Today, Sept. 27, Horacio and Carminia Castillo will bury their son, Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, who died Sept. 17 reportedly from injuries sustained in fraternity hazing rites.
Atio was said to be a good son who lived by the “family first” mantra, which included not just his parents and sister Nicole, but also his friends.
He loved football and a good intellectual debate. Less than four months ago, Atio jubilantly posted his graduation photos on Facebook with the caption, “We did it boys!” He was full of pride and joy at having finished his Political
Science degree at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
His parents never felt the need to physically discipline him, as heart-to-heart discussions were enough to teach the young boy right from wrong. He even sought their advice before joining Aegis Juris, a popular fraternity at the UST Faculty of Civil Law.
They were hesitant about it at first, but with the members’ assurance that they did not practice violent hazing, and knowing that Nilo Divina, the law dean, was a frat alumnus, Atio’s parents allowed him to join.
But he was maimed and murdered—his fate a repeat of previous hazing incidents involving other frats in the past years. How, and why, are we here again?
In June 2014, 18-year-old Guillo Cesar Servando of the De La Salle College of St. Benilde died in a hazing incident. Despite testimonies of his fellow neophytes, the case was dismissed by the regional trial court. It has been elevated to the Court of Appeals where it awaits decision. Meanwhile, five of the accused have fled the country.
Republic Act 8049 “regulates hazing and other forms of initiation rites. And yet, in the last 22 years, the conviction rate on hazing cases is at a ridiculously low 3.8 percent.
Of 393 criminally accused of hazing, 296 at large and only about 30 have been arrested. In the case of Atio, of 16 suspects named by the police, one has slipped out of the country less than 72 hours after the crime.
The latest case has led my husband Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri to file Senate Bill 1591 which outright prohibits hazing and provides a clearer definition of terms.
Harsher penalties will be meted out. There will also be a wider net of accountability so that all frat officers will be held accountable for the actions of their members, whether or not they participate in the hazing.
The bill eliminates “levels” of physical violence and participation—whether a frat member is a bystander but does not stop his brothers from inflicting violence on neophytes. All will be brought to court and charged as equally guilty.
If anyone is proven to be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, a heavier sentence will be meted out.
It is time to end this cycle of violence and we need to start with those who have sworn to uphold and defend our laws, but are the first to break them. These are the men and women to whom we entrust the future of our democracy and our society, and they must be like Caesar’s wife—above suspicion.
This is why it’s important for all practitioners of law to come out and condemn violent hazing and the murder of Atio.
Atio once told his father, “I will make you proud.” His parents always assured him that he did so every day, but Atio had bigger plans. He wanted to contribute to a better Philippines.
The painful irony is, his life had to abruptly end before something could be done to ban hazing in the country.