Manila judge inhibits from Atio hazing case

MANILA Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 40 Presiding Judge Alfredo Ampuan, who issued the warrants of arrest for 10 members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity indicted over the death of University of Sto. Tomas (UST) law student Horacio "Atio" Tomas Castillo III, has inhibited from the case.

Mere imputations or bias is not enough ground for inhibition. Extrinsic evidence must be presented to establish bias, bad faith, malice or corrupt purpose in addition to palpable error which may be inferred from the decision or order, Ampuan said in his seven-page resolution.

Ampuan said that while imputation of bias or partiality is not enough ground for inhibition, he will grant the motion asking him to inhibit to dispel doubts in the minds of all the accused and their relatives.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, this Court finds it appropriate to grant the motion for inhibition considering that all the above-mentioned accused and/or their respective counsel already nurtured any the back of their minds the thought that the Presiding Judge of this Court has now tilted the scales of justice against them, Ampuan's order reads.

Two of the accused, John Robin Ramos and Juan Miguel Salamat, sought Ampuan's inhibition from the case, because the magistrate is the brother-in-law of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chairman Dante Jimenez.

With his inhibition, the case against the 10 Aegis Juris officers and members will be re-raffled to another branch.

Aside from Ramos and Salamat, facing charges for violation of Republic Act 8049, the Anti-Hazing Law are Mhin Weig Chan, Marcelino Bagtang Jr., Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Axel Munro Hipe, Oliver Onofre, Joshua Joriel Macabali, and Hans Matthew Rodrigo.

All the accused are currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The return of the warrant will have to wait until the case is assigned to another judge.

In a related development, the parents of the accused members of Aegis Juris Fraternity have requested the NBI to allow their sons to remain in their custody.

In a letter to NBI Director Dante Gierran, the parents said their sons will not be safe under the custody of the Manila Police District (MPD).

Our children will not be safe under the custody of MPD. We wish that you will not place the safety and lives of our children under imminent danger by allowing the transfer of their custody to MPD, the letter stated.

The parents said operatives of the MPD did not present any warrant of arrest or a search warrant when they entered the house of Trangia.

They maintained that the police cannot enter or search the Trangia's house without a valid search warrant.

Thus, the operatives of the MPD and/or their higher officers who authorized them to unlawfully enter and search the house of accused Trangia are obviously criminally and administratively liable for the same, the letter said.

Those who signed the letter were Antonio and Rosemari Trangia; Ariel and Josephing Macabali; Jeriel and Mary Ann Hipe, Herbert and Michelle Rodrigo; Armando and Nenita Ramos; Shih Chun Chan and Jennifer Chan; Artemio and Ludivina Balag; Marcelino and Muriel Bagtang; Leonora Onofre' and a representative of Ma. Rondeen Ramos, the mother of Jose Miguel Salamat.

Castillo died after undergoing initiation rites in the hands of Aegis Juris fraternity members in September 2017.

Source: Philippine News Agency