UST law student dead after alleged hazing

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Updated with statement from UST Faculty of Civil Law

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — A 22-year-old freshman law student of the University of Santo Tomas has died after allegedly undergoing hazing.

Horacio Tomas Castillo III's body was found by his parents early Monday at a funeral parlor in Manila. His body bore bruises.

Castillo's father said his son, whom they call "Atyo," asked permission on Saturday to stay overnight at UST for the welcome rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity - a recognized law school-based fraternity.

The father, Horacio Castillo Jr, said they got worried when their son didn't return the following day.

An unidentified number texted the victim's parents to inform them that their son had been brought to the Chinese General Hospital. But when the parents arrived at the hospital, they were informed that authorities from the police Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) took their son to the Arcangel Funeral Homes in Sampaloc, Manila.

The father said a bystander found his son on a pavement in Balut, Tondo on Sunday. He was wrapped in a thick blanket. The bystander and several others brought Castillo to the hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival at 9:21 a.m. Sunday.

According to a police report, Castillo had hematoma or bruises on both upper arms. He also had several marks of candle wax drips all over his body.

While the victims' parents said they were hesitant to let their son join the fraternity, they allowed him to do so because he assured them that Aegis Juris does not practice hazing. He also told them UST Faculty of Civil Law dean Nilo Divina is a member of the fraternity.

"I told him not to join because I didn't want hazing because I'm worried. But sabi niya, no walang manyayaring hazing because this is a legal fraternity and the dean is a member of the fraternity," Castillo Jr said.

The victim's mother, Carmina, said her son was invited and recruited to join the fraternity.

Professor Dennis Coronacion, chairman of the UST Department of Political Science and Castillo's teacher for four years, said although the victim often consulted with him on academic matters, he never mentioned his intention to join a fraternity.

"He never mentioned to me about him joining a fraternity. If he ever did, I think I could have warned him. I could have discouraged him from doing so," Coronacion told CNN Philippines, Monday night.

Coronacion, who described Castillo as "a student with a huge potential to become this country's leader," said fraternities often capitalize on claiming they can help aspiring lawyers.

The members claim they "would be able to help them in terms of resources, in terms of connections when they become lawyers," Coronacion said. "Frat members also exploit the fact that most new law students would like to belong to a certain organization in law school," he added.

UST condemns hazing

UST on Monday condemned "the senseless act" committed to their student and promised he will be given justice.

"Violence has no place in an academic institution, particularly in the University of Santo Tomas that values and promotes charity and compassion. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the perpetrators be meted the appropriate sanctions and brought to justice," the statement read.

They said an investigation is ongoing to "ferret out the truth, determine liability and institute the necessary legal actions."

UST also expressed sympathy to his family.

"No words can describe our sadness for this unfortunate incident. We express our profound sympathy and offer our prayers to his family for their pain and anguish - a pain that we share seeing that the life of our very own student, with all of its aspirations and potentials, taken away because of a senseless act," the statement said.

UST Central Student Council called on the university administration and the students to condemn the violent act.

"The UST CSC demands for a rigorous investigation on the people and the fraternity involved in the death of Horacio Tomas Castillo III. May he get the justice he deserves. Fraternities deal with brotherhood, but violence should not be its currency," it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the UST Faculty of Civil Law on Monday ordered the preventive suspension of all officers and members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity to ensure an unobstructed investigation. Members of the group will not be allowed to enter the UST campus, according to a memorandum order issued by UST Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre also said he will order the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Castillo's death.

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel and Claire Jiao contributed to this report.