UST law dean refuses to take leave amid Atio death probe

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 18 2017 12:49 PM

MANILA - University of Sto. Tomas Civil Law dean Nilo Divina said Wednesday he will not step down from his post despite an ongoing investigation into the death of freshman Horacio Castillo III.

Senator Grace Poe urged Divina, who is also part of the Aegis Jvris fraternity, to seek at least a temporary leave after he confirmed that his law firm will represent the school if faced with a lawsuit.

"I thought about that very seriously and after deliberation and bringing it to my own prayers, I came to the conclusion that I cannot abandon my students, especially the barristers preparing for the examination, my 40 students and the rest of the studentry," Divina told lawmakers.

Divina said he has not given any special preference or treatment to the Aegis Jvris fraternity, adding that he was not part of the commission instituted by the university rector to investigate the supposed fatal hazing.

"I have been a dean to all students regardless of affiliation. I did not play favorites. I have maintained my neutrality," he said.

He also said he has the support of the students, the alumni association and faculty. He added he has not missed a single lecture since the investigation began.

"I don’t think my dedication, my commitment to teaching and as an academician has been changed because of this. This is one incident that we are trying to resolve. I don’t think it has a bearing on my competence or dedication as a dean, a professor and academician," he said.

However, Poe said while the death of 22-year-old Castillo has no bearing on Divina's competence and was but one aspect of his job, "it weighs in heavily on the impression that you give being still the dean of UST."

"You are the dean, but we have a very important criminal investigation that’s ongoing. I wouldn’t say you’re front and center of it, but definitely a figure that is looming large. Nobody is indispensable and I think that giving a few months is a sacrifice on your part as well, not just teaching," she said.

"You can still continue lecturing, but holding a position in power as dean, I believe can compromise and even scare away certain members," she added.

Poe said there is a "conflict of interest" in Divina "as dean, as counsel of UST, as being subject of the investigation," as she urged the UST board to come up with a resolution to put him on leave.

Castillo, 22, died due to massive injuries consistent with hazing, according to an autopsy report. He was rushed to the hospital September 17, but was declared dead upon arrival.

The parents of Castillo sued Divina for murder and violation of Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law. He was also charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.