The grief-stricken mother of law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III called for the disbarment of the lawyers involved in a "cover-up" plot allegedly hatched on the day the 22-year-old fraternity neophyte was proclaimed dead.
Carminia Castillo, mother of Atio, said these lawyers, some in the group chat revealed to contain alleged cover-up plans and some in attendance during Wednesday's hearing, do not have the right to be called lawyers.
“Nakakahiya sila. They do not even deserve to be called lawyers. They do not even deserve to represent the guilty ones. Wala silang karapatang maging abogado,” she said in an interview on Unang Balita on Thursday, a day after a Senate public order committee hearing on the case of Atio’s death.
“They should be disbarred. ‘Yan ang kailangan niyo...patanggalan ng lisensiya,” she added.
It was revealed in the Senate hearing held Wednesday that 30 members of the Aegis Juris fraternity formed a group chat where they seemed to discuss plans of “cleaning” the evidence in Atio’s fatal hazing and reaching out to his parents so they would not make noise.
Nineteen of these 30 people met on the same day Atio was proclaimed dead, revealed Manila Police District director Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel, also in the hearing.
Carminia said the group chat is proof that “they were trying to cover up everything.”
She called the Aegis Juris members in question murderers, saying they could have done something to save Atio after he collapsed but instead talked about how to cover up the crime.
“They let him die. They were all murderers. They just let him die,” she said.
“You know...just there, may nangyaring hazing, pinabayaan nilang mamatay. 'Di sana pinanindigan nila kung anong ginawa nila. 'Di sana buhay pa 'yung anak ko. And this could have been a different story,” she added.
She also said the phone numbers she called to ask about her son that tragic day in September belonged to the members now accused of the crime, such as Axel Hipe, Ralph Trangia, Marc Anthony Ventura, and Aegis Juris head Arvin Balag.
Balag was cited for contempt in the Senate hearing on Wednesday after refusing to answer questions from the senators.
For his part, John Paul Solano, one other suspect in the case, earned the ire of Senator Miguel Zubiri for continuing to refuse to execute a sworn affidavit.
Both of Atio’s parents said while they were angry with the suspects, they also pitied them, for they “no longer have a future.”
Still, they said they are hopeful that justice will be served.
“I’m very hopeful po. I believe in the law. Nobody is above the law,” said Horacio Castillo II, Atio’s father. He said they expected the accused to be evasive, but still hold out hope for justice.
“Naniniwala ako na my son is there and he is helping us,” said Horacio II, also narrating an incident where he claimed to have felt the presence of his son through a “big butterfly” he saw on their kitchen wall on the day of the Senate hearing.
Atio Castillo was a law student at the University of Santo Tomas who died from hazing on September 17 after attending the initiation rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity.
His death, while not the first hazing death to occur in the country, marked a renewal of attention and amendment efforts on the 22-year-old Anti-Hazing Law, which has been called “toothless” for its failure to convict all but one hazing suspect since its enactment in 1995.
Atio was laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City on September 27. —Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas/KG, GMA News