MANILA — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has urged fraternities to register with their respective schools as official student organizations so that their activities can be monitored by school authorities.
His recommendation came in light of the recent fatal hazing of 22-year-old University of Sto. Tomas (UST) law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.
Aguirre said fraternity groups should register with their schools and inform the latter of the details of their rites — when and where the initiations are to be held and who the participants are to avoid or minimize untoward consequences.
“The school admin could send representatives because they would be requiring the frat to inform them when, where the initiation rites to be conducted. Sinu-sinong members to be present and the school authorities could send representative sa initiation rites,” Aguirre told reporters in a chance interview Friday.
Aguirre, who also belongs to a fraternity, the Lex Talionis, admitted that it is difficult for frat members to cooperate in an investigation since they have a close bond with their fraternity brothers.
He said this is why they prohibited the use of violence in their initiation rites in Lex Talionis though they still resort to inflicting “minimal physical contact” and “mental” tests during neophytes’ initiation.
Aguirre said they have had initial contact with two possible male witnesses, both UST students.
“One of the witnesses called my office and said to be a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity. This person knows the initiation rites that were done on Castillo… While the second witness, who was being recruited, went to my office,” Aguirre added.
The witness who called up the department said “they made them suffer” during the initiation rites.
He added Castillo was not included in the first batch of neophytes who went through the initiation and they “picked on him (Castillo)”.
Based on the information they have gathered, Aguirre said eight neophytes went through the initiation rites but he does not know if any of them is in the Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) issued last Wednesday.
“They are somewhat being kept against their will by their seniors so they would not disclose what they know. They are invoking the Code of Silence,” he said.
He said the two potential witnesses in the death of Castillo have not given their affidavits and that “fear” is preventing from further cooperating with authorities.
“That is the problem (they have not given their affidavits yet) and I am not sure if they would return to the DOJ because they are afraid and that there were threats against their lives… Right now, we are still at the very initial stages” of the investigation,” the justice chief said.
He also hinted that there could be a third possible witness. A member of the Aegis Juris fraternity has reportedly sent a “feeler” to the National Bureau of Investigation, expressing interest to cooperate.
He is hoping that these witnesses would cooperate with the DOJ soon so they would be prioritized under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“To those who know anything about what happened to Horacio Castillo III, if you were there when it happened, then you have blood in your hands,” he said.
Aguirre urged them that it is “time to wash it with truth and justice for Atio.”
Aguirre added it will not do any good if they continue to hide and keep quiet about what had happened.
“Running from the truth is like being locked up in a jail with no bars. By your silence, you have already imprisoned yourself,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre offered to place witnesses under the WPP.
“If they want to tell the truth or clear their names they can come to my office and we will place them under the WPP. They can trust us, they have nothing to fear from us,” he assured.
The Secretary has created hotline number 0995 442 9241. for any information on Castillo’s death. (PNA)