UST expels eight students involved in Atio Castillo hazing death

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UST law freshman Horacio Castillo III (file)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — The University of Santo Tomas has expelled eight law students allegedly involved in the hazing death of UST law student Horacio 'Atio' Castillo III.

The UST Public Affairs Office confirmed the university's decision to CNN Philippines after news of the expulsions was first reported on Sunday by The Varsitarian, UST's official student publication.

The report said UST formed a committee tasked to investigate Castillo's death on September 19, two days after the hazing incident.

The law students were found guilty of violating the Code of Conduct and Discipline for students, although the Public Affairs Office has yet to specify which part of the Code.

UST has yet to disclose the names of the students who were kicked out. They are believed to be members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

The expulsions come as UST draws flak over its supposed silence on the case.

The university, meanwhile, insists it has conducted investigations and will continue to do so until all the involved students will be held administratively liable.

UST Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina, in a statement sent to CNN Philippines, said the committee has exercised its authority and carried out the mandate the university has given it.

Divina also said the  the Faculty of Civil Law will faithfully implement the resolution.

Atio's family: Expulsions still not enough

Speaking to CNN Philippines, the Castillo family welcomed the expulsions, saying they're better late than never.

However, Atio's mother, Carminia Castillo, said the university's move is still not enough.

"Of course we still need more from them like what about their actions with regards to the faculty members, with the Dean," she said. "They have to answer a lot... they still need to ban the Aegis Juris from the university," she said.

Carminia said the family will  still proceed with their complaint against UST before the Vatican, which has direct authority over the university.

Carmina said not only the fraternity, but also UST has violated "every single provision of the anti-hazing law."

"These are lawyers, they know the law, there's already an existing Anti-Hazing Law and they have violated every section of the law, including the school… The school was not even there to oversee and Aegis Juris," she said.

She is also calling on the fraternity members to come out in the open and answer hanging questions on the case.

Among these was the failure of  UST Law Dean Nilo Divina to inform the Castillos of Atio's death, when he allegedly knew about it before the family did. Divina has denied involvement in the incident.

Carminia also asks why the fraternity's alumni members met in a hotel in Quezon City to cover up the hazing incident.

"They have to answer. I mean, they have to clear their name if they're at all innocent," she said.

She said no one from the fraternity has reached out to the family since Atio's death.

"Wala, walang lumalapit sa amin (no one has approached us), not sending any messages or what… I am still waiting for that UST report, of course the names of the students because it will form part of our investigation as well," she said.

Castillo died in September 2017. Five months after his death, no one has been apprehended or found guilty.

Timeline: The case of Horacio Castillo III

The Justice Department has submitted for resolution the criminal complaint filed against Aegis members. It is set to release the results of its preliminary investigation within the month.

The Supreme Court has also treated a letter from Senator Panfilo Lacson, who headed the Senate probe on the issue, as a complaint against 21 lawyers connected with the Aegis Juris fraternity, including Divina.

Castillo, who had last told his parents he would attend a "welcoming party" of the fraternity, was found dead on September 18, 2017. His death prompted calls for tighter anti-hazing laws.

Following Atio's death, both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved bills completely banning hazing as a requirement for admission into a fraternity, sorority, or organization.