THE man who brought hazing victim Horacio Castillo III to Chinese General Hospital on Sunday morning is now a person of interest, the Manila Police District said Tuesday.
John Paul Sarte Solano, 21 years old, who was earlier described as a “good samaritan” by the victim’s father, will be invited to clarify his testimony, because of inconsistencies with the accounts of officials of Barangay 133 in Manila.
Solano was said to be the one who found Castillo, a freshman law student at the University of Santo Tomas and brought him to Chinese General Hospital.
MPD director PSSupt. Joel Coronel said that aside from Solano, they have a list of persons of interest based on the information gathered from the university.
One of these was Axel Hipe, who was mentioned by Castillo’s family as the last person contacted by their son, based on the victim’s phone records.
Hipe is allegedly a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity that Castillo wanted to join.
Coronel said they were also verifying information from Castillo’s family that an Uber driver brought the victim’s personal belongings to their home in Makati City.
Police are checking if the person was indeed an Uber driver, Coronel added.
In the police spot report, Solano said he found Castillo at the corner of H. Lopez and Infanta streets in Barangay 133 around 8 a.m. on Sunday.
Solano told police investigators he was on his way to the San Lazaro Hospital, where he works, when he saw the law student’s body.
Solano said he flagged down a red Strada pick-up to help him bring Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital.
Coronel, however, said that barangay officials told them no body was found in their barangay and nearby areas at that time.
“So far, Solano’s statement is inconsistent with the testimony given by the barangay officials,” Coronel said.
Based on the MPD’s interview with personnel of the San Lazaro Hospital, investigators found out that Solano was a part-time employee and a law student at UST.
Police had confirmed that Castillo died due to hazing.
The 22-year-old victim, who was also a law student at the UST, left home on Saturday for the “welcoming rites” of the Aegis Juris fraternity.
Barangay 133 CCTV operator Arnel Rovillo said Solano’s claim was “impossible” because the CCTV camera near H. Lopez and Infanta streets showed nothing to confirm his story.
Rovillo said they also checked the footage from other CCTV cameras but also found nothing.
“We were surprised that they said a body was found there because nothing of this sort was reported to our barangay. If there is somebody killed, people here will mill around, so it’s impossible that there was a body dumped there,” he said in Filipino.
Coronel said social media posts and information given by Castillo’s friends are a big help to the MPD’s efforts to determine who are responsible for Castillo’s death.
MPD spokesman Supt. Erwin Margarejo confirmed that CCTV footage did not show any body in the area that Solano indicated.
Margarejo said that police have also identified who sent the anonymous text message informing Castillo’s parents that his body was at Chinese General.
Investigators have requested copies of CCTV footage of the UST campus on the night of Castillo’s alleged hazing.
UST said it has launched a separate probe into the incident and has suspended all members of the Juris Aegis fraternity.
UST’s student council and management are also providing information to police investigators.
The MPD said UST’s move to disallow entry of Aegis Juris fraternity members to the campus could hamper its ongoing probe.
Margarejo said the UST Faculty of Civil Law could have suspended the frat men implicated in the Castillo hazing case, but it should have made the members available for questioning.
UST Law dean Nilo Divina on Tuesday distanced himself from the the university’s investigation.
“I will not in any way participate or be involved in the process. The University has its own process in conducting an administrative investigation,” Divina said.
Divina is one of the notable members of the university-recognized Aegis Juris fraternity currently embroiled in the death of Castillo.
Divina, however, clarified that he no longer had any involvement with the activities of the 38-year-old fraternity after he took a leave of absence from the brotherhood when he assumed the deanship eight years ago.
“I don’t speak for them,” he said.
Divina suspended all officers and members of Aegis Juris to give way to the UST’s probe into the incident.
Divina also barred them from attending classes and entering the UST premises.
The victim’s family on Tuesday said they would not rest until their son’s killers are brought to justice.
“We, the family of Horacio Topacio Castillo III decry the senseless murder of our Atio,” the statement read, referring Castillo by his nickname. “He was our most precious and cherished son, brother, nephew, cousin, and grandson…We grieve and despair at the life he was not able to live, and the cruel and inhumane way by which it was cut short.”
“While the death of Atio is still under investigation, it is clear to us that Atio was killed by criminals from the Aegis Juris fraternity in a blatant act of hazing. We are outraged that barbaric and criminal acts continue to be performed in the false name of brotherhood,” they said.
In their statement, the family called on school officials to ensure a swift and impartial probe of the student’s death.
“We plead with the administrators of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and the administrators of the UST Faculty of Civil Law to ensure a thorough, impartial, and swift investigation into Atio’s murder,” they said.
The Castillo family also called upon members of the Aegis Juris fraternity, including UST Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina, to bring the killers to justice.
“We call on Dean Nilo T. Divina to exhibit heroic leadership and champion the rights of Atio, his fallen student, regardless of his affiliation with this fraternity. We urge the elders and young members of the Aegis Juris fraternity to bring the killers of Atio to justice,” they said.
“The Aegis Juris fraternity should not allow the acts of Atio’s killers to forever tarnish their reputation and define their character, lest they be deemed complicit in Atio’s murder,” they added.
The Department of Justice earlier ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Castillo’s death.
UST, meanwhile, said it has launched a separate investigation into the incident.
On Tuesday, Castillo’s remains were brought to the Sanctuario De San Antonio Parish in Forbes Park, Makati City for the wake.
Senators denounced Castillo’s killing and called for an investigation and a review of the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.
“We have to stop senseless killings from hazing. The home, schools, police and the courts should act as one. Or else, our children will end as just another statistic of unsolved crimes. That is the dark probability when one lives in a country with a weak criminal justice system,” said Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Zubiri filed a resolution condemning the killing and directing the appropriate Senate committees to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation.
The senator also urged the police and the courts to review their files and dockets of the string of deaths from hazing for the past 10 years.
“What is disturbing is if we discover that the number of unsolved hazing deaths are exacerbated by the protection of the killers by the same fraternities,” Zubiri said.
Both Zubiri and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said Castillo’s killing should trigger a review of the Anti-Hazing Law to instill fear in fraternities and prevent them from crossing the line.
Senator Gregorio Honasan said his brother Mel also died from fraternity hazing.
“My parents forgave those responsible; hoping and praying that it would help eradicate hazing. It was not to be. More teeth in our laws and strict enforcement, vigilance from all sectors: parents, school authorities and students, recognized fraternities, public information and education will help respond to hazing as a painful public menace,” he said.