UST law dean ready to answer disbarment complaint

By , on February 14, 2018

FILE: UST Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina (PNA file photo)
FILE: UST Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina (PNA file photo)

MANILA — University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Civil Law dean lawyer Nilo Divina welcomed the disbarment proceedings of Supreme Court (SC) en banc against him upon the request of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs over the hazing death of UST law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III on Sept. 17, 2017.

“I welcome this opportunity from the Supreme Court to respond to the points raised in the report. I have always maintained that I did not do anything illegal or unethical,” Divina said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, has written to the SC after his committee released a report on the inquiry it made on the hazing incident which recommended that the SC disbar the lawyers.

The office of Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said the SC has acted on Lacson’s letter and has asked the lawyers to comment on the Senate’s request for action.

However, Divina expressed dismay on the Senate’s recommendation for his disbarment, stressing that he has no knowledge about the hazing.

“It is unfair and unjust to be dragged into this considering that by the evidence of the Senate I had no prior knowledge of the hazing incident, was not a party to any cover up or even mentioned in the group chat. I was even instrumental in the surrender of Mr. (John Paul) Solano which made the investigation move forward,” he said.

Aside from Divina, there were 20 other lawyers belonging to Aegis Juris Fraternity included in disbarment proceedings.

Earlier, the Department of Justice handling the case against the members of Aegis Juris Fraternity members is set to release its resolution this month of February.

The three-member investigating panel headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva, Prosecution Attorneys Wendell Bendoval and Honey Rose Delgado told Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that it already finished its preliminary investigation on the case last Jan. 22 and has declared the case submitted for resolution.

“The Prosecution Panel is presently evaluating all of the evidence submitted and shall endeavor to come up with a resolution by mid-February 2018,” read the panel’s report to Aguirre.

The panel initially wrapped up its preliminary investigation last Nov. 16 but had to re-open it after receiving a copy of suspect-turned-witness Marc Anthony Ventura’s sworn statement just last January 3.

Ventura, who is under the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program, earlier narrated how his fraternity brothers took turns in beating up Castillo inside the Aegis Juris library in Sampaloc, Manila.

He also named some of Aegis Juris members who took part in the initiation.

The Manila Police District (MPD) filed its complaint before the DOJ on Sept. 25, 2017, while Atio’s parents submitted a supplemental complaint on Oct. 9, 2017.

The MPD named 18 respondents in its complaint for murder, robbery and in violation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.

Meanwhile, Atio’s parents filed charges of murder, robbery, and violation the Anti-Hazing Law against 31 individuals, including Divina.

They also charged 23 respondents of committing four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Castillo died after undergoing initiation rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity on September 17, 2017. (PNA)