The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday has ordered the release of John Paul Solano from detention, one of the main suspects in the killing of University of Santo Tomas (UST) freshman law student Horacio Tomas “Atio” Castillo III.
In an interview with reporters, Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan said that a release order has already been issued for Solano. However, Catalan stressed that the “release of the respondent would not mean that he already is off the hook.” Solano still have to undergo preliminary investigation which is set on October 4 and 9.
“[There will be a] preliminary investigation, that would be conducted so he (Solano) will have the opportunity or chance to file his answer, but it would depend upon the panel whether or not probable cause exists. If there is, we will file the case in court. If there is none, then we will dismiss it,” Catalan added.
Headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva, a three-man panel will be in charge of the preliminary investigation on Castillo’s case.
“In this case, the respondent will be given the opportunity or chance to submit his answer or counter-affidavit,” the prosecutor general said.
Solano on Monday was charged with murder, perjury, obstruction of justice, robbery, and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law by the Manila Police District (MPD). Solano was then accompanied by his lawyer Paterno Esmaquel and members of MPD to the DOJ to undergo inquest proceeding.
The suspect surrendered to police authorities on September 22, Friday afternoon. Solano is currently detained at the MPD headquarters.
The MPD, on the other hand, also filed charges against 17 other individuals, mostly members of the Aegis Juris fraternity which performed the deadly hazing rites for Castillo on September 17.
Esmaquel questioned the manner of inquest proceedings stressing that Solano “voluntarily surrendered and in fact, it was the police who preferred the affidavit of voluntary surrender” and that Solano should not be subjected to such proceeding.
“In connection thereto and to show his good faith and innocence, the herein respondent hereby undertakes to voluntarily appear and answer any accusation against him resulting from the death of the late Horacio,” the Omnibus Motion filed reads.
In a 7-paged resolution written by Villanueva, the DOJ noted that the inquest investigation is “an informal and summary investigation conducted by a public prosecutor in criminal cases involving persons arrested and detained without the benefit of a warrant of arrest by the court for the purpose of determining whether or not said persons should remain under custody and correspondingly be charged in court.”
The DOJ also said that there was no arrest to speak of; it must be emphasized that at the time when the police were looking for respondent, he was not even considered as a suspect but only as a person of interest.
Solano, who brought the body of Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital in the morning of September 17, was considered as the main suspect in Castillo’s death after he admitted that he gave false police statements.
The suspect first stated that he found Castillo “half dead” and “unconscious” on a sidewalk in Tondo before bringing him at the hospital.
Solano also admitted that he was a member of the fraternity, however, he stressed that he did not take part in the initiation rites for Castillo.
The freshman law student died because of a massive heart attack probably due to injuries he had obtained from hazing. Castillo was laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park on Wednesday afternoon.