posted September 21, 2017 at 12:01 am byBill Casas
MORE than 50 officers and members of the Aegis Juris fraternity are now considered suspects in the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio Castillo III, police said Wednesday.
“Part of the investigation will include possible members of the UST law faculty and alumni who participated in the hazing of Atio Castillo or the cover up of this incident,” said Manila Police District Director PSSupt. Joel Coronel. “They will be held either as co-conspirators, accomplices, accessories [and] even [be] liable for obstruction of justice.”
Under the Anti-Hazing Law, even members who were not present during the initiation rites but had knowledge of it may be held liable for the victim’s death, Coronel said. Aside from 16 officers, the police were also looking for about 40 members.
The MPD chief added that they were looking into reports that members of the Regina Juris, the sorority of Aegis Juris, were also present during the initiation.
John Paul Solano, who earlier claimed to have discovered Castillo’s body in Balut, Tondo before bringing him to Chinese General Hospital, and a companion identified as Ralph Trangia, are now both suspects and the subject of a manhunt.
Coronel said Solano, who was earlier tagged as “a good samaritan,” actually recruited Castillo into Aegis Juris.
“Our investigation shows that John Paul Solano is a UST law student and a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity. We have strong evidence to show John Paul Solano deliberately, intentionally, and maliciously gave false statements to the Manila Police District. He is already considered a principal suspect in the killing of Horacio Castillo III. Manhunt operations are ongoing to effect his immediate arrest and capture,” Coronel said during a press conference.
Solano earlier told the police he found the freshman’s body, wrapped in a blanket, in the morning of Sept. 17 at the corner of H. Lopez Boulevard and Infanta St. in Tondo, Manila.
Officials of Barangay 133, who checked the CCTV footage in the area, said there was no body there at the time Solano said he found it.
Solano told the MPD investigators he brought Castillo’s body to the Chinese General Hospital with the help of strangers. He said he did not know the victim. But Coronel said Solano knew the so-called “good samaritans.”
Aegis Juris fraternity official Ralph Trangia and Antonio Trangia, whom police believe is the father of Ralph, are also considered primary suspects. Coronel said the Trangias allegedly own the car that transported Castillo’s body to the hospital.
“Clearly John Paul Solano, with the assistance and cooperation of Antonio Trangia and Ralph Trangia, deliberately misled [the police] by providing us false and fraudulent statements,” Coronel said.
He said the police have reason to believe Solano lied to cover up the murder.
Already, Coronel said, there were lawyers trying to discredit the police findings.
“The death of Horacio Castillo III is related to a hazing incident involving a law fraternity, identified as Aegis Juris fraternity. A battery of lawyers have already come out to contest or dispute the findings of the investigation,” he said.
The Justice Department on Wednesday issued an immigration lookout bulletin order against 16 officers of the fraternity, including Solano and Ralph Trangia.
Police said Castillo—who had severe blood clotting on both arms and burn marks in different parts of his body, was not killed inside the UST campus.
Initial autopsy findings showed he died of a heart attack as a result of the hazing.
Coronel said investigators were having a hard time getting statements from fraternity members after the UST law dean Nilo Divina issued a preventive suspension on all Aegis Juris members.
Divina said in a statement he was no longer an active alumnus of the fraternity since he became dean eight years ago.
“As dean of the entire Faculty of Civil Law, I knew that I had to remove any vestige or potential source of negative perceptions of partiality on my part,” he said in a statement.
The Justice Department on Wednesday issued an immigration lookout bulletin order on 16 officers of the Aegis Juris.
The order covered Arvin R. 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 Mattew Rodrigo, Carl Mattew Villanueva, Aeron Salientes, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro, Jose Miguel Salamat and John Paul Solano.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the names were provided to Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes by police investigators looking into the incident Tuesday night.
Immigration commissioner Jaime Morente said any person listed must first seek an Allow Departure Order from the Justice secretary before he is allowed to leave.
Former vice president Jejomar Binay on Wednesday condemned the killing of Castillo and urged members of the fraternities involved to give themselves up to the authorities.
On Tuesday night, Binay visited the wake and extended his condolences to the Castillo family.
“He was the only son, a young, promising life ended by senseless violence, a criminal act. I urge the officers of the fraternity to cooperate fully with the police. It would be in their best interest if they voluntarily surrender to the authorities at the soonest time possible those involved in the hazing,” he said.
At the Senate, a resolution was filed to look into the death of Castillo.
In his Senate Resolution No. 510, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said the probe will focus on ways to give more teeth to the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.
“There is a need to improve the existing mechanisms for the deterrence of hazing-related crimes,” said Aquino, adding that the community and the schools and universities are integral in ensuring that the crimes of the past will not happen again.
Since the passage Anti-Hazing Law, about 26 cases of hazing-related violence were reported, he added.
These include Mervin Sarmiento and Oliver Estrella in 1995, Alexander Icasiano in 1998, Ace Bernabe Ekid and Dominante Tunac in 2000, Rafael Albano in 2001, Marlon Villanueva in 2006, Mark Rodriguez and Chris Mendez in 2007, Elvis Sinaluan in 2009, EJ Intia in 2010 and Anthony Javier in 2015.
Makati Cit Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said those implicated in Castillo’s hazing death 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 said.
“If there were 10 or 20 fraternity officers or members who paddled, kicked, punched or slapped Castillo, then they are all primarily responsible for his death,” Campos said.
Campos urged the MPD and the National Bureau of Investigation to identify where Castillo’s hazing took place.
“Under the law, the owner of place where the hazing was conducted is liable as an accomplice, if the owner knew that hazing was being done, and yet, he or she did nothing to stop it,” Campos said.
Fraternities are known to perform initiations rites and hazing in the dwellings of their officers or members.
Campos also urged universities “to forcefully use every inch of their police powers” to rein in unwanted fraternity-related violence.
“School authorities have police powers. On one hand, they may recognize peaceful, scholarly and civic-spirited fraternities. On the other hand, they may disband wayward fraternities, and expel their officers and members,” Campos said.
Also on Wednesday, the Uber driver who brought Castillo’s things to his home, told police that the law student booked a ride on Saturday, Sept. 16.
But when he arrived at Dapitan Street at 1:40 p.m. for the pickup, Castillo told the driver to send his things to his home in San Lorenzo Village in Makati.
The driver, who asked not to be named, said he agreed to do so after inspecting the bag that Castillo handed him, saying it contained only school supplies. After delivering his bag to Makati, the Uber driver said he called Castillo, who answered his phone after the fourth call.
The driver said he learned about Castillo’s death on Tuesday.
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