Hazing suspect ordered freed as victim laid to rest
Just minutes after hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Tomas Castillo III was laid to rest amid cries for justice, the first suspect to surface was ordered released from police custody by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which said the fraternity man still had to undergo preliminary investigation.
John Paul Solano, who surrendered to the Manila Police District on Friday last week and implicated six fellow Aegis Juris members in an executive session with Senators on Monday night, was expected to walk out of the MPD either last night or today.
In a resolution issued early Wednesday night, the DOJ directed the MPD to immediately release Solano since there was no basis for his detention.
Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. explained that the DOJ still had to decide whether to file criminal charges in court against Solano and 17 other frat members in connection with Castillo’s death, which had rekindled public outrage against frat-related violence.
The preliminary investigation to be conducted by a DOJ panel led by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva will be held on Oct. 4 and 9.
Not yet off the hook
“The release of (Solano) would not mean he is already off the hook. The preliminary investigation that would be conducted would only mean that he would have the opportunity or chance to file his answer,” Catalan told reporters.
Solano, a medical technologist, was identified as the Aegis Juris member who brought a dying Castillo to Chinese General Hospital in the morning of Sept. 17.
But he claimed that he did not participate in the hazing and that he was only asked by his fraternity brothers to resuscitate Castillo.
Castillo, a freshman law student of the University of Sto. Tomas, was laid to rest on Wednesday at Manila Memorial Park, Parañaque City.
He was interred in the family mausoleum, next to his grandfather, with family and friends bidding him farewell — and his golden retriever Lega barking a last goodbye.
Castillo’s parents Horacio and Carminia Castillo remained inconsolable, surrounded by mourners who released black and yellow butterflies as a symbol of letting go.
‘This is your frat’s end’
Castillo’s high school buddies from Colegio de San Agustin (CSA) came in black shirts marked with Atio’s portrait and the slogan “#JusticeForHoracio.” The funeral convoy was led by representatives of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, who carried a streamer calling for an end to senseless killings.
“My message to Aegis Juris is you’ve lost a great member. Can you imagine if you did not kill him? He would have made your fraternity great,” said Gerardo Castillo, the victim’s uncle.
“But now it’s the opposite. This is the end of your fraternity,” he said. “I don’t know if any neophyte would ever join your organization.”
David Amor, Castillo’s godfather, said CSA Batch ’86 would start raising a fund for Castillo’s family for the “very long legal battle” ahead.
In his homily during the funeral mass at Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati City, Fr. Winston Cabading denounced Castillo’s death at the hands of his supposed brothers.
“A brotherhood that seeks to harm does not come from God … but from the devil,” he said.
But the priest called on Atio’s family and friends “not to be buried in darkness when we are filled with anger and hatred.”
“What is the meaning of Atio’s death? There is no easy answer,” Cabading said. “His life will always remain a gift from God, and we need to focus on that.”
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