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Death of law student in Philippines draws condemnation

Probe ordered into circumstances that led to the death of Catillo

Gulf News

Manila: The Justice Department has ordered an investigation into the death of law school student Horacio Castillo III as lawmakers condemned the senseless loss of life from ritual violence.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe into the circumstances that led to the death of the 22-year-old Castillo.

Castillo’s body was left at a roadside in Manila’s district of Tondo on Monday. He was a student of the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

According to the victim’s father, Horacio Jr, his son, on the day of his death, told them that he would be attending initiation rites for membership into the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

Membership into fraternities or sororities is typical among law school students who regard their inclusion into the circle as part of future professional networking.

Aguirre said the death of the young Castillo is deplorable.

“The DOJ (Department of Justice) condemns any act of senseless violence committed against our youth and against any innocent person for that matter,” Aguirre, himself a member of another law school fraternity, said.

“As a parent myself, I feel their loss and anguish. We will endeavour to see to it that those who are responsible will be held accountable to the full extent of the law,” the DOJ chief assured.

In the Philippines, hardly a year passes without reports of casualties from fraternity violence.

UST condemned the death of Castillo from suspected hazing or ritual violence.

“We condemn in no uncertain terms hazing in any form or manner. Violence has no place in an academic institution, particularly in the University of Santo Tomas that values and promotes charity and compassion,” the institution said in a statement.

“We express our profound sympathy and offer our prayers to his family for their pain and anguish — a pain that we share seeing that the life of our very own student, with all of its aspirations and potentials, taken away because of a senseless act,” UST said.

Although ritual violence by fraternities and sororities or other institutions is illegal under Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law, these acts continue because most are done in secrecy and at times with the collusion of officials.

Senator Gregorio Honasan, who lost a family member to ritual violence, said hazing “is a painful public menace.”

“I remember 41 years ago when my youngest brother Mel died from fraternity hazing. My parents forgave those responsible; hoping and praying that it would help eradicate hazing. It was not to be,” he lamented.

Honasan suggested that authorities look at improving the law against hazing and strict enforcement.

“Vigilance from all sectors: parents, school authorities and students, recognised fraternities, public information and education will help respond to hazing as a painful public menace,” Honasan said.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said eradicating hazing would take more than changes in the law as the culture of violence is deeply rooted among fraternities.

“We should not lose our children to untrammelled machismo ending in injury and senseless death,” Zubiri said.