THE MANILA police have launched a manhunt for three top suspects in the fraternity hazing rites that led to the death of UST law freshman Horacio Tomas Castillo 3rd, while the Justice department placed 16 members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity on a lookout bulletin.
John Paul Solano, the “Good Samaritan” who claimed to have found Castillo’s body on a Tondo sidewalk and brought it to the Chinese General Hospital early on Sunday, is now a primary suspect, along with Antonio Trangia and son Ralph Trangia.
Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel, director of the Manila Police District (MPD), said Antonio Trangia owned the red Mitsubishi Strada, with plate number ZTV-539, that was used to transport Castillo from the still unknown hazing site to the hospital on Blumentritt Road in Manila.
Solano could no longer be located after he reported to the MPD Tuesday noon. He claimed he saw by accident the dead body of Castillo, wrapped in a blanket, at the corner of H. Lopez Boulevard and Infanta Street in Balut, Tondo on Sunday morning.
No such incident, however, was recorded by security cameras in the area.
“Both persons, Mr. Antonio Trangia and Ralph Trangia are now possible suspects, and manhunt operations would be undertaken to affect their immediate arrest and the recovery of the motor vehicle,” said Coronel.
The Trangias and Solano are believed to be members of Aegis Juris, the UST law fraternity said to be responsible for the death of Castillo.
Solano had introduced himself to the police as a part-time medical technologist at San Lazaro Hospital, and did not mention any connection with Castillo or that he was also a law student in UST.
“So clearly, as you can see, as a result of our investigation, Mr. John Paul Solano together with the assistance and cooperation of Mr. Antonio Trangia and Ralph Trangia deliberately misled our investigation on the death of Horacio Castillo by providing us false and fraudulent statements concerning the discovery of Mr. Castillo in Balut, Tondo, which we feel was a cover up for the actual murder and the killing of the victim,” Coronel said.
CCTV, Uber driver
The MPD chief also showed closed-circuit television footage supposedly showing Solano walking with Castillo at 11:45 a.m. last Saturday on Dapitan Street, just outside the UST campus.
It was unclear however if the students in the video, who were wearing uniforms of the UST College of Commerce, were indeed Solano and Castillo.
Coronel said that aside from Solano and the Trangias, other persons were under investigation and could be included in the list of suspects.
Police have asked the UST administration for a copy of security footage between Saturday and Sunday (September 16 and 17).
Also on Wednesday, the Uber driver who delivered Castillo’s personal belongings to his home, showed up at the MPD and said he had nothing to do with the law freshman’s death.
The driver, who declined to reveal his name, said he met Castillo on Dapitan Street behind UST at about 1:40 p.m. on Saturday.
He said Castillo asked that his personal belongings be brought to his home in San Lorenzo Village in Makati City.
Castillo, who was alone, was sweaty and anxious, the driver said.
“I saw him. He opened the car, and then he asked me if I could just deliver his belongings to his house. I agreed as long as he would allow me to inspect his bag,” said the driver. The bag contained school supplies.
“When I arrived at their place, I called him. I think I called him three times, but there was no answer. It seemed like he was busy. After the fourth call, he answered,” he said.
Castillo, his parents said, told them he would attend the welcome rites of Aegis Juris on Saturday night and would be back the following morning.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday issued an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) against 16 members of the fraternity linked to Castillo’s death.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd issued the ILBO mandating the Bureau of Immigration to monitor the whereabouts of those suspected in the killing.
Covered by the ILBO were Aegis Juris Fraternity members Arvin Balag, Mhin Wei Chan, Marc Anthony Ventura, Axel Mundo Hipe, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Jason Adolfo Robiños, and Ralph Trangia.
Also on the list were Ranie Rafael Santiago, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Carl Matthew Villanueva, Aeron Salientes, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro, Jose Miguel Salamat and John Paul Solano.
A person subject of an ILBO can leave the country subject to conditions and requirements, including clearance from the DOJ.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday joined Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian in seeking the repeal of the 22-year-old Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 or Republic Act (RA) 8049 to totally ban hazing, not merely regulate it.
Zubiri filed Senate Bill 1591 seeking to ban hazing. Gatchalian filed a similar measure, SB 199, in August 2016, which was stuck in the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
Zubiri, grade school classmate of the hazing victim’s father Horacio Jr., filed on Tuesday Senate Resolution 504 calling for an investigation into the killing.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order panel, scheduled on Monday, September 25, the probe into Castillo’s death.
SB 1591 seeks to penalize “mere participation in hazing while the current law only penalizes the participants if the hazing results in injury or death,” Zubiri said.
Gatchalian said RA 8049 was not effective in stopping fraternities, sororities and other organizations from hazing their neophytes.
The Anti-Hazing Law has resulted in only one conviction, that of suspects in the hazing of a University of the Philippines Los Baños student in 2006. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction in 2015.
‘Fan of the Senate’
Castillo’s only sister, Nicole, is an intern in Zubiri’s office.
“She came here and left her brother’s side when she learned that I will deliver a privilege speech on the death of her beloved Atio,” the senator said, using Castillo’s nickname.
Zubiri noted that Castillo was a student leader during his undergraduate studies in UST. “He was a fan of the Senate and repeatedly told his father that he wanted to be a senator one day. I’m afraid that day will never come. We join the family in their cry for justice.”
Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said the killers of the hazing victim face 40 years in prison.
“We say killers because in a hazing death, all participants in harming the victim are considered principal actors in the commission of the crime,” Campos, a deputy minority leader, said.
Former vice president Jejomar Binay urged officers of the fraternity “to cooperate fully with the police.”
Nilo Divina, the dean of UST Faculty of Civil Law, warned on Wednesday that fraternity alumni could influence the investigation of the hazing case.
Talking to reporters after visiting Castillo’s wake at Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati, Divina urged police to put together an “airtight case” and not to rush the investigation.
“In the MPD, we are following Director Coronel. They are being careful because they know that those involved as members of affluent families and families of lawyers,” he said.
Divina said he had the chance to talk with Castillo’s parents when he visited the wake at around 3 p.m. accompanied by faculty members and students.
“The parents were crying. They couldn’t believe the manner in which this brotherhood abandoned their son,” he said.
Divina himself is under fire after his photo was found in the recruitment brochure of the Aegis Juris Fraternity. Divina is an alumnus of the organization.
But Divina said he has been on leave from the fraternity since he became dean eight years ago, and was no longer involved in its activities.
Divina’s order to suspend all Aegis Juris members and banning them from entering UST was also questioned by the police, who said the move prevented them from interviewing fraternity members inside the campus.
The Varsitarian, UST’s student newspaper, reported on Wednesday the ban was partially lifted to make Aegis Juris members “available for investigation.”
UST suspended classes and office work today, September 21, for a “day or mourning and prayer for the victims of senseless loss of life.”
with BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO, JOMAR CANLAS, RALPH VILLANUEVA AND JOVILAND RITA