10 Aegis Juris fratmen charged over Atio Castillo hazing death

MANILA The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday filed criminal charges against 10 members of Aegis Juris Fraternity over the death of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horacio Atio Castillo III from hazing last September.

In a 46-page resolution, the DOJ panel of prosecutors found probable cause to indict Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Munro Hipe, 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.

No bail is recommended for all the accused.

The justice department also filed charges for perjury against John Paul Solano, who took Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital.

In a press conference, Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. said they 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, 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 explained.

The panel of prosecutors has come out with a resolution and in fact it was already filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC), Catalan told reporters.

Asked on Ventura's credibility, Catalan answered: Because it was in detail and made in a straight forward manner.

The charges against Ventura were also dismissed.

Also in the resolution, the complaints against other members Jason Adolfo Robinos, Aeron Salientes, Ranie Rafael Santiago, Zimon Pedro, Alex Bose, Leo Lalusis, Lennert Bryan Galicia, Nathan Anarna, Chuck Siazar and Karl Matthew Villanueva have been dismissed for lack of probable cause.

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Catalan also said that 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 Law respectively are recommended dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

Sought for a comment, Divina, in a statement said he was relieved by the DOJ's decision.

"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," Divina said.

"I continue to pray for justice for Atio and have full faith in our legal system," Divina added.

The Prosecutor General also said there were other members of Aegis Juris Fraternity who were not included but were mentioned in Ventura's affidavit and there would be another preliminary investigation set for them.

May mga hindi kasama (There were respondents not included but was indicated by Ventura) sa charges pero na-indicate ni Mark Ventura so another PI or criminal investigation will be conducted against them because they were not charged originally but were mentioned by witness Ventura in his sinumpaang salaysay (sworn statement). The MPD will again file another set of charges, he explained.

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, read the resolution signed by panel of prosecutors led Villanueva by Prosecution Attorneys Wendell Bendoval and Honey Rose Delgado and approved by Catalan and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rassenell Rex Gingoyon.

Meanwhile, the Manila Police District welcomed the DOJ's move.

"We are satisfied and happy about the indictment of 11 Aegis Juris Fraternity members involved in the Horacio Castillo hazing case. If the court will issue a warrant of arrest, we are ready to arrest all suspects that are involved in the case," MPD spokesperson Supt. Erwin Margarejo said in a statement.

"Our investigation will continue, especially on the 10 other members of the fraternity as recommended by the DOJ," he added.

The MPD filed its complaint before the DOJ on Sept. 25, 2017, while Atio's parents submitted a supplemental complaint on October 9, 2017.

It 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 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 September 17, 2017.

Solano issued two affidavits. On his first affidavit executed before the Manila Police District (MPD), he said he does 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.

This runs counter to his later sworn statement which said he was asked by frat members to take Atio to the hospital after collapsing during a pre-dawn initiation rite at the fraternity library held on the said date.

Source: Philippine News Agency