MANILA police on Monday filed before the Department of Justice (DoJ) murder, hazing and other charges against 19 individuals tagged in the death of UST law freshman Horacio Castillo 3rd in fraternity hazing rites.
On top of the list was John Paul Solano, 27, the member of the Aegis Juris fraternity who brought Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital on September 17, and who surrendered to Sen. Panfilo Lacson five days later.
Solano, who claimed he was on leave from law studies and was not present during the hazing rites, said he was only summoned by Aegis Juris members to revive Castillo because of his background as a medical technologist.
Solano was brought by Manila Police District (MPD) personnel to the 10 a.m. inquest at the DoJ, where he was also slapped with complaints for perjury and obstruction of justice for initially claiming that he accidentally saw Castillo on a sidewalk in Tondo and then brought him to the hospital. He also did not disclose his connection to the fraternity.
Aside from murder and violation of Republic Act (RA) 8049 (Anti-Hazing Law), the following suspects were also charged with robbery: Ralph Trangia and father Antonio Arizala Trangia, owner of the Mitsubishi pickup vehicle that transported Castillo to the hospital, Arvin R. Balag, Mhin Wei R. Chan, Ranie Rafael Santiago, Oliver John Audrey B. Onofre, Jason Adolfo L. Robiños, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Karl Mathew Villanueva, Joshua Joriel Macabili, Axel Munro Hipe, Marc Anthony Ventura, Aeron Salientes, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro and Jose Miguel Salamat.
All were at large, except for Solano who is detained at MPD, Salientes who turned himself in to the police last Friday hours after Solano’s surrender, and Robiños, who turned up in a Senate inquiry on Monday.
Salientes said he was in Pampanga when the hazing rites occured.
The complaint also mentioned “several other unidentified persons and unidentified members” of Aegis Juris Fraternity and sister organization Regina Sorority who were present during the hazing rites.
The robbery charge was included as Castillo’s mobile phone, cash worth P3,000 and credit card were missing.
“We have presented a lot of evidence, and it is on the appreciation of the court to evaluate the degree of the evidence that we have presented,” MPD spokesman Supt. Erwin Margarejo said.
Hazing at frat office
Police said the hazing rites happened on September 17, between 12 midnight and 8 a.m., inside the Aegis Juris Foundation office and library at No. 1247 Navarra St. corner Laong Laan Street in Sampaloc, Manila, outside the campus of the University of Santo Tomas.
Citing security footage, the MPD disproved Solano’s earlier claim that he merely discovered Castillo’s body on a sidewalk in Balut, Tondo and then brought him to the hospital.
Solano, police said, was part of the convoy that brought Castillo’s body from the Aegis Juris office to the hospital on Blumentritt Street.
“John Paul Solano, later established and confirmed also a member of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, concocted a fabricated story disguised himself as a good Samaritan to deliberately and maliciously mislead the police investigators to cover up the crime they committed,” the MPD said.
Horacio Castillo Jr. and wife Carmina, parents of the hazing victim who were listed as private complainants, appeared in the inquest.
The case is being handled by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva.
Trangia’s mother charged, too
Police also charged Rosemarie Trangia, mother of Ralph Trangia, with obstruction of justice for assisting her son in boarding a flight to Chicago via Taiwan.
At the preliminary inquest of Solano at the DoJ, his lawyer assailed the proceedings as irregular.
Solano’s lawyer, Paterno Esmaquel, asked the DoJ to junk the complaint and order Solano’s release from detention.
He argued that there is no complex crime of murder and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law and that Solano was illegally detained considering that the latter was not the subject of a warrantless arrest.
“This being so, then the instant case against herein respondent [Solano] and/or any other case against him resulting from the untimely death of the late Horacio is and cannot be proper subject of an inquest proceeding; otherwise there will be an open and gross violation of herein respondent’s right to a regular preliminary investigation of the case or cases against him,” Esmaquel said.
“In praying for his immediate release from the custody and detention of the MPD, the herein respondent is merely exercising his constitutional right against unlawful arrest. The herein respondent does not have any intention to escape or flee from justice.”
“We object to the conduct of inquest because my client was not a subject of warrantless arrest; he voluntarily surrendered. If he is not subject of warrantless arrest, he cannot be subject of inquest…He is now being illegally detained,” the lawyer pointed out.
Margarejo said Solano was not being illegally detained at the MPD, which he said was only holding the suspect in “temporary custody.”
Powerful groups and personalities are out to sabotage the investigation and prosecution of those involved in the fatal hazing of Castillo, anti-crime advocates claimed on Monday.
Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), called on authorities to focus their efforts on arresting 16 members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity behind Castillo’s death.
“VACC fears powerful groups and personalities are out to sabotage the investigation and prosecution of suspects in the case of Atio Castillo,” Jimenez said.
It has been more than a week since Castillo was killed during initiation rites of the fraternity, but only one suspect is in custody, he noted.
He said the organization was concerned the suspects might flee using the “backdoor.”
Jimenez said the Castillo case should not suffer the same fate as other hazing cases wherein the suspects were acquitted.
He cited the case of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde student Guillo Cesar Servando who died following hazing rites in 2014.
A Makati City Regional Trial Court dismissed in 2016 the case against the 12 accused, who fled to other countries.
“Our concern is based on our experience. It is very challenging because the family of the suspects have the capability and connections,” Jimenez added.
The parents of Castillo, Jimenez said, were also concerned that “unseen hands” might influence the case, and were seeking an audience with President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Knowing that our President is also a member of a fraternity they (parents) want to seek assurance from the President that justice will be served,” Jimenez said.
Duterte is an alumnus of the Lex Talionis Fraternity of San Beda College of Law.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND ASHLEY ERIKA JOSE