Manila police file murder complaint vs 18 in fatal hazing
The Manila police on Monday accused John Paul Solano and 17 others of murder, obstruction of justice, perjury, robbery and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law in a complaint filed in the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student Horacio Castillo III.
The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs opened an inquiry into Castillo’s death on Monday night. The hearing was still going on as of press time.
Wearing a yellow prison shirt, Solano looked calm and was even smiling at times when he was brought by Manila Police District (MPD) officers to the DOJ for inquest proceedings presided over by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva.
Solano, one of the primary suspects in the death of Castillo, surrendered to Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday after he was identified as the man who took Castillo’s badly bruised body to the hospital where the 22-year-old freshman law student was declared dead on arrival on Sept. 17.
Lacson, head of the public order committee, turned Solano over to the MPD.
Assisted by lawyer Paterno Esmaquel, Solano demanded his immediate release from police custody, insisting he was innocent and invoking his right to due process.
Besides Solano, also named respondents were Ralph Trangia, Arvin Balag, Mhin Wei Chan, Ranie Rafael Santiago, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Jason Adolfo Robiños, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Karl Matthew Villanueva, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Axel Munro Hipe, Marc Anthony Ventura, Aeron Salientes, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro and Jose Miguel Salamat.
Most of them are members of the Aegis Juris fraternity at UST, which Castillo had sought to join, leading to his fatal initiation.
Also charged with the same offense was Trangia’s father, Antonio.
A complaint for obstruction of justice was brought against his mother, Rosemarie.
Antonio was the registered owner of the vehicle that was used to bring Castillo’s body to the hospital while Rosemarie accompanied her son in fleeing the country after news of Castillo’s death spread in the media.
Speaking with reporters after the proceedings, Esmaquel said Solano should be freed at once because he was wrongfully charged by the MPD with murder in relation to Republic Act No. 8049, or the Anti-Hazing Law, which is regarded as a special law.
“It is a settled truth and it is with authority … (that) there is no such offense as complex crime of (murder and violation of the antihazing law). Then it follows that he should be released immediately,” Esmaquel said.
“He voluntarily surrendered since he was not a subject of a warrantless arrest. My client is now being illegally detained,” he said.
In an eight-page omnibus motion, Solano maintained that “there can be no complex crime if one offense is punished by a special law since both offenses must be defined and punished by the same statute.”
“In other words, in the absence of the proper offense charged in the instant case, the herein respondent has no offense to refute and disprove,” he said.
Solano also questioned why he underwent inquest proceedings and not a regular preliminary investigation like the other respondents in the case.
Esmaquel also noted that his client was made to sign a judicial affidavit without the assistance of a lawyer.
But Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, MPD head, said Solano misled police investigators after he initially claimed that he only found Castillo on the road.
Speaking to reporters, Supt. Erwin Margarejo, spokesperson for the MPD, said Solano was not permanently detained, but was only placed under temporary custody.
“There is no illegal detention. It’s not a detention cell. It’s a custodial facility,” he said, referring to the MPD homicide section.
Margarejo deflected several questions about the case, invoking the sub judice limits to discussions of cases pending in courts.
He said it was up to the court to determine whether Solano had been unlawfully arrested, as well as evaluate the degree of participation of the other suspects.
Fraternity member, too
Solano is facing perjury charges for lying in a sworn statement given to the police last week.
He claimed that he found Castillo’s body on a sidewalk in Tondo, Manila, on Sept. 17 after buying cigarettes from a store in the area.
But video footage from the barangay security camera showed nothing unusual happened in the area on that day.
Police investigators also found that Solano was also a law student at UST and a member of Aegis Juris, although he claimed he did not participate in the hazing of Castillo.