Senator: DOJ 'disregarded' cover-up evidence in dismissal of charges in Atio hazing death

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UST law freshman Horacio Castillo III (file)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 9) — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday said the Department of Justice may have disregarded the cover-up of the fatal hazing of a law student when it dismissed charges against University of Santo Tomas law dean Nilo Divina and others.

Lacson said the evidence on the hazing death of UST law student Horacio "Atio" Castillo III is more than enough to build a case against those involved in his death.

"Basing it on the evidence gathered and presented during the public hearings conducted by the Senate on the Atio hazing case, the DOJ panel may have overlooked or disregarded the cover-up angle committed by the other frat members not included in the indictment," he said in a statement.

The DOJ dismissed all cases against Divina, UST Law Faculty Secretary Arthur Capili, and fraternity member Marc Anthony Ventura.

The cases against Divina and Capili were dismissed due to insufficiency of evidence, while Ventura was cleared due to his status as a state witness.

Related: 10 Aegis Juris fraternity members indicted over Atio Castillo hazing death

Lacson, the chair of Senate committee on public order which looked into the Atio case, said the authenticated Facebook group chat of members of Aegis Juris Fraternity and the video footage of the frantic members' meeting after the UST student's death should be enough to indict the personalities for being "accessories" to the crime.

"(It) should have been enough for the DOJ to find probable cause to also charge them for being accessories after the fact at the very least," he said.

After several hearings into the death of Atio, the Senate panels' joint report recommended to the Supreme Court the disbarment of Divina.

It said Divina mocked the legal profession when he failed to report Atio's death despite being aware of the incident. The committees also wanted the law dean to resign because his position in the university "clearly posed as a threat" for witnesses to testify.

The Department of Justice on Thursday charged 10 members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity for violating the Anti-Hazing Law for the death of Atio on September 17, 2017 during initiation rites.

The law states that when the hazing results in death, violators will face life imprisonment.

John Paul Solano, one of the primary suspects in the case, was indicted with perjury and obstruction of justice.

Meanwhile, the DOJ recommended further investigation against 10 other fraternity members.

The law student's father, Horacio Castillo, Jr., said the indictment of the ten AJF members is not enough.

"As far as we are concerned, they are all guilty and they should be tried," he told CNN Philippines on Thursday.