Wenceslao: Frat’s plan fails

FOR a while I thought the case against the Aegis Juris fraternity members who killed Horacio “Atio” Castillo would hit a blank wall, considering efforts by those concerned to prevent the truth on the hazing incident from coming out. I initially thought that after the fraternity leaders and their elders have recovered from the initial shock, they have succeeded in building a wall of silence around them, aided no doubt by the legal shrewdness of their lawyer-elders.

I watched the demeanor during one of the Senate hearings on the Atio Castillo case of John Paul Solano, the first Aegis Juris member temporarily held in custody by the police and who was among those who brought Castillo to a hospital after he died from the beatings during an initiation rites. From one who seemed ready to tell all, he has morphed into an arrogant schemer. Piqued, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri likened Solano to a criminal syndicate member covering up for his brods.

It was obvious that behind the suspects in the Castillo death are legal minds who are not only doing a coverup but whose presence have intimidated the less guilty suspects who initially intended to come out and speak the truth. These legal practitioners are the examples of why I didn’t want to study law. But thank God there is a weak link in the Aegis Juris chain, and that is March Anthony Ventura, former secretary of the fraternity who has turned state witness.

This, I would say, was one of the breakthroughs needed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and should puncture a hole on the wall of silence that the suspects and the coverup plotters built around them. With Ventura’s testimony, we have been given a clearer picture of what happened that afternoon at the Aegis Juris library in when Castillo was subjected to what Sen. Panfilo Lacson said was an initiation rites that “could shock even those who have experienced the same ordeal.”

According to Ventura’s six-page affidavit, 23 Aegis Juris members plus a woman companion of one of them were in the initiation rites at the fraternity library located in Sampaloc, Manila. Castillo was punched in the arms “hangga’t hindi pumutok,” a description of the extent with which the neophyte should be beaten. Spatulas were used to minimize the swelling. Then he was beaten with paddles. And when Castillo lost consciousness melted wax was dropped on him.

The Senate committee on public order that Lacson heads still has a hearing on the matter scheduled for November 6. The committee members, which seemed to have been groping around in previous hearings, will already be armed with Ventura’s testimony. They can, thus, already come up with a better effort to ferret out the truth. And I hope more of the 23 suspects would be bothered by their conscience.

On this, I say that the consensus of the senators, which is to ban hazing altogether, is good. Hazing, whether the intention is merely to shame the neophyte or to go to the extent of physically abusing him should not be allowed and those who do it should be penalized. If many other campus organizations achieved their goals without hazing, why can’t fraternities?
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