Senate detains Aegis Juris’ head after being cited in contempt

MANILA — A Senate panel on Wednesday placed Aegis Juris fraternity president Arvin Balag under Senate detention after being cited in contempt for being “evasive” when questioned during the Senate hearing about the death of law student hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.

Balag was cited in contempt after repeatedly invoking his right against self-incrimination in answering simple questions which senators said were not even self-incriminatory.

Senator Grace Poe, during her turn to ask questions, asked Balag if it was true that he was president of fraternity. However, Balag invoked his right against self-incrimination.

“Ni pagiging miyembro hindi mo aaminin? (You can’t even admit being a member?) Mr. Chair, I would like to move that the resource person (Balag) be cited in contempt,” Poe said during the hearing.

Poe’s motion was seconded by Senators Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chair of the committee handling the hearing, ordered the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to place Balag under detention after the hearing.

Lacson said that he saw no reason for Balag to answer the question since school records were available anyway.

“Just answer straight. Don’t be evasive. Nandiyan na (The records are there) . Why would it incriminate you kung ia-affirm mo lang yung nasa record sa UST (if you’re only going to affirm the records of UST)?”

Poe and Lacson gave Balag several chances to answer the question but he apologetically invoked his right against self-incrimination.

In the closed-door transcript of John Paul Solano, frat member and prime suspect in Atio’s death, he revealed that it was Balag who asked him to bring the victim to the hospital and lie about finding his body in a street in Balut, Tondo.

Balag, however, maintained that he was no longer a law student in UST as he had already transferred to Lyceum University of the Philippines after getting debarred.

In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Lacson said that Balag had abused his right against self-incrimination.

“Di na nga self-incriminatory ini-invoke pa rin ang right against self-incrimination. Very simple questions answerable by yes or no, hindi ito magje-jeopardize sa kanila in terms of incriminating themselves,” Lacson said.

(“It’s not even self-incriminatory, they keep invoking the right against self-incrimination. They’re very simple questions answerable by yes or no, it won’t put them in jeopardy in terms of incriminating themselves.”)

Another frat member, Ralph Trangia, also refused to answer Poe’s question about whether or not his family owned a red Mitsubishi car. He was also warned to be cited in contempt but did not meet the same fate as Balag.

Police reports showed that it was the car of Trangia’s father that was used to take Atio to the Chinese General Hospital.