Senator Win Gatchalian on Monday called on the leadership of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) to take the lead in seeking justice for Horacio Tomas “Atyo” Castillo III, a 22-year-old freshman law student who was allegedly killed during the initiation rites of a university-recognized fraternity.
Castillo was found dead along a street in Manila on Sunday, a day after he told his parents he would be attending the overnight “welcoming rites” of the Aegis Juris Fraternity – a law-based fraternity duly accredited by the university. His body was found covered in bruises and candle wax drip marks.
Although he saw the facts surrounding Castillo’s death as quite similar to hazing deaths reported in recent years, Gatchalian noted one key difference: Unlike most incidents, the fraternity linked to Castillo’s death is a duly accredited student organization of the educational institution it calls home.
“The fact that the fraternity being implicated in this hazing death is recognized by the university itself as a legitimate student organization means that UST cannot pull the same tricks used by other schools in the past to evade responsibility for the criminal actions of their students. UST has an even greater obligation than ever to uncover the truth of this incident and hold Atyo’s killers accountable for their sick crimes,” he said.
In light of this tragedy, the senator also renewed his call for the passage of revamped legislation to replace the 22-year old Republic Act No. 8049, otherwise known as the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.
Gatchalian’s proposed replacement measure, Senate Bill No. 199, would repeal RA 8049 to institute a more comprehensive anti-hazing regime by providing a more prohibitive definition of hazing, expanding the scope of liabilities and increasing the penalties for hazing offenders, and mandating educational institutions to play a central role in hazing prevention and awareness. This bill, originally filed by then-congressman Gatchalian as House Bill No. 5760 during the 16th Congress, was approved by the House on third and final reading but failed to gain Senate approval before the end of the term.
“The Anti-Hazing Law must be overhauled to eliminate loop holes and ensure that all persons responsible for these cruel and senseless hazing deaths will be held accountable to the full extent of the law. It’s time for the Senate to take up this proposed legislation,” Gatchalian said.