Fratmen’s “cover-up attempt” revealed through a group chat presented in Senate

UNTV News   •   October 18, 2017   •   6571

Arvin Balag


MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since the tragic death by hazing of UST Law student Horacio Castillo III, members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity allegedly involved in the crime, faced the Senate’s joint public hearing, Wednesday.

They are Arvin Balag, the president of the Aegis Juris Fraternity; OJ Onofre, the one who called Solano to respond to the medical needs of Atio; Axel Hipe, the alleged recruiter of the group; and Ralph Trangia, the owner of the vehicle used to transport the then half dead Atio to hospital.

Manila Police District or MDP Head C/Supt. Joel Coronel presented during the hearing the online chat exchanges between the leaders and members of the fraternity from September 17 to 18. Based on the transcript, the group was discussing an attempt to do a cover-up and a plan to evade the liabilities they might face for the death of Atio.

The MPD also presented CCTV footage inside an elevator at the Novotel where the fratmen held a meeting to discuss the steps they would undertake regarding the incident.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said that, what the MPD presented are strong pieces of evidence against the Aegis Juris Fraternity members.

“It will assist the prosecutors and even the MPD in their investigation . . .  it’s unbecoming of their lawyers that they the are the ones doing the cover-up,” Lacson said.

During the Senate inquiry, the statement of John Paul Solano during a September 25 executive session was also read where he stated the sequence of events that happened on the 17th of September.

In the entire course of the hearing, the fraternity members had not answered the questions of the senators but just invoked their right against self- incrimination.

This irked the legislators and even prompted Senator Grace Poe to cite Balag in contempt , which was immediately approved by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the chairman of the joint hearing.

Balag, later on, appealed to lift the decision.

“I would like to apologize for my earlier statements and asking if my contempt be lifted . . . Yes, I’m a member but as to the incumbent presidency, I’m already in another school. I’m already in Lyceum College of Law since August..,” Arvin Balag said.

But when asked who decided to bring Atio to the Chinese General Hospital and not to the UST Hospital near the Aegis Juris Fraternity Office, Balag said, “As to that question I will invoke my right to self incrimination.”

To which Sen. Joel Villanueva responded, “Then your contempt will remain.”

This was promptly endorsed by Sen. Lacson who said, “The motion is carried. Sargeant at Arms, after this hearing you place him under detention.”

“You already have that kind of thinking at a young age, how much more when you become an adult? The motto of your fraternity is ‘Do no injustice, suffer no injustice’. You are doing injustice to your fellow schoolmate, fratmate, brother by not answering these questions. Atio’s parents are even here. You just have to answer a simple question. But if you don’t want, then it’s up to you to choose your fate,” Sen. Poe said.

It was also revealed that the Aegis Juris Fraternity broke its own call to its members to talk and help in the investigation.

According to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the members abused the use of their right against self- incrimination.

Meanwhile, University of Sto. Tomas Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina denied having a hand in the death of Atio.

“I have no liability, I have no capability to establish that I had no prior knowledge of the incident and I was not party to any cover up. There’s no way I could be made liable,” Divina said.

The parents of Atio hope that Solano will continue cooperating with authorities so they could attain justice in the death of their son.

“The case is now advancing with the Senate hearing. There are a lot of revelations already. So I think our case against them is getting stronger,” Atio’s father, Horacio Castillo II said.

“No one comes to us not even to offer help from them, none,” he added. “We also feel pity for them because their lives are over. You think they are set to become lawyers? No longer. Their lives are over,”

The Castillo couple also requested for the fraternity members to return the personal items of their son like his cell phone, eyeglasses, and watch, saying those are the only things left of Atio that they can return to them. – Aiko Miguel | UNTV News & Rescue

Poe urges DICT, telcos to submit plans for improving internet service

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 9, 2020

Senator Grace Poe is urging the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and telecommunication companies (Telcos) to submit by July 13 their plan on improving internet service in the country.

Poe wants to determine how many more towers telcos plan to build in the coming years to give the Filipinos better online experience especially with the high demand for better internet service due to effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Agencies and telcos need a nudge to act as fast as they can to bring the internet to everyone’s homes,” she said.

A boost in connectivity would also help students and teachers with online learning, Poe added. It is also crucial for businesses that operate through online transactions.

“Nararanasan nating lahat ang mababang kalidad ng ating connection, kaya importante talaga na ang mga telco ay mag-deliver sa kanilang pangako na magpatayo ng mas maraming cell site (We have all experienced poor internet connection that is why it is important for telcos to deliver on their promise to build more cell sites),” she said. AAC

Poe wants proof ABS-CBN can still operate beyond franchise term

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2020

Senator Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe called on her fellow legislators to ensure that broadcasting network ABS-CBN can still continue to operate beyond its franchise term while Congress deliberates on bills seeking to renew its franchise to protect more than 11,000 workers from displacement.

In a statement on Sunday, Poe said members of the House of Representatives should make their assurance to the ABS-CBN concrete by declaring it verbally or putting it into writing.

“Kahit sabihin pa nila na pwede naman ‘yan i-extend hanggang 2022, maganda siguro kung in writing o kaya at least verbally sabihin ng Kongreso, ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ kasi hindi naman ‘yan nakasulat sa batas,” she said.

“’Yan ay kortesiya lamang na ibinibigay ng Kongreso at NTC. Hindi biro kung matigil ang operasyon dahil alam naman natin 11,000 trabaho ang apektado rito,” she added.

Poe made the remark after House leaders earlier said that the media giant could continue operating until 2022 or the end of the 18th Congress while its franchise is being discussed.

The senator last week filed Resolution No. 322 directing the Senate committee on public services, which she chairs, to conduct an inquiry to determine ABS-CBN’s compliance to the terms of its franchise. Several senators are supporting the resolution.

Poe said the Senate inquiry would focus on the network’s alleged violations, adding that all parties will be given an opportunity to air their side for the public to know the real issue.

“Walang perpekto. Ako ang isip ko diyan ay bukas dahil maraming nag-a-apply ng prangkisa, wala namang perpekto,” she said.

She added that the hearings would aid the senators in making a judgment when the franchise bill is transmitted to them for their deliberation.

The House of Representatives has yet to begin deliberations on the bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise which is set to expire on March 30, 2020. Congress goes on a break on March 11.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said the bills relating to the media network’s franchise are “not that urgent” since the National Telecommunications Commission will grant the company provisional authority to operate until 2022.

He also assured that the House of Representatives will conduct an impartial hearing on the issue.

Senate panels approve report legalizing motorcycle taxis

Robie de Guzman   •   February 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate committees on public services and local government have approved a committee report allowing the use of motorcycle taxis as a form of public transport in the country.

Sixteen senators signed the Committee Report No. 46 released on Thursday which recommended the approval of Senate Bill No. 1341 or the Motorcycles-for-Hire Act.

The bill, which seeks to amend a provision of Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, classifies motorcycles-for-hire as among the public utility vehicles regulated by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

“We are inching closer to having a law that will make motorcycle taxis a part of our public transportation system,” Senator Grace Poe, who heads the public services panel, said in a statement.

The proposal defines motorcycles-for-hire as any two-wheeled motor vehicle registered with the Land Transportation Office, which transports passengers and goods on a for-hire basis, and which may utilize online ride-hailing or pre-arranged transportation platforms.

The bill states that the motorcycle should weigh less than 1,000 kilograms, can travel faster than 50 kilometers per hour, has a minimum engine displacement of 125 cubic centimeters, and a backbone-type built.

Along with the vehicle registration, the motorcycles for hire will also be required to secure a certificate of public convenience or a special permit issued by the LTFRB.

The measure also states that motorcycle taxis fall under a classification of public utility automobiles along with public utility trucks, taxis and auto-calesas, garage automobiles, hire trucks and trucks owned by contractor and customs brokers and customs agents.

“We will continue looking for ways and means to improve the people’s mobility and assure their safety,” Poe said.

The approval of the committee report comes a month before the expiry of the extended pilot run for motorcycle taxis, which permitted transport firms, Angkas, MoveIt and JoyRide to ferry commuters.


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