UST law dean Divina slams 'smear campaign' over hazing death

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Dean Nilo Divina said that Atio Castillo never went to his office, contrary to the allegations of his parents. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 30) — The law dean of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) wants "baseless charges" against him junked, saying linking him to the hazing death of a student is all part of a "smear campaign."

Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina is facing murder and obstruction of justice charges, following the death of Horacio 'Atio' Castillo allegedly during hazing rites by the Aegis Juris Fraternity, where Divina is a member.

In a 42-page counter affidavit filed on October 30 at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Divina refuted the two complaints filed by Atio's parents, Horacio Jr. and Carmina Castillo.

READ: Castillo family names UST Law Dean among new respondents in Atio's case

The Castillo couple is accusing the dean of knowing about Atio's hazing, concealing their's son's death, and protecting frat men responsible for the crime.

Earlier, Atty. Lino Kapunan from the Castillo camp said Atio went to the Divina Law Firm during the week of his initation to "pay respect to his senior brods."

Divina has repeatedly claimed he is no longer an active member of Aegis Juris, and has been on leave since 2009 when he became dean.

Kapunan, using a text exchange between Atio and his mother on September 12, said the young man was at the "Petron gas station along Buendia" on that day. The Divina law firm is located there.

But Divina denied that Atio came to his office, even submitting a video recording of the activities in his firm that day.

"Indeed, there must be at least a dozen law firms in the Petron area. In our building alone, there are several law firms. There is simply nothing in the foregoing text exchange that can be construed indicative of actual prior knowledge on my part of the hazing that was to be conducted on September 17," Divina said in his counteraffidavit.

No cover-up

The Castillo couple also said Divina knew of Atio's death ahead of them, and covered up the crime by not immediately alerting authorities.

UST Faculty Secretary Arthur Capili, also an accused in the case, earlier said he had relayed to Divina the incident as early as Sunday, September 17.  The Castillo couple, however, claimed it was only on September 18 that Divina told them the news. 

Divina said he had no confirmation on the identity of the student who had died, until news broke out the next day.

"By not calling on September 17, which witness did I prevent from testifying or reporting through bribery, misrepresentation, etc? By not calling on the 17th, which particular person did I harbor or conceal or facilitate the escape of—one whom I had reasonable ground to suspect had committed an offense?" Divina said in defense.

He also refuted claims by the Castillo family that his appearances at events of Aegis Juris years ago implied he is an active member.

The dean again defended his issuing a preventive suspension order on students linked to the hazing.

The Castillo family previously claimed this gave Aegis Juris members an excuse not to attend classes, making them harder to track down.

"I must emphasize that my purpose in issuing the preventive suspension order is to protect the student body and to alleviate their fears brought about by news reports concerning Atio's death with the possible complicity of some members of Aegis Juris," he said.

Smear campaign

Divina also defended UST officials, saying there was never an attempt to cover up the death, contrary to the claims of Atty. Lorna Kapunan after the Senate inquiry on September 25.

Kapunan, lawyer of the Castillo couple, suggested charging other university officials as, under they law, they should have prior knowledge of any initiation rites of fraternities.

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

"I continue to reiterate my offer to help in whatever way I can. However, the Honorable Office should not allow Atio's death to be used in furtherance of the sinister motives of those behind the smear campaign against me," Divina said.

Kapunan is also the legal counsel of Patricia Bautista who filed a disbarment case against Divina.

Bautista claimed the dean's firm illegally paid her estranged husband, former Commission on Elections chief Andres Bautista, for referring election technology provider Smartmatic to the firm.

Divina has filed three libel cases against Kapunan for these claims.