MANILA -- University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina on Wednesday refused to go on leave as college dean, despite the prodding of a senator.

During the Senate second hearing on the hazing death of UST law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, Senator Grace Poe asked Divina to take a leave, as his being dean creates a conflict of interest in the investigation.

Divina is also a member of the fraternity linked to Atio’s death, the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

“You’re the dean and we have a very important criminal investigation that’s ongoing. I wouldn’t say you’re front and center, but definitely a figure that’s looming large,” Poe told Divina.

Poe said Divina could still continue lecturing but thought it best if he steps aside as dean to avoid “scaring away” other Aegis Juris members from testifying.

She further suggested that the UST board come up with a resolution placing Divina on leave.

Divina, however, insisted on remaining as dean, noting that it did not have a bearing on his competence as dean and professor.

“I can’t abandon my students, especially the barristers preparing for bar exams. I have the support of students, alumni association, and the faculty,” Divina said.

The dean added that he had not even missed a lecture except for a Senate hearing when he was required to attend but he made up for it.

“I don’t think my dedication, my commitment to teaching has changed because of this,” he added.

Divina also denied providing special treatment or favoring Aegis Juris members in his college, saying he always maintains neutrality.

Poe, however, still found it suspicious that Divina failed to immediately contact Atio’s parents the moment he found out a student died.

“I would be frantic the minute a student was in trouble. You waited how many hours for a confirmation, waited until the next day to tell the parents,” Poe said.

“You’re a member of this frat and also the dean of UST. I really think it’s somehow affecting how your actions are,” she added. (PNA)