Lawyer of Castillo family: UST officials must be investigated in hazing death

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UST Law Dean Nilo Divina, Horacio Castillo III, and lawyer Lorna Kapunan

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 30) — The lawyer of hazing victim Horacio Castillo III's family urges authorities to investigate University of Santo Tomas (UST) officials for possible irregularities that led to Castillo's death.

Wearing a black "Justice for Horacio" shirt in a forum on Saturday, lawyer Lorna Kapunan said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) must probe UST Law Dean Nilo Divina, an alumnus of the Aegis Juris Fraternity that conducted the hazing rites on Castillo.

"Sana isama natin, isama ng NBI si (I hope the NBI includes) Dean as one of the persons of interest because under the Anti-Hazing Law he is responsible as co-principal if it's shown that he didn't do the required level of diligence," Kapunan said.

She also wants UST officials included in the probe as they did not follow some provisions of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.

For instance, she cited Section 3 of the law that states at least two representatives of the school or organization must be present during the initiation rites to ensure no physical harm is inflicted on the neophyte.

The law also requires initiation activities to not exceed three days, but Castillo's lasted for a week, Kapunan said.

"On that alone may criminal negligence na ang head ng college of law (The head of college of law committed criminal negligence)," Kapunan said.

Divina shrugged off Kapunan's claims in a statement sent to CNN Philippines.

"Let me just quote father Rannie Aquino, a respected legal luminary and a graduate of San Beda College of Law, like Atty Kapunan. 'It is foolish to include UST and its officials in the investigation. They cannot monitor all the movements of their students," Divina said.

Related: UST Law Dean mulls resigning from Aegis Juris

Kapunan said the Castillo family asked for her help on Friday.

"They don't want the case to be buried with their son. They don't want their son to be a statistic," she said.

Kapunan said they might file for civil damages against the school authorities.

She clarified she is not after Divina, even if she is the legal counsel of the estranged wife of Comelec Chair Andres Bautista.

Patricia Bautista has filed a disbarment case against Divina, saying Divina's firm allegedly gave her husband fees for referring election technology provider Smartmatic to the firm. 

Related: Law school dean to file perjury, libel cases vs. wife of poll chief

Castillo, a 22-year-old UST law freshman, was found on Sept. 17 in Tondo, Manila after he took part in hazing rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity.

He was declared dead later that day, with the initial autopsy report stating he succumbed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or thickening of the heart muscle.

Police said he had hematoma or bruises on both upper arms and several marks of candle wax drips all over his body.

His death prompted calls for Congress to give more teeth to the Anti-Hazing Law. The House Committee on Justice on Wednesday passed a bill seeking to ban all forms of hazing.

Related: Timeline - The case of Horacio Castillo III

Suspects at large

Kapunan encouraged the parents of suspects in hiding to cooperate with authorities.

"We're asking the parents of these 18, your child, your son is as much a victim as Horacio. Be with us in this search for truth. Don't hide your son if you know the whereabouts of your son. Ask your son to tell the truth," Kapunan said.

The Manila Police Department has filed charges of perjury, murder, robbery, obstruction of justice, and violation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law, against 17 suspects, including John Paul Solano, a principal suspect.

Related: Solano: I wasn't at Horacio Castillo's hazing

He was recently released by the police after surrendering and  has promised to cooperate with the investigations.

Solano will face the Justice Department on October 4 for a preliminary investigation.

Meanwhile, one of the suspects Ralph Trangia has left the country along with his mother, Rosemarie, who is also facing a complaint for obstruction of justice.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.