THE probe into the hazing death of University of Sto. Tomas law student Horacio Castillo III has hit a snag due to the lack of cooperation from members of the Aegis Juris fraternity, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Sunday.
“They are afraid because they already received threats,” Aguirre said of two witnesses—a member and a neophyte of the fraternity—who reached out to his office. “They haven’t submitted affidavits yet despite our assurance to cover them under the witness protection program.”
Castillo, a freshman law student, went to a “welcome event” of the Aegis Juris fraternity on Sept. 16 and was brought to Chinese General Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival the following day. An autopsy showed he had blood clots on both arms, where he was beaten, and cigarette and candle wax burns in different parts of his body.
Aguirre, who visited Castillo’s wake last week, urged more witnesses to come forward to cooperate with the authorities.
He also set up a hotline at 0995-4429241 for anyone who wanted to volunteer information on Castillo’s death.
“There are eight neophytes in the latest batch who underwent initiation rites, and they are being prevented by the senior members from speaking up. Just like in any other fraternity, they have a code of silence,” said Aguirre, who himself is a member of the Lex Talionis fraternity from the San Beda College law school.
The neophytes, he said, were “being kept against their will” so they would not reveal what they know of the incident.
Aguirre also said the that Castillo was actually not part of the batch that underwent hazing, but members of the fraternity picked on him.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said John Paul Solano, the member of Aegis Juris who brought Castillo to Chinese General Hospital in Manila, wants to be a state witness.
In an interview on radio dzBB, Lacson said Solano, who had surrendered to him, said Castillo was “half dead” when he rushed him to hospital.
Police said Castillo died of a massive heart attack due to injuries suffered during hazing.
Lacson said Solano must first talk to the prosecutor and see if he can be presented as a state witness, but the judge will have the final say.
Solano was accompanied by University of Santo Tomas (UST) Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina when he appeared before Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs, which has started its investigation of the fatal hazing.
Lacson said Solano was among those to appear during his committee’s hearing on the case Monday.
His panel has also invited UST officials, fraternity members, the police, and Castillo’s family.
Aside from the Castillo case, the panel will also tackle pending bills that seek to add teeth to the 1995 Anti-Hazing Law.
When Solano was turned over to the Manila Police District, Lacson said, he was effectively under arrest.
“So his fingerprints and mug shots were taken by the police. He will also be subject to inquest proceedings,” Lacson said, adding that Solano was being treated as an accused for now.
While admitting being a member of Aegis Juris fraternity whose members were implicated in the fatal hazing of Castillo, Solano insisted he was not in any way involved in the hazing. He said his only participation was providing medical assistance to the victim.
“They were in chaos that time. I was there to give medical assistance. I am a medical health provider so more or less they would call me,” Solano said.
“I did give [him] CPR and then when I couldn’t do anything else, I brought him to the hospital,” Solano told reporters following his surrender to Lacson.
Solano, also a UST law student , went on leave this year because of his job as a medical technologist.
He denied recruiting the victim to the fraternity, saying he did not even know Castillo. He said he met the victim only on two occasions—the first time was when he introduced himself and the second time was after the hazing.
Police on Sunday said the father of one of the primary suspects in Castillo’s hazing death, was expected to surrender by Monday.
Antonio Trangia, father of Ralph Trangia, will also turn over the vehicle used to bring Castillo’s body to Chinese General Hospital last week. The younger Trangia has fled the country.
Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel said Ralph’s parents could face charges.
“The father of Trangia, for being part of the conspiracy to obstruct justice and to cover up the case and the mother… because it can be shown that the mother… assisted in the escape of her son,” Coronel said.
Ralph, together with his mother, were seen on security cameras at an immigration counter in Terminal 1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport during the early hours of Sept. 19. They boarded a flight for Chicago, Illinois.
No look-out bulletin had been issued yet against Trangia at the time.
Coronel said there are six more suspects they are looking at, including officers of Aegis Juris.
“Most of the suspects are hiding with the assistance and aid of other, mostly frat members… Locating them at this moment is difficult,” Coronel said.
“We have Solano but we are going to include the officers, at the very least, of the fraternity… so another six more will be included in the charges,” Coronel added.
Based on the information they obtained, Coronel said there were also Aegis Juris alumni present during the initiation rites.
The MPD chief said some names have been added to their list of persons of interest. He did not identify them, however.
The victim’s family learned about the incident when his mother Carminia Castillo received an anonymous text message saying that her son had been brought to the Chinese General Hospital.
Castillo’s parents went to the MPD headquarters to talk to Solano Sunday, but were unable to do so because he did not have a lawyer present.
Solano was earlier reported to be a “good samaritan” who found Catillo in Tondo, Manila and brought him to hospital, but his story was disputed by barangay officials in the area where he said he found the body.
Also on Sunday, the executive director of the Commission on Higher Education Julito Vitriolo said the 1995 Anti-Hazing Law must be amended because it does not prohibit hazing, but merely regulates it.
In an interview on radio dzBB, Vitriolo said that hazing should be “immediately prohibited,” and said the existing law recognizes the dangerous practices of fraternities or sororities.