Divina: ‘I’ve been virtually exonerated in hazing case’

“A virtual exoneration” was how Nilo Divina, Dean of the UST Faculty of Civil Law, described the reply of the parents of hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Castillo III to his counter-affidavit in the criminal case against members and alumni of the Aegis Jvris fraternity.

In the rejoinder-affidavit submitted by Divina today before the investigating panel of the Department of Justice, he noted that the reply-affidavit filed by the spouses Horacio Castillo Jr. and Carminia Castillo failed to rebut his defenses and, as such, exculpates him from the charges of murder, violation of the Anti-Hazing Law and obstruction of justice.

He reiterated that his membership in the fraternity and knowledge of or participation in its activities several years back cannot translate to knowledge of the recruitment and hazing of Atio. Thus, he argued, he could not have done anything to prevent what he did not know would happen.

Divina said: “The complainants only maintained that I knew that Atio was a neophyte and therefore I allegedly had ‘prior knowledge’ of his supposed hazing…based on the screenshot of the CCTV footage at the Pacific Star Building purportedly showing Atio’s presence therein on 12 September 2017, as flashed on the screen during the Senate hearing on 6 November 2017.”

It may be recalled that during the said Senate hearing, the Castillo spouses supposedly confirmed it was their son who was caught in the screenshot in the premises of the Pacific Star building where Divina holds office because the person in the photo was wearing a blue jacket similar to Atio’s. Divina explained this was an insufficient basis for identification.

“(T)here was not even an attempt on the part of complainants to mention whether that kind of jacket is unique in all the world and could only be the one belonging to Atio. The obvious unreliability of a blue jacket as the sole indicator that the person wearing it was Atio could not have been lost on complainants themselves—the alleged CCTV footage was not even submitted by the complainants to the Honorable Office,” said Divina.

In addition to the CCTV footage submitted by the Dean in his counter-affidavit, he submitted this time a certification from the administration of the Pacific Star Building attesting to the fact that the name Horacio Castillo III was not in the logbook list of guests who entered said building on September 12.

Said Divina: “In any case, even assuming that a person who looked like Atio and who was wearing a blue jacket similar to Atio’s was indeed somewhere at the Pacific Star on 12 September 2017 (which is vehemently denied), it takes numerous quantum leaps of logic to arrive at the conclusion that I knew beforehand that Atio would be subjected to hazing and yet failed to prevent it.”

He continued: “To illustrate, from the premise that there was a man whose jacket looked like Atio’s, the Honorable Office is expected to immediately conclude that a) that man was indeed no other than Atio; b) that man who is Atio met with me in Pacific Star despite all our office’s CCTV footage showing otherwise; c) that I then found out from that encounter that Atio was recruited by Aegis Jvris and would be subjected to hazing at some future time; d) that I knew he was actually subjected to hazing on September 17; e) that I did not do anything to prevent the hazing. Evidently, the journey from the unproven premise to the conclusion is not just murky, it is impossible to make.”

Divina also stressed that his failure to call the police on September 17 cannot be construed as Obstruction of Justice as it does not fall under the acts punished such a preventing witnesses from testifying or harboring or facilitating the escape of a suspect. He also noted that complainants characterized his failure to call the police as mere negligence which is inconsistent with the legal requirement of willfulness.

Nonetheless, Divina denies that he was negligent: “Had I been negligently or willfully helping the respondents escape, (i) I would not have immediately informed the Father Regent of the same and would have waited until the news broke out on 18 September 2017; (ii) I would not have publicly called on those responsible to come forward mere two days after Atio’s death broke out in the news; (iii) I would not have also volunteered to help the Manila Police District in the conduct of their investigation; (iv) I would not have found ways to facilitate the surrender of Mr. John Paul Solano, who was instrumental in bringing to light what had purportedly happened; and (v) my name would have appeared in the supposed group chat on Facebook and I would have urged them to escape. But, it was the opposite that happened, showing that I acted prudently and in accord with what the circumstances called for.” — Press Release

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