WHAT WENT BEFORE: Atio Castillo hazing case
On Sept. 17, 2017, Horacio Castillo III, a 22-year-old University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman, was found lying on a sidewalk in Tondo, Manila, a blanket draped over him.
There were heavy hematomas on both his arms, while bruises and dried-up candle wax were on different parts of his body. A police autopsy showed that he died of a massive heart attack.
Castillo was said to be a victim of fatal hazing by the UST-based fraternity Aegis Juris, which was recruiting him.
On Sept. 25, Manila police filed a complaint for murder, obstruction of justice, perjury, robbery and violation of Republic Act No. 8049 or the antihazing law against John Paul Solano and 17 other Aegis members at the Department of Justice (DOJ) over Castillo’s death.
Solano surrendered after he was identified as the one who brought Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital, where the latter was declared dead on arrival on Sept. 17.
Solano is also facing perjury charges for lying in a sworn statement given to the police. He claimed that he found Castillo’s body on a sidewalk in Tondo after buying cigarettes from a store in the area. But video footage from the barangay security camera showed nothing unusual happened in the area that day.
In October 2017, Castillo’s parents, Horacio Jr. and Carmina, filed a supplemental complaint against 18 other members of Aegis Juris and the UST law dean, Nilo Divina, who is also a member of the fraternity.
In March 2018, the DOJ filed criminal charges against 10 members of Aegis Juris over Castillo’s death but dropped the UST law dean from the charge sheet.
In a resolution dated March 6, 2018, the DOJ panel of prosecutors found probable cause to indict Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Hipe, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat and Robin Ramos for violation of the antihazing law.
The panel did not recommend bail for the 10 respondents.
It also ordered perjury and obstruction of justice charges to be filed against Solano, who later admitted that he was asked by his fraternity brothers to administer first aid to the unconscious Castillo and was among those who brought him to the hospital.
The charges against other Aegis Juris members—including Divina—were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.
Also cleared were Trangia’s parents, Antonio and Rosmarie, whom the police had accused of harboring, concealing and facilitating the escape of their son. Trangia and his mother flew to the United States days after Castillo’s death, but later returned, with Trangia surrendering to the authorities.
The DOJ findings were based on the testimony of Marc Anthony Ventura, a fraternity member present during the hazing rites, who had been placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program.
Arrest warrants for the 10 Aegis Juris fraternity members were approved on March 22, 2018.
Hazing is a nonbailable offense which carries a penalty of reclusion perpetua. —Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives
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