Atio’s parents welcome witness Marc Ventura, reopening of probe

MANILA -- The parents of Horacio "Atio" Castillo III on Friday welcomed fratman Marc Anthony Ventura's appearance before the Department of Justice (DOJ) to submit his sworn statement as witness on the fatal hazing of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman last September.

During the reopening of the preliminary investigation on the criminal complaints, Horacio Jr. and Carmina Castillo are hopeful that Ventura's statement will help in the prosecution of the respondents who are now facing charges of murder, hazing, and obstruction of justice.

With his statement they cannot deny that a crime has been committed. Hindi nila puwedeng itanggi yun hazing na nangyari and we have a witness to the crime which I believe would put them all to jail, Carmina told reporters after the hearing.

It is just proper that they reopen the case to present the affidavit of Marc Ventura. It's ok we are very happy for that (and) very grateful, very thankful to DOJ, Atio's mother added.

Horacio Jr. also expressed his gratitude to Ventura in his decision, to tell the truth.

Pasalamat ako siya lang (referring to Ventura), I think, nagkalakas ng loob to say the truth. Nung binasa naman namin I think he is very credible pag nakita mamaya, we digest it. For me mabigat pero 'yun nangyari may mararating yun ginawang testimony ni Mr. Marc Venttura, he noted.

Ventura, accompanied by his lawyer, subscribed to his sworn statement before the panel of prosecutor led by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva with Assistant Prosecutor Attorney II Wendell Bendoval as member for the reopening of the preliminary investigation on the criminal complaints against the suspects.

During the hearing, Paterno Esmaquel, counsel for respondent John Paul Solano, expressed his objection to the reopening of the probe, arguing that the preliminary investigation had already been submitted for resolution last November.

But Villanueva explained the need to reopen the preliminary investigation as the respondents will be given the opportunity to file their comments on the sworn affidavit of Ventura.

Prosecutors set the filing of counter-affidavits by the respondents and clarificatory hearing in relation to Ventura's affidavit on January 22.

Ventura, who was admitted to the DOJ's Witness Protection Program on October 24, earlier narrated how his fraternity brothers took turns beating up Castillo inside the Aegis Juris library in Sampaloc, Manila in the wee hours of September 17.

He also named some of Aegis Juris members who took part in the initiation.

In his six-page affidavit submitted to the DOJ, Ventura revealed that 23 members of their fraternity were present during Castillo's initiation rites held in their library last September 17.

Ventura, a member of the fraternity who participated in the hazing, gave nine new names -- Edric Pilapil, Zach Abulencia, Daniel Ragos, Dave Felix, Sam Cagalingan, Alex Cairo, Luis Kapulong, Kim Cyrill Roque and Ged Villanueva.

He also confirmed the participation of their fraternity president Arvin Balag, master initiator Axel Munro Hipe and 12 other members already charged before the DOJ including Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Daniel Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Karl Matthew Villanueva, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro, Jose Miguel Salamat, Leo Lalusis, Alex Bose and Robin Ramos.

Ventura also recalled a female companion of Bose was also present in the library during the initiation rites.

According to the witness, the initiation rites started at 2 a.m. with a prayer so that nothing untoward would happen during the process.

He said they required Castillo to do some stretching before proceeding with the rites.

Ventura said frat members then started the hazing by punching Castillo's arms.

He said they used spatulas in tapping Castillo's arms to reduce the swelling and calm the muscles, before hitting him with paddles.

After the third hit, the initiators asked Castillo if he could still endure the process to which he answered yes, according to the affidavit.

But after the fourth hit, the neophyte collapsed at around 5 a.m.

He said they then decided to summon another member who has a medical background, John Paul Solano, to help revive Castillo who still had a pulse at that time.

Ventura said they already carried Castillo to a pickup and set to bring him to a nearby hospital until Solano came and they decided to bring the neophyte back to the library to see if their member would be able to revive him.

When Solano failed to revive Castillo, they decided to bring him to the Chinese General Hospital where the neophyte was declared dead on arrival.

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 the Anti-Hazing Law against 31 individuals, including UST law dean Nilo Divina.

They also charged 23 respondents of committing four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Source: Philippine News Agency