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Poe: There is a cover-up attempt in hazing victim case

Horacio Castillo Jr., father of slain UST law student Horacio III, is consoled by a visitor during the wake at the Santuario de San Antonio in Makati. File
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Grace Poe believes there is a cover-up attempt in the case of the 22-year-old freshman law student of the University of Santo Tomas who died in hazing rites last week.
 
Poe said that she felt that those involved in the case were trying to conceal the truth, judging by the way they answered the questions of senators in last night's joint hearing of several Senate committees on the death of Horacio Castillo III.
 
"Parang pakiramdam ko meron talagang pagtatakip kasi unang-una hindi diretso ang mga sagot nila," Poe said in an interview with reporters, adding that it was impossible that more senior members of the fraternity have already lost their connection to their group.
 
 
The senator said members of the fraternity involved in the incident went into hiding together and were supported by someone.
 
Those helping the suspects evade arrest and coaching them on how they should answer questions would also be held liable in the death of the law student, she said.
 
Poe said that UST Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina was not yet off the hook as she noted that it was impossible for him, an older member of Aegis Juris, to not know the activities of the group even if he took a leave of absence upon assuming his current post in the school.
 
"Kapag ang mga nakakatandang miyembro ay hindi pinapayagan ang hazing ay hindi naman ‘yan, ganyang mangyayari," she said.
 
Poe said that the incident would not have happened if it was not sanctioned by the group's senior members.
 
"Kung hindi iyan sanctioned ng mga elders nila diyan sa frat sa tingin ko hindi naman matutuloy yang hazing," she said.
 
 
Senior members of a fraternity who would condone and allow the commission of violent welcome rites such as those which resulted in the death of Castillo would be penalized in their amendments to the current anti-hazing statute passed in 1995, according to Poe.
 
She said it was the responsibility of these more senior members to put a stop to these activities.
 
Lawmakers are also looking at imposing more severe penalties on those who will engage in hazing and are considering psychological violence as another action to be prohibited under the Anti-Hazing Law, according to the senator.
 
 
Poe believes that John Paul Solano, the primary suspect in the death of Castillo, is the key to solving the case because he knows the persons who contacted and asked him to come to the frat's library where the supposed welcome ceremonies transpired.
 
She added that Solano, a licensed medical technologist, might be hesitant to divulge the names of the individuals who called him on the morning of September 17 because of the influence that other members of the brotherhood wielded.
 
 
On Monday night, Solano admitted that he was instructed by members of Aegis Juris to lie about the circumstances surrounding Castillo's death. The suspect, however, refused to divulge the identities of these individuals whom he promised to name in his affidavit.
 
He initially said that he saw the body of Castillo on a pavement in Balut, Tondo, but this was disproved by CCTV footage from the local village.
 
Horacio Castillo Jr., the victim's father, called on Divina and the administrators of UST to ensure an impartial and thorough investigation into his son's untimely death.
 
During the hearing, he said that the members of the Aegis Juris fraternity treated his son like an animal and called on lawmakers to strengthen the Anti-Hazing Law to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
 
The joint hearing on the case is being conducted by Senate Committees on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Justice and Human Rights and Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes.
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