Atio family lawyer cleared in unjust vexation case
Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila Metropolitan Trial Court has acquitted lawyer Lorna Kapunan of the charge of unjust vexation filed against her by law dean Nilo Divina over the former’s statement calling him an “obstructionist” in the hazing death of University of Sto. Tomas (UST) student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.

Kapunan in a statement said her acquittal is final and executory and cannot be appealed, after Divina was reported as saying he would exhaust legal remedies to reverse the ruling.

“Atio Castillo’s parents and I are grateful that all three cases filed against me by Dean Divina have been dismissed by the various courts (one acquittal and two other cases earlier withdrawn) so we can now pursue without distraction justice for the vicious and untimely death of their son Atio from fraternity hazing,” Kapunan said.

In her decision dated Jan. 2 and promulgated Wednesday, Branch 17 Presiding Judge Karla Funtila-Abugan said there was no malice in the quote published in the UST publication Varsitarian attributed to Kapunan asking Divina “not to be an obstructionist” by helping Castillo’s family seek justice.

“The judicial conscience cannot rest easy in convicting the accused as there is a possibility, no matter how slight or remote, that the statement was uttered in good faith and with good intention,” the court said in acquitting Kapunan.

The judge also noted the difference between saying Divina “is an” obstructionist from what Kapunan said that he should “not be” one.

“The former refers to a future or possible event or situation while the latter pertains to a present or current status or situation. This combination of words and the interpretation it renders as a whole casts doubt as to the intent of the accused to put Dean Divina in a bad light,” the judge said.

Ten members of the Aegis Juris fraternity had been denied bail by a Manila Regional Trial Court due to strong evidence that they were involved in the hazing rite that killed Castillo, 22, in the fraternity library in Manila in September 2017.

Divina is a prominent alumnus of the fraternity.

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