Manila court denies petition to dismiss Atio Castillo hazing case
MANILA, Philippines — A Manila court has refused to dismiss the case against 10 fraternity members tagged in the fatal hazing-related death of University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.
In her decision dated February 24, acting presiding judge Shirley Magsipoc-Pagalilauan of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 11 rejected the demurrer to evidence separately filed by members of the Aegis Juris fraternity.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss a criminal case on the ground that the evidence presented by the prosecutors is insufficient for a criminal conviction.
Those who filed the motion were Jose Miguel Salamat, Joriel Macabali, Robin Ramos, John Audrey Onofre, Marcelino Bagtang Jr., Axel Munro Hipe, Mhin Wei Chan, Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, and Dannielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo.
In their motion, the accused individuals claimed that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the cause of Castillo’s death in September 2017 was due to injuries from hazing. They said the cause of his death was not severe traumatic injuries but hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
They also said that the testimony of witness, fellow-Aegis Juris fraternity member Mark Anthony Ventura has no probative value due to his “conflicting and inconsistent” statements.
They likewise claimed that the prosecution failed to prove the presence of all the elements of violation of the anti-hazing law.
But in its decision, the court said the prosecution was able to prove the elements of the offense and that the testimony of Ventura is “credible and sufficient to attain the conviction of all the accused.”
“After going over the grounds relied upon by the accused vis-à-vis the evidence presented by the prosecution, the court finds that there is sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment of the crime charged,” the court’s decision read.
The court also maintained that Ventura was able to provide a “detailed, direct, and straightforward narration” of the hazing, and that while there may have some inconsistencies in his testimony, these were just minor and do not affect his credibility.
The court stressed that the medico-legal officer who conducted an autopsy on Castillo’s body and the pathologist who conducted an examination on his internal organs concluded that Castillo’s cause of death was severe blunt traumatic physical injuries.
“Even granting for the sake of argument that Horacio died of HCM due to his grossly enlarged heart as claimed by the accused, they can still be held responsible for the death of Horacio following the time-respected doctrine: ‘He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of the evil caused,’” the court ruled.
“Even if the victim is suffering from an internal ailment, liver or heart disease, or tuberculosis, if the blow delivered by the accused is the efficient cause of death, or accelerated his death, or is the proximate cause of death, then there is criminal liability,” it added.
“The prosecution having established that Horacio died of hazing and that all the accused were present during commission of the crime, it is now incumbent upon the accused to adduce evidence to controvert that of the prosecution or that they prevented the commission of a crime of hazing,” the decision concluded.
What went before: Atio Castillo hazing case
Atio Castillo hazing case: Frat member found guilty of obstruction of justice
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