THE alleged leader of Aegis Juris Fraternity, Arvin Balag, who initiated the hazing rites against Horacio Atio Castillo III said it is high time that "hazing be abolished" amid the death of the freshman law student last September 17 during the initiation rites of the said fraternity.
This was after Senator Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, asked him on his possible recommendation to revise the present law that can give teeth to provisions of the Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.
"Hazing should be abolished," Balag said as he pronounced the need to end the violence in any initiation rites.
At this juncture, Lacson said the contempt citation given to Balag will remain after the latter filed a petition before the Supreme Court.
"To be honest Arvin, I am thinking of talking to members of this panel to lift the contempt against you. But since you questioned us and filed the certiorari before the Supreme Court, we will fight it out.
Until such time, you will remain under the Senate custody," Lacson said.
Last October 18, Balag was cited in contempt for repeatedly refusing to answer questions from the senators.
Balag remains detained at the Senate Office of the Sergeant-at-arms.
On October 30, he submitted his counter-affidavit calling for the dismissal of murder and violation of the anti-hazing law charges filed against him, as the charges lacked merit and probable cause.
Lacson also asked the Castillo's father, Horacio II, what he can impart that will add more teeth against hazing initiation rites.
"It is time that this hazing is abolished. This is a senseless killing. When you become lawyers, one day and you all look back, you will realize that hazing never contributes anything to your profession as lawyers,” Mr. Castillo II said as he is facing those who are being accused in connection with Castillo's death.
Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, also warned Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan on the testimony of frat member Marc Ventura saying he could be a Trojan horse being used by used by the Aegis Juris fraternity.
“Could he be a Trojan Horse (Marc Ventura) in Atio Castillo hazing case? This is the malicious part of me being an investigator,” Lacson said as he requested Catalan to dig deeper into the issue.
Ventura who has been provisionally admitted to the witness protection program said it is the dictate of his conscience that prompted him to come out in the open and tell the truth as he denied being part of any move to muddle the case.
Ventura faced the Senate investigation to testify and confirmed his presence before the Senate panel, that he saw everything the day
Castillo died on September 17 after his hazing rites with Aegis Juris Fraternity.
Ventura confirmed talking with Castillo before his death during the hazing rites where he participated as a mere spectator.
In his narration, Ventura said Castillo, a neophyte member was visibly exhausted after being paddled below the buttocks and is not responsive anymore until he finally collapsed.
According to Ventura, he was able to talk to Castillo inside the library before the initiation rites began.
"Atio [Castillo] said he is seeking his purpose in life," Ventura said during the hearing.
"Pilit ko po ni remind siya na yung purpose niya ay magsisimula sa kanya. I was looking at him but he is not responding anymore," Ventura said as he confirmed that the frat members panicked and it took at least 30 minutes for them to decide to bring Castillo to the hospital.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said it was Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II who revealed that in Ventura's affidavit, Aegis Juris members repeatedly punched Castillo, hit him with a spatula, and struck him with a paddle.
When asked by Senator Miguel Zubiri why he decided to change his counsel, Ventura said he opted to seek the help and be represented by a new lawyer whom he claimed to be his relative. Formerly, Ventura was represented by lawyers who were Aegis Juris members.
"Nagdesisyon po ako na magpalit ng counsel dahil mas comfortable po ako sa bago kong abogado dahil relative ko po siya," Ventura said.
Senator Gatchalian also said the Novotel hotel in Cubao, Quezon City where the meeting of Aegis Juris members was held after Castillo died last September should also be investigated.
"Who facilitated the meeting there? We need to tie up loose ends regarding the meeting of Aegis Juris. Hindi kaya ng estudyante ang magbayad dito sa Novotel. Medyo mahal po ito at hindi kaya ng isang estudyante. There must be someone who facilitated the meeting and could also be the one who paid for everything at Novotel," Gatchalian who authored Senate Bill 199 or the Anti-Hazing Act of 2016 recommending stiffer penalties on hazing.
Last October 18, police showed closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showing Aegis Juris Fraternity members inside an elevator of the Novotel hotel days after Castillo's death.
The police said some fraternity members tried to "conceal" circumstances behind the death.
Driver Romeo Laborga, family driver of Antonio Trangia family, whose son was also a frat member and was one of those being linked in the hazing rites was also present during the hearing.
Laborga denied that he was the driver who brought the body of Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival insisting that he was at that time with his boss, Antonio Trangia, in Bulacan.
Lacson who suspended the hearing said he is hopeful to come up with a conclusive committee report recommending amendments to RA 8049 and further strengthening some of the existing provisions.
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe asked the University of Santo Tomas what has been done after they found out that Atio was killed during initiation rites by Aegis Juris Fraternity.
Poe said it’s about time that school authorities be held answerable considering that the crime that took the life of Atio happened inside the jurisdiction of the school. (SunStar Philippines)