’s funeral expenses.
But between the wake and funeral, and the Senate hearing on the hazing death, Divina’s role in the student’s passing—as alleged by his parents and their lawyers— grew to alarming proportions.
A claim was made that Atio, along with some members of Aegis Juris, had met with Divina and other alumni to “pay respects to his senior brods.” As “proof,” the Castillos presented a text message from Atio where he says that he was at the “Petron gas station along Buendia.” Indeed, there is such a gas station in the corner across the street from the building where the Divina Law offices (along with many other law firms) are located. The Castillos also presented video footage showing a male at the building lobby on the alleged date wearing a black jacket, which Mrs. Castillo said she recognized since she had bought it for her son.
Divina denies that Castillo, or any member of Aegis Juris, visited him or any member of his law firm on that day. Security cameras in Divina Law’s premises hold no footage of any such visit. Checking footage of the cameras in the building lobby, Divina says they discovered that the “man in the black jacket” was a sales agent of Century, the development firm which owns the building.
A further claim aired during the hearing and in subsequent interviews is that the Aegis Juris members who took part in the hazing had taken refuge in nothing less than Divina’s home, a claim the law dean vehemently denies.
Much of the charges implicating Divina and other Aegis Juris alumni in the hazing death of Castillo stem from the exchange of messages or “chats” involving fraternity members and alumni. Read aloud during a Senate hearing, the messages indeed contain concerns raised about the widening net implicating “brods,” including alumni. There were indeed suggestions raised about how the frat members should make themselves scarce and escape arrest or questioning. But there were also messages about how the frat members involved should face the consequences of their acts, raising the frat’s call to its members to “do no injustice.”
Divina makes clear his gratitude to the university for standing behind him, and to the law school’s faculty and students for their continued support. “I am most concerned about the reputation of the law school, which is more than 200 years old,” he says. His law firm, he notes, doesn’t seem to be unduly affected, “and in fact there are still so many applicants who want to join us.”
Still, he is grateful for the chance to answer point by point the charges raised against him. “It is a welcome opportunity,” Divina asserts.
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