AFTER weeks of hogging the headlines amid public outrage over the death of Horacio “Atio” Castillo 3rd in fraternity hazing rites last year, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) has finally taken the important first steps needed to attain justice for its slain law freshman.
On Sunday, UST announced the expulsion of eight students, presumably of its law college and members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, after an internal investigating committee found that they had violated the Catholic university’s code of conduct and discipline.
Understandably, many, including Castillo’s parents, had become impatient, even criticizing the university for being silent, or not doing anything on the case.
But a tight case against those responsible for Castillo’s death requires the observance of due process, whether administratively as far as UST’s disciplinary rules are concerned, and civilly and criminally in terms of the country’s justice system.
It should be noted that the Dominican rector of UST, Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, formed the investigating panel on September 19, 2017, just days after Castillo’s tortured body was found by his parents in a morgue.
In five months, the committee, composed of six administrators and a representative from the UST Central Student Council, issued a resolution imposing the “supreme penalty of expulsion” on the eight students.
Five months may be too long for commentators on social media, but it is reasonable considering that the internal investigation involved several students and faculty members, and that it overlapped with a criminal probe by the Philippine National Police and a preliminary investigation by prosecutors of the Department of Justice.
It should also be noted that the UST committee conducted hearings in the presence of representatives from the Legal Education Board (LEB), which oversees law schools all over the country.
The resolution ordering the expulsions is only the first, as indicated by UST in its press statement last Sunday.
The UST said the committee “shall continue its investigation until all students who were involved in the hazing incident are held administratively liable,” a statement that left open the possibility of even more expulsions and sanctions.
We expect the university to take, not just quick, but the right steps toward ensuring that the killers of Castillo are convicted of proper charges and that justice is served, for his sake and that of his grieving family.
This includes holding everyone accountable, including faculty members and administrators who may have been negligent, given the fact that Aegis Juris, which was not an accredited student organization at the time, was able to recruit neophytes and hold initiation rites.
Such requires an honest-to-goodness investigation, which in turn, requires deliberation and the observance of due process.
Given that some of those involved in the hazing incident and its alleged cover-up are lawyers, this is a case a just and civilized society cannot afford to lose due to technicalities.