Press Release
October 18, 2017


Sen. Grace Poe today slammed the continued "code of silence" of Aegis Juris fraternity members and their refusal to fully cooperate with Senate probers on the death of hazing victim Horacio Tomas "Atio" Castillo III, saying this was an injustice to the family of the 22-year-old University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student.

Poe moved to cite Aegis Juris president Arvin Balag in contempt for his continued refusal to confirm, at least, whether or not he was a member of the fraternity that carried out initiation rites that killed Castillo last month.

"I'm not asking if you performed hazing...Ikaw ay miyembro ng Aegis Juris, hindi ba? Siguro naman malinaw 'yan dahil nandito ka ngayon o nagmamatigas ka na ngayon sa sinabi mong 'code of silence' dun sa iyong messages?" Poe grilled Balag, who refused to answer saying his testimony may further incriminate him in ongoing cases against him. Poe was referring to the Facebook chat among fratmen in which Balag told members to deactivate their social media accounts and reminded them of the "code of silence."

In recognizing Balag as the Grand Praefectus of Aegis Juris, Poe, vice-chairperson of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, cited the fraternity's membership application bearing his signature, organization sheet showing that he was president, and UST's Office for Student Affairs' recognition of the fraternity.

"Nakakaawa rin, mga bata pa ito, eh. Pero bata pa lang ganyan na mag-isip. Kung hindi natin yan ilalagay sa tama ngayon pa lang, lalo na siguro 'pag tumanda na 'yan," said Poe.

Poe's motion was carried, but Senate probers led by committee chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson said they will give him a chance to cooperate so they may stall any decision to put him in detention--possibly at the Pasay City Jail since Congress is currently on session break.

Poe made a last ditch appeal to Balag to "weigh the consequence of being cited in contempt and detained," but he remained unfazed.

"Ang fraternity ninyo may motto pa na 'do no injustice, suffer no injustice.' You're doing an injustice to your fellow schoolmate, fratmate, brother by not answering these questions. Nandito na nga yung magulang. Siguro naman kayo ay may pamilya rin. Ayaw na namin itong contempt na ito, ayaw na naming mag-detain. Sagutin mo na yung simpleng tanong. Pero kung ayaw mo, ikaw na ang pumili ng kahihinatnan mo ngayon," Poe added.

"Being a member of a fraternity does not necessarily admit guilt...kasi bata ka pa at ayaw ko namang makulong ka sa kung saan man. Pick your battles. Mahaba-haba pa itong laban na ito," Poe told Balag.

Poe also called on UST Law Dean Nilo Divina to take a leave pending the investigation, citing "conflict of interest" in his capacity as head of the Faculty of Civil Law, counsel for the UST, and being subject of the ongoing probe. Poe said UST engaged the services of Divina's law firm, the DivinaLaw.

"This is one aspect of your job but it weighs in heavily on the impression that you give, being still the dean of UST Law. We have a very important criminal investigation that's ongoing but you are definitely a figure that's looming large," Poe said.

But Divina refused, saying the case "has no bearing on my competence as dean" and that he maintained "neutrality" and "kept distance" from Aegis Juris since accepting his job as dean.

"Nobody is indispensable. But giving a few months is a sacrifice on your part as well. You could still continue lecturing. But holding a position in power as dean can compromise and can even scare away certain members. It's a conflict of interest as dean, as counsel of UST, as subject to the investigation. Itong mga estudyante na may nakabinbin pang grades, baka matakot sila na pag nagsalita sila na baka bumagsak sila," the senator added.

Frat member Ralph Trangia, who returned on Oct. 10 after fleeing the country hours after Castillo's death on Sept. 17, also invoked his right against self-incrimination when asked by Poe whether he or his father owned a red pickup truck that took Castillo to the hospital. Trangia's driver Romeo Laboga drove the vehicle bearing another frat member John Paul Solano, a registered medical technologist, and Castillo's body to the Chinese General Hospital.

The Manila Police District later confirmed that a red Mitsubishi Strada with plate number ZLU 539 was registered under the name of Antonio Trangia, Ralph's father, in Meycauayan, Bulacan, but neither the younger Trangia nor his parents would admit ownership of the pickup truck.

Antonio Trangia said he was with his driver, who Solano testified drove him and Castillo's body to the hospital, during the time the CCTV recorded footage in the hospital showing a red pickup truck.

Poe then moved to invite Laboga in the next Senate inquiry to back up Antonio's claim.

"Kung patuloy niyong pagtatakpan ay hindi na kayo matutulungan," said Poe.

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