A MEMBER of the Aegis Juris who witnessed the initiation rites of slain University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio Castillo III has turned state witness and recounted the ordeal the victim suffered at the hands of his fraternity brothers, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II revealed Wednesday.
In a press conference, Aguirre said Mark Ventura, a former officer of Aegis Juris, his mother and counsel met with him and officials of the National Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday and recounted what Castillo went through before he died.
“He narrated to us what he know about what happened to Atio from the time of his admission as a neophyte of the Aegis Juris fraternity until his initiation rites in the early morning of Sept. 17, 2017,” Aguirre said, referring to Castillo by his nickname. “Mister Ventura gave us the names. After hearing the names, I immediately decided to place him under provisional acceptance of WPP [Witness Protection Program].”
Aguirre said Ventura was present not only during the initiation rites but a day before the incident and during a meeting after Atio’s death.
Quoting Ventura’s sworn statement, Aguirre said Castillo went through one week of service before the actual initiation rites. During this time, he was subjected to psychological and physical tests, and was humiliated, slapped, and told to carry out errands for the members.
The initiation rites began at 1 a.m. of Sept. 17, Ventura said.
At the start, Castillo was punched on his arms by about 10 fraternity members “hanggang pumutok” or until his arms turned black and blue and swelled, Ventura’s sworn statement said.
The master initiator, Axel Hipe, was to determine when the punching would stop. In Castillo’s case, the punching lasted an hour.
When the punching stopped, members used spatulas to tap Castillo’s arm to reduce the swelling and calm the muscles. Then, he would be hit by a paddle 11 times.
After the third hit, the members asked Castillo if he could still endure the process, to which Ventura said Castillo answered yes.
However, after the fourth hit, Castillo collapsed. This, Ventura said, was around 5 a.m.
Ventura said one member suggested that they drip candle wax on his body to see if he would respond to pain but the effort to revive him failed.
Then, a member with medical background was summoned to check on Castillo. John Paul Solano then suggested that they take Castillo to the nearest hospital.
During the initiation, Ventura’s affidavit said, several other members were also present at the venue drinking and using a videoke machine to cover the noise.
Ventura’s affidavit is currently being evaluated by the Justice department to determine if he will qualify for a full coverage under WPP.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday said John Paul Solano, the fraternity member who brought Castillo to Chinese General Hospital, was “lying through his teeth” when he claimed the initiate did not die due to hazing on Sept. 17 but due to a pre-existing heart condition.
“Now, Solano is not only fooling the Senate but he is fooling the entire nation,” said Zubiri. He said Solano should also be punished as well for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, he said.
“Regardless of any pre-[existing] condition of which the parents completely deny, it’s obvious that they are just trying to find excuses for Atio’s murder,” the senator said in a statement.
“So how can they explain the discoloration of the body due to massive hematoma?” Zubiri asked.
How, he added, could they dispute the medico-legal finding that Castillo’s DNA was found on the paddle used by the members to beat the victim, an act illegal under the Anti-Hazing Law.
He said Solano’s statement disrespected Castillo, his family and the Filipino people.
Zubiri said it was clear that Solano was lying to protect his fraternity brothers.
On Tuesday afternoon, Solano, one of the primary suspects in Castillo’s death, said in his counter-affidavit that Castillo died of his pre-existing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and because of this, Solano said he cannot be held liable for Castillo’s death.
But Castillo’s parents, Horacio Jr. and Carminia, denied that their son had any heart condition.
“He is a football player. He is very active,” Carminia said. “He is a football player. He is a goal keeper. He has no heart disease.”
Horatio Jr. added: “You know that before he entered the university, he was required [to obtain] a medical certificate. He was given a clean bill of health by the school.”
“What led to my son’s death was blunt [force] trauma coming from hazing that caused extreme pain and suffering to my son that caused... the heart attack,” he added.
Solano is one of the 18 Aegis Juris fraternity members indicted for violating Section 4 of the Anti-Hazing Law, robbery, perjury, and obstruction of justice.
A medical technologist, Solano was the one who was called to assist in trying to save Castillo after he collapsed during his hazing.
In his previous testimony, Solano said he was told to take Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital, even though the UST hospital was nearer. He was also told to lie and say that he happened to find Castillo on a Tondo street.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Solano was doing everything to derail the effort to find justice for Castillo.
“After filing a motion to throw away the strong evidence gathered by the police, he then files in his petition statements that are adverse to the case,” Gatchalian said. “Clearly, the AJ frat has complete control over him. However, he is not a competent doctor. His recent statements will not alter the real cause of the death of Atio, [which] is hazing.”
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