THE Department of Justice has approved the indictment of 10 members of Aegis Juris Fraternity, in connection with the death of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III from hazing last September.
In a 46-page resolution, the DoJ prosecutors led by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva found probable cause to indict Arvin Balag (Grand Prefectus), Ralph Trangia (Sgt. at arms), Oliver John Audrey Onofre (treasurer), Mhin Wei Chan (Secundus Internus), Axel Munro Hipe (Master initiator), Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat and Robin Ramos for violation of Republic Act 8049 or Anti-Hazing Law.
The DoJ panel also dismissed all charges against respondents Nilo Divina and Arthur Capili in their capacities as the Dean and Faculty Secretary of University of Santo Tomas-Faculty of Civil for lack of evidence.
The panel recommended no bail for all the accused.
In related developments:
- UST Law dean Nilo Divina expressed elation over the dismissal of charges against him, saying “I am very happy and relieved to finally be cleared of any wrongdoing in the Atio Castillo hazing case.”
“I have always maintained my full innocence throughout this unfortunate incident, and thankfully this has now been established beyond question,” Divina said in a statement shared on social media by The Varsitarian, UST’s official student publication.
He added: “I share with you this vindication against the attempt to tarnish my reputation that I have painstakingly built and safeguarded throughout the years.”
- The Manila Police District welcomed the DoJ decision to indict the 11 members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, but said they would continue to pursue the case against personalities not included in the charges.
MPD spokesperson Supt. Edwin Margarejo said the DoJ resolution “only shows that there is probable cause, meaning that there is a need for a court trial to ferret out the truth” on Castillo’s death.
“Although some personalities were not included in the information, it is only just a temporary setback on our side but we will assure the family of Atio that we will continue to pursue this case till the end in the interest of justice,” he added.
The DoJ prosecutors also recommended the filing of perjury charges against John Paul Solano. Solano took Atio to the Chinese General Hospital.
Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. said the prosecutors based their resolution on the testimony of fellow Aegis member Mark Ventura who was also present during Atio’s final rites.
“The principal basis is the testimony of witness Mark Ventura who is covered under the witness protection program wherein he stated in detail, (sic) because his testimony appears to be credible and believable, he testified that on September 17, 2017 at the frat’s fraternity library located on Laong Laan Sampaloc, Manila he narrated that around two in the morning Atio came out while in a duck walk position and then he was pushed and pulled by the respective masters,” Catalan said in a press conference.
“The panel of prosecutors have (sic) come out with a resolution and in fact it was already filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court,” Catalan added.
When asked about Ventura’s credibility, Catalan replied: “Because it was in detail and made in a straight forward manner.”
The resolution also dropped the charges against Ventura since he is under the government’s Witness Protection Program.
Catalan also said that other members of Aegis Juris Fraternity who were mentioned in the Ventura’s affidavit will be subject of another preliminary investigation.
“It is hereby recommended that further investigation be conducted by MPD-CAPIS, against the members Aegis Juris Fraternity, namely: Zac Abulencia, Daniel Ragos, Dave Felix, Sam Cagalingan, Alex Cairo, Luis Capulong, Kim Cyrill Roque, Ged Villanueva, Edric Pilapil and RR Magbuhos, for the determination of their involvement in the crimes charged,” stated the resolution.
The MPD filed its complaint before the DoJ on Sept. 25, 2017, while Atio’s parents submitted a supplemental complaint on Oct. 9, 2017.
The MPD named 18 respondents in its complaint for murder, robbery and in violation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.
Meanwhile, Atio’s parents filed charges of murder, robbery, and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law against 31 individuals, including Divina.
They also charged 23 respondents of committing four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
The family said Castillo died after undergoing initiation rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity on Sept. 17, 2017.
Solano issued two affidavits.
On his first affidavit executed before the Manila Police District on Sept. 17, 2017, he said he did not know the Aegis Juris neophyte and only found the victim along a street in Tondo, Manila before being taken to the Chinese General Hospital.
Subsequently, Solano made another sworn statement, saying he was asked by frat members to take Atio to the hospital after collapsing during a pre-dawn initiation rite at the fraternity library on Sept. 17.