MEDICAL technologist John Paul Solano on Monday night identified, in a “tell all” executive session with senators, six Aegis Juris Fraternity members whom he saw on the day he provided first aid to hazing victim Horacio Tomas Castillo 3rd.
The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, led by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, on Monday conducted its first public hearing on the circumstances behind Castillo’s death.
Castillo, a freshman law student at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), received fatal blows in the initiation rites of Aegis Juris held at the fraternity office and library near UST.
Solano, who is on leave from the fraternity and was working in a hospital, gave the names of the six fraternity members to the senators in an executive session.
Earlier, Solano withheld the names of those who may have had a direct involvement in the fatal hazing of Castillo, also known as Atio, during the public hearing.
Present at the executive session were Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, Sherwin Gatchalian, Zubiri, Lacson and Solano’s lawyer, Paterno Esmaquel.
“He named at least six frat members and this is important in the investigation. He mentioned a lot of details. This will be very important in the case to be filed by the MPD (Manila Police District) against the frat members,” Zubiri said in a chance interview.
Solano said four of these six fraternity men accompanied him in bringing Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital (CGH). Zubiri, however, refused to answer media queries as to whose decision was it to rush Castillo to CGH, instead of the nearby UST Hospital.
Solano, 27, testified that he lied in his initial statement that he found Castillo on the pavement in Balut, Tondo.
A fraternity member instructed him to do so, he said.
Info given to Castillos
Zubiri said that with Solano’s permission, he shared what Solano divulged during the executive session to the victim’s family. “It was important for him last night to let the family know what has transpired.”
He said Castillo’s family had mixed emotions with what they learned. “Of course, they’re sad because their son is already dead. But they are happy, too, especially the family’s lawyer, because they already have leads.”
“There are already names who can be charged with direct involvement in hazing,” Zubiri said.
Castillo’s father, Horacio Jr. or Tito, in a statement he read during the Senate probe, reiterated his appeal to UST Faculty of Civil Law officials, to ensure a thorough and impartial investigation into Atio’s murder.
He urged UST Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina to observe impartiality regardless of his affiliation with Aegis Juris.
“Decisive and equivocal action is needed because some students who have information related to Atio’s death are afraid to come out because of the fraternity’s perceived influence.”
“To the members of the Aegis Juris fraternity who continue to be silent, in hiding, we will not rest, we will not stop and we will leave no stone unturned and resources untapped until everyone complicit in the hazing rites are brought to justice,” he said.
“Only the Almighty God can judge you but your actions now whether of cowardice or courage will define you as a person and your fraternity as an institution,” Horacio Jr. said.
He added, “To the students of UST and classmates of Atio or Hor, as you call him, difficult as it may be, please tell us more about what you know regarding Atio’s death. As shown by the Senate hearing today the whole country is behind you.”
“We pray that the good Lord grants you courage. We will always be grateful and we will never leave you just as we are grateful to your classmates who have already provided valuable information,” Horacio Jr. said.
The Senate also offered protection to Solano, Zubiri said.
“So far he has not received any threats because he changed his cell phone. He said he threw it away. In his ‘tell all’ he said why he lost his CP (cellphone),” the senator said.
Zubiri said there were reports that some fraternity members were coddling the suspects in the hazing of Castillo.
The senator, quoting Solano’s lawyer Paterno Esmaquel, one of the founder of Aegis Juris, said the fraternity was “divided on the issue of telling the truth.”
“There’s faction of the frat that wants to protect the members. There’s another faction, specifically the older, senior members who do not want to condone their action. Nasisira ang pangalan ng frat (The frat’s reputation is being destroyed),” Zubiri said.
Solano might be freed
Police on Tuesday said it could not do anything if the Justice department ordered the release from jail of Solano, who is under the custody of the MPD Homicide Section, because of irregularities in procedure.
Esmaquel on Monday pointed out that Solano could not be inquested as he was not subject of a warrantless arrest. Instead, he should be released from custody and subjected to a preliminary investigation, he said.
MPD chief Joel Coronel said the police would file a motion for reconsideration the moment the Justice department orders the release of Solano for further investigation.
“It is very clear that Solano surrendered while the police were in hot pursuit operation. He surrendered to Sen. Panfilo Lacson but we made it clear during the conference that he will surrender to MPD and that we will have custody of him,” Coronel told reporters.
“We are consulting the lawyers of Mr. and Mrs. Castillo and precisely we will file a motion for reconsideration if in case a release order was issued,” he added.
MPD spokesman Erwin Margarejo said the release order would not mean the pieces of evidences submitted by the police were not strong.
“If the respondent has been ordered released it does not mean that there is acquittal already. The only message there is that there is a need for further investigation,” he explained.
The Manila police filed five charges (perjury, robbery, murder, anti- hazing, and obstruction of justice) against Solano before the Justice department on Monday.
Aside from Solano, others named in the charge sheet, mostly members of Aegis Juris Fraternity, were Arvin Balag, Mhin Wei Chan, Marc Anthony Ventura, Axel Mundo Hipe, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Jason Adolfo Robiños, Ralph Trangia, Ranie Rafael Santiago, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Carl Matthew Villanueva, Aeron Salientes, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro, Jose Miguel Salamat and Solano.
Ralph Trangia has left the country and is suspected to be on hiding in Chicago. Police are coordinating with Interpol in a bid to arrest Trangia.
Salientes has appeared before the MPD while Robiños went to the Senate inquiry on Monday.
Margarejo also said the police have filed for a warrant to search the fraternity office outside the UST compound.
Horacio 3rd will be buried today at Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
UST students posted on the Aegis Juris Fraternity bulletin board messages seeking justice for Atio.
Among the messages: “Cowards, come out, tell us how you killed him,” “Man up, don’t let us down. Make us proud – Dean,” “That is now brotherhood #JusticeForHoracio,” “Surrender, give him justice,” and “Murder was committed.”