Atio hazing: DOJ OKs raps vs 10 frat men, clears dean
The Department of Justice on Thursday filed criminal charges against 10 members of Aegis Juris over the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, and dropped the UST law dean from the charge sheet.
In a resolution dated March 6, the DOJ panel of prosecutors found probable cause to indict Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Munrio Hipe, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat and Robin Ramos for violation of Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.
The panel did not recommend bail for the 10 respondents.
It also ordered perjury and obstruction of justice charges to be filed against John Paul Solano, another fraternity member and former UST student, who initially claimed in the police investigation that he only chanced upon Castillo’s body in Tondo but later admitted that he was called by his fraternity brothers to administer first-aid on the unconscious victim and was among those who brought him to Chinese General Hospital (CGH).
Lack of evidence
The charges against 10 other Aegis Juris members—including UST Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina—were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence. They also include Jason Adolfo Robinos, Aeron Salientes, Ranie Rafael Santiago, Zimon Pedro, Alex Bose, Leo Lalusis, Lennert Bryan Galicia, Nathan Anarna, Chuck Siazar, Karl Matthew Villanueva, and faculty secretary Arthur Capili.
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 her mother went to the United States days after Castillo’s death, but later returned, with Trangia surrendering to the authorities.
The panel also recommended that further police investigation be conducted on 10 other fraternity members to determine their involvement.
The DOJ panel was composed of state prosecutor Susan Villanueva and prosecution attorneys Wendel Bendoval and Honeyrose Delgado.
Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. approved the indictments, which have been lodged in the Manila Regional Trial Court.
Dean welcomes dismissal
In a press conference, Catalan said the cases against the suspects were based on the testimony of Aegis Juris member Mark Ventura who was also present during the initiation rites.
“The principal basis is the testimony of witness Mark Ventura who stated [the events] in detail. His testimony appears to be credible and believable (and) made in a straightforward manner,” Catalan said.
Ventura has been admitted to the government’s Witness Protection Program.
Meanwhile, Divina welcomed the dismissal of the charges against him.
“I have always maintained my full innocence throughout this unfortunate incident and thankfully, this has now been established beyond question. As they say, the moral arc of the universe may be long but it bends towards justice,” the law dean said in a statement.
“I continue to pray for justice for Atio and have full faith in our legal system,” Divina added.
Catalan said there would be another round of preliminary investigation for other suspects mentioned by Ventura in his affidavit but who were not included among the original suspects that were subject of the complaint filed by the Manila police.
According to Ventura, Castillo collapsed after being hit with a paddle on the upper part of his legs for the fifth time during the final hazing rites held at the Aegis Juris library in Sampaloc, Manila, around 2 a.m. on Sept. 17 last year.
Castillo’s parents, the private complainants in the case, said they were unable to reach their son on his phone later in the morning and no one among the fraternity members replied to their calls. The following day, they received a text message from someone telling them that Castillo had been brought to the CGH.
Before the parents arrived at the hospital, however, Castillo’s body had already been moved for autopsy to a funeral home in Sampaloc, where they eventually found their dead son.
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.