At 7:20am last Sunday, as the sun rose over the slowly rousing city, a body was found on the streets of Tondo, Manila. Wrapped in a blanket, covered in bruises and burn marks, the body was rushed to Chinese General Hospital by a Good Samaritan, a medical technologist named John Sarte who was out buying cigarettes. He was identified as a 22-year-old law student named Horacio Castillo III, declared dead on arrival at 9:21am.
On Sunday night, Horacio Castillo, Jr. and his wife Carmina received a text message from Chinese General, and their world came crashing down.
Slowly, the story came out. “Atyo”, as he was known to his family, was recruited by the Aegis Juris Fraternity. He was a freshman law student at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law, having just graduated from the school’s AB Political Science program (incidentally, the same baccalaureate degree that I graduated with). On Saturday night, Horacio asked his parents for permission to spend the night at UST, where welcome rites for Aegis Juris would be conducted. The fraternity is recognized by the University itself, and the Dean of the Faculty of Civil Law, Atty. Nilo Divina, is a member.
I won’t go into the evils of violent hazing rituals. As someone who belongs to a sorority and is part of the affiliation culture, I feel unqualified to discuss initiation rites, and I certainly don’t want to be accused of hypocrisy. Instead, what I’m going to talk about right now is the rampant victim-blaming that seems to be happening in the wake of Horacio Castillo’s death.
It’s a comment sentiment that’s cropping up amongst netizens, especially parents. “What do you expect, joining a frat?” Or, “It’s just asking for something to happen to you.”
Yes, my fellow feminists, it’s our old friend: victim-blaming.
Truth is, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a sense of belongingness. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a network and connections outside of law school. Yes, there are other ways of surviving law school, but sari-sariling diskarte lang yan (I can’t think of an appropriate English translation for this phrase – it means something like it’s up to each and every person how they handle things). We have no right to judge how Horacio Castillo wanted to make his law school journey.
These things people are saying about Horacio Castillo are no different from people saying that a girl in a short skirt walking down a dark street deserved to get raped.
Saying that Horacio Castillo shouldn’t have joined a frat in the first place puts the onus on victims to avoid becoming victims; when in reality, the onus should be on the fraternities to provide a safe, sane initiation for their neophytes.
Horacio Castillo was not at fault for wanting to become a brod.
Aegis Juris is at fault for killing him.
Let’s not lose sight of that.