UST hazing: 3 in ‘coverup’ hunted; 16 on lookout list
The police on Friday launched a manhunt for three suspects in the Horacio Castillo III hazing case, including the “Good Samaritan” who allegedly tried to mislead the investigation into the brutal death of the University of Santo Tomas law freshman.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) placed 16 members of the Aegis Juris, the UST-based fraternity that was recruiting Castillo, on its travel lookout list, asking them to cooperate in the probe.
The Manila Police District said John Paul Solano, the man who claimed to have found a badly battered Castillo on a Tondo sidewalk and brought him to the hospital on the morning of Sept. 17, “intentionally and maliciously gave false statements” to MPD.
From being a person of interest, Solano is now a principal suspect along with Antonio Trangia and Ralph Trangia, MPD director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel told reporters on Wednesday.
Coronel said Antonio Tangria was found to be the registered owner of the red Mitsubishi Strada that Solano used to bring Castillo to Chinese General Hospital. He is believed to be the father of Ralph, an Aegis officer.
In a press briefing, the MPD chief said Solano turned out to be a UST law student and an Aegis member, contrary to his earlier statement that he was a medical technologist who was on his way to work at San Lazaro Hospital when he chanced upon Castillo.
Village officials had also disputed Solano’s story, saying closed-circuit television cameras in the area had no recording of a body being dumped on the spot he mentioned.
Was he the recruiter?
Coronel said the initial investigation indicated that Solano knew Castillo and that he recruited the freshman into the fraternity.
This was based on a CCTV footage obtained by the MPD purportedly showing Castillo walking with Solano and other frat members outside UST’s Dapitan gate at 11:45 a.m. on Sept. 16, the day Castillo’s family last saw him alive.
“They deliberately misled the investigation on the killing of Castillo by providing false and fraudulent statements, which we believe are part of a coverup,” Coronel said.
The MPD official said eight more officers of Aegis Juris were also being considered suspects.
Also on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued a lookout travel order against 16 Aegis Juris members, saying they were considered persons of interest in the Castillo case.
The lookout list includes Solano, Ralph Trangia, Arvin Balag, Mhin Wei Chan, Marc Anthony Ventura, Axel Mundo Hipe, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Joshua Joriel Macabali and Jason Adolfo Robiños.
Also on the list are Ranie Rafael Santiago, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Carl Mattew Villanueva, Aeron Salientes, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro and Jose Miguel Salamat.
In a statement, Aguirre asked them to “come forward and to clear their names and share what they know.”
“As of the moment, the immigration lookout bulletin order is the least we can do (for the victim’s family). We condemn the death of Mr. Horacio Tomas Castillo III,” the secretary added.
According to Aguirre, the names of the frat members were given to Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes by the police when he visited Castillo’s wake on Tuesday night.
The MPD probe is also looking at a number of professors in the UST Faculty of Civil Law and Aegis Juris alumni as “possible accomplices” who could be charged with obstruction of justice, Coronel said.
Coronel said the suspension order issued on Monday by UST law dean Nilo Divina had “prevented us from getting access” to fraternity members covered by the probe.
‘Prudent thing to do’
He was referring to Divina’s memo, issued a day after Castillo was found dead, that barred all Aegis Juris members from attending their classes and entering the UST campus.
Asked if Divina, who is also an Aegis Juris member, would also be charged with obstruction of justice, Coronel said this matter was still subject to investigation.
“The prudent thing to do is to direct all members of the fraternity to present themselves to the investigation,” he said.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Divina said he had lifted “a portion of the preventing suspension order banning them from entering campus premises so they can make themselves fully available for investigation.”
We also directed them to fully cooperate with the investigation of the proper committee authorities.”
Past midnight on Wednesday, Divina also posted a statement on his Facebook account to explain that he “took a leave of absence (from the fraternity) when I assumed the deanship eight years ago to signify that I would not participate in any of the fraternity’s activities.”
He stressed that he had “never authorized” the use of his name and photo on the frat’s recruitment materials, and that he was not even aware that such materials existed.
As dean, Divina said he implemented a policy barring fraternities from recruiting freshmen. I believe that new entrants to the Faculty should focus on their studies,” he said. “That policy was inexplicably defied in the recruitment of Horacio.”
“I will never tolerate or support violence. In the past, I did not hesitate to impose sanctions on members of fraternities, including Aegis, who figured in frat rumbles,” he said.
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