Frat man in hazing death yields
One of the prime suspects in the brutal killing of fraternity recruit Horacio “Atio” Castillo III turned himself in on Friday, saying he was not involved in the fatal hazing and that he even tried to revive the “half-dead” law freshman.
John Paul Solano, 27, a member of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) fraternity Aegis Juris that recruited Castillo, also apologized to the fraternity neophyte’s parents for lying in his earlier statement that he found their dying son on a Tondo roadside.
Solano surrendered to Sen. Panfilo Lacson at his office in Taguig City where he was turned over to the Manila Police District (MPD) director, Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, in the presence of UST Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina.
“I want to clear my name because I know myself, I am innocent,” Solano said when asked by reporters why he surrendered.
He said the situation was “getting worse,” but he did not elaborate.
“First and foremost,” Solano said, “I would like to apologize for giving false statement for that matter to the family of Atio and also for the death of their son.” He said he didn’t know Castillo personally and they met only twice.
A medical technologist who was on leave from his UST law studies, Solano said he did not participate in the initiation rites for Castillo and only responded to a call for help from his fraternity brothers.
He did not say who called him and where he went.
“My involvement was to give medical assistance at that time because they were in chaos,” he said. “I was not there. They needed medical assistance. I’m a medical health provider so more or less they would call me.”
Asked about the condition of Castillo when he arrived, he said the 22-year-old was “more or less half dead.”
“I couldn’t give a final verdict that he was dead because I’m not a doctor,” he said. “He was unconscious. I did give CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and then when I couldn’t do anything else, I brought him to the hospital. That’s it.”
He declined to give more details to reporters, saying he would sign a full statement in a new affidavit that would include why he lied about where he found Castillo.
Solano initially told police that he found Castillo on a sidewalk in Tondo, Manila, on Sunday morning after buying cigarettes from a nearby store.
He said he flagged down a red Mitsubishi Strada that took Castillo to Chinese General Hospital, where Castillo was declared dead on arrival.
Officials of Barangay 133, where Solano supposedly found Castillo, disputed his account.
A video footage of the area where Castillo was supposedly dumped showed there was no body there at the time.
Police later found that Solano was a UST law student and Aegis Juris member.
They also learned that the red pickup truck was registered to Antonio Trangia, father of Ralph Trangia, a fraternity member who left the country on Sept. 19, a day before he was included in an immigration lookout bulletin.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco) on Friday corrected earlier reports that Trangia went to Taiwan.
Escape to US
In a statement, Teco said Trangia was only a transit passenger who passed through Taoyuan Airport and took another flight to Chicago in the United States on the same day.
Solano’s lawyer, Paterno Esmaquel, said his client surrendered to show he was innocent and “he will face whatever charges that will be filed against him.”
Lacson, who is set to open a Senate investigation on Castillo’s death on Monday as chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said a former Malacañang undersecretary contacted him on Thursday morning to facilitate Solano’s surrender.
The senator said he sent some of his staff to a gasoline station along North Luzon Expressway to fetch Solano.
“That was their only request to make sure that he will not be interdicted along the way,” Lacson told reporters.
Divina, a founder of Aegis Juris, said he helped arrange Solano’s surrender as early as Wednesday. He said his father and Solano’s father were close friends.
“My father talked to John’s father and [the latter] was able to convince his son to turn himself in … a lawyer called me up confirming that John would like to surrender,” he added.
From Lacson’s office, Coronel took Solano to the MPD headquarters for further investigation.
“Solano remains a prime suspect,” Coronel said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday said senior fraternity brothers had been “detaining” eight of their members “because they don’t want them to speak (about Castillo’s death)” to the authorities.
“They are invoking their code of silence,” he said.
“Castillo was the (only neophyte) who underwent the initiation rites. Because he was just solo, they really pounced on him,” he said.
He said he could not immediately say if the eight were among those earlier included in the immigration lookout order.
He said the Department of Justice (DOJ) was informed that even parents of some of the fraternity members had warned other Aegis Juris members not to believe reports that the DOJ would provide security for them.
“That’s the reason why we came out with a press statement confirming that we are really offering them protection or coverage under the WPP (witness protection program),” he said.
Aguirre said at least three individuals, including two Aegis Juris members, had expressed their willingness to testify.
Aguirre said the information provided by the possible witnesses was a major breakthrough in the investigation as it would help the National Bureau of Investigation identify the fraternity members who were present during the initiation rites.
He said one of the possible witnesses, who aborted his recruitment by the fraternity, went to the DOJ and informed him about the deadly hazing rites of the group.
He said a fraternity member had spoken to him on the phone signifying his intention to help the investigation while another member indicated he would turn himself in to the NBI. —WITH A REPORT FROM JHESSET O. ENANO
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.