Fratman turned witness to attend DOJ probe on Atio

MANILA -- A member of the Aegis Juris fraternity who is now a state witness in the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horacio Atio Castillo III is set to appear at the preliminary investigation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the case on Friday.

In an interview on Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Attorney II Wendell Bendoval, member of the DOJ panel, explained the case had to be re-opened to give way to the sworn statement of Marc Anthony Ventura which they received last January 3.

Though the preliminary investigation had been submitted for resolution last November 16, Bendoval said the panel had just received the affidavit of Ventura, one of the 37 respondents who turned witness, from the DOJ's witness protection program.

It's material evidence we have to consider. So, we have to re-open the preliminary investigation. We can't resolve the case if the evidence is incomplete, he told reporters.

The panel will resume the hearings at 2 p.m. Friday where Ventura is expected to appear and subscribe to his affidavit.

With the re-opening of the preliminary investigation, the prosecutor said the respondents will be given the opportunity to file their comments on the sworn affidavit of Ventura.

Ventura is expected to swear or subscribe before the panel of prosecutors the authenticity of his sworn statement.

After which, during the same hearing, the respondents will receive copies of Ventura's sworn statement so they can submit their comments in the next hearings.

Bendoval said the panel had already issued subpoenas to Ventura and to the respondents which ordered them to appear on Friday's hearing.

Ventura has never appeared at the DOJ hearings and has not sent a counsel to represent him.

Ventura had already signed last October 25 a memorandum of agreement with the DOJ to have him placed under the Witness Protection Program as he decided to turn state witness over the death of the fraternity's neophyte.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier narrated the affidavit of Ventura, who was also a respondent in the case, detailed that Castillo's arms were punched until they were black and blue and swollen.

In his affidavit, Ventura testified how the fraternity's members physically abused and humiliated Horacio until he collapsed after four hours of the controversial initiation rites at the Aegis Juris fraternity library believed to have led to his death.

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.

Castillo died after undergoing initiation rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity on September 17, 2017.

Source: Philippine News Agency