THE Department of Justice (DoJ) on Thursday filed criminal charges against the alleged killers of hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Tomas Castillo 3rd, all members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, and cleared University of Santo Tomas law dean Nilo Divina of any liability.
Castillo, a freshman University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student, died in hazing rites allegedly conducted by Aegis Juris members in their fraternity library outside the university campus on September 17, 2017.
In a 46-page resolution signed by Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr., prosecutors led by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva found probable cause against 10 members of the fraternity, which UST said was not a recognized student organization and had no permission to recruit members and conduct initiation rites.
Horacio Jr. and Carminia Castillo, parents of the victim, acted as private complainants, assisted by the Manila Police District (MPD), which probed the crime scene in Sampaloc, Manila.
Indicted were Arvin Balag (grand praefectus or president), Ralph Trangia (sergeant at arms), Oliver John Audrey Onofre (treasurer), Mhin Wei Chan (secundus internus), Axel Munro Hipe (master initiator), Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat and Robin Ramos, for violating Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.
No bail was recommended for all the accused.
The DoJ also filed perjury charges against John Paul Solano who rushed to the fraternity library to give first aid to Atio, and then convinced the frat leaders to take the victim to the Chinese General Hospital.
It was Solano who alerted the police that he found Atio’s dead body on a sidewalk in Tondo, a story that later proved to be false.
In a news conference, Catalan said the resolution was based on the testimony of an Aegis Juris member, state witness Mark Ventura, who was present during Atio’s hazing rites.
“The principal basis is the testimony of witness Mark Ventura, who is covered under the witness protection program, wherein he stated in detail [what happened]…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…around 2 in the morning, Atio came out while in a duck-walk position and then he was pushed and pulled by the respective masters,” Catalan said.
“The panel of prosecutors have come out with a resolution and in fact it was already filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court,” he explained.
The charge against Ventura was dropped as he has been placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program.
Also cleared were Jason Adolfo Robiños, Aeron Salientes, Ranie Rafael Santiago, Zimon Pedro, Alex Bose, Leo Lalusis, Lennert Bryan Galicia, Nathan Anarna, Chuck Siazar and Karl Matthew Villanueva, for lack of probable cause.
‘No probable cause’
The DoJ also found no probable cause against UST Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina and Faculty Secretary Arthur Capili.
Divina was accused by the family of Atio Castillo of negligence, as he allegedly knew that the law student was killed before the family did, and before the Chinese General Hospital knew the identity of the person wheeled in to the hospital.
Catalan said other members of Aegis Juris were not indicted even if mentioned in Ventura’s affidavit. There will be another preliminary investigation to determine if they should also be haled to court.
“The MPD will again file another set of charges,” he said.
Set to be investigated are Zac Abulencia, Daniel Ragos, Dave Felix, Sam Cagalingan, Alex Cairo, Luis Capulong, Kim Cyrill Roque, Ged Villanueva, Edric Pilapil and RR Magbuhos.
Last month, UST announced that it had expelled eight students over the hazing incident, without releasing their names.