In defense of Dean Nilo Divina
It has been almost five months since Horacio Castillo, a young law student of the University of Santo Tomas, died as a result of the hazing he underwent while he was applying for membership in the Aegis Juris fraternity of the UST law school.
A police investigation ensued and the suspects, composed of resident and alumni members of the fraternity, were rounded up and charged.
It was reported by the news media that alumni members of Aegis Juris met at a hotel at the Araneta Center in Quezon City, and that it was agreed that nobody in the fraternity, particularly those who were involved in the fatal hazing of Castillo, will admit to anything.
The Senate conducted its own inquiry into the event. Almost overnight, the Senate became a stage for political grandstanding, with Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri instigating the circus.
As a consequence of the fatal hazing incident, UST law school Dean Nilo Divina found himself in the spotlight, not so much because he was Castillo’s dean, but particularly because he is an alumnus of the Aegis Juris fraternity. The news media hounded Divina no end, social media bloggers denounced him repeatedly, and a Senate investigation virtually crucified him on nationwide television. To say that Divina became the object of national scorn and disdain is to describe his situation mildly.
More specifically, the news media lay the main blame on Dean Divina for allegedly tolerating hazing in UST, and for supposedly failing to prevent his own fraternity from engaging in the nefarious practice. Some observers even suggested that as an alumnus of the Aegis Juris fraternity, Divina acquiesced in his fraternity’s practice of hazing its neophytes. Other analysts raised the possibility that Divina gave sanctuary to his fraternity brothers who were involved in the fatal hazing.
In sum, many in the news media demanded that Divina resign as UST law school dean for what they insisted was his failure to prevent the hazing incident from taking place. “Ditto,” said Divina’s critics in the social media.
The Senate investigation instigated by Senator Zubiri was both a fishing investigation and a witch hunt.
It was a fishing investigation because Zubiri had no tangible evidence against Dean Divina to begin with, and he expected the officers of the Aegis Juris fraternity, whom he summoned to the Senate inquiry, to incriminate themselves and their fraternity alumni, and to provide the very evidence which Zubiri badly needed to be able to crucify them in the arena of public opinion.
Surprisingly, when the fraternity officers refused to admit to any wrongdoing and simply invoked their constitutional right against self-incrimination, Zubiri was livid. Later, in a television interview, Zubiri denounced the Aegis Juris members, but kept quiet about his close ties to the father of the deceased.
As Zubiri expected, his grandstanding brought him a great deal of free publicity. It also demonstrated his inability to understand the concept of constitutional rights—which further confirms that a thorough understanding of the Constitution is not a requirement for senators.
When news about the hazing incident was no longer current enough to warrant coverage in the print and broadcast media, Zubiri turned his attention elsewhere.
The Senate inquiry triggered by Zubiri was also a witch hunt because despite Zubiri’s dismal failure to pin the fatal hazing incident on Divina, Zubiri’s committee so badly needed someone to blame that, in the end, it came out with a sweeping recommendation that the Supreme Court should disbar Divina.
There is no doubt that from September 2017 all the way to the waning weeks of that year, Divina had sleepless nights and suffered from numerous bouts of anxiety. Fortunately for him, the controversy surrounding the UST hazing incident was eventually overtaken by other news stories.