21 suspects in Atio hazing submit counter-affidavits

By , on October 24, 2017

FILE: Slain University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horatio 'Atio' Castillo III (Photo: horaciocastilloIII/Facebook)
FILE: Slain University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horatio ‘Atio’ Castillo III (Photo: horaciocastilloIII/Facebook)

MANILA — Some members of the Aegis Juris fraternity implicated in the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III on Tuesday appeared before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and filed their counter-affidavits to deny responsibility for Castillo’s death.

During the continuation of the preliminary investigation on Castillo’s death, Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva said 21 of the 37 respondents submitted their counter-affidavits wherein they asked the panel to dismiss the complaints for murder, violation of Republic Act 8049 (Anti-Hazing Law), perjury and obstruction of justice filed by the Manila Police District and the Castillo family.

Among those who submitted their counter-affidavits are the primary suspects – frat members John Paul Solano, Ralph Trangia and Axel Munro Hipe.

In his 29-page answer counter-affidavit, Solano cited a medico-legal report indicating that Castillo had a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM.

He said that patients with HCM had an increased risk for cardiac failure, adding that if it is true that Castillo died of cardiac arrest, his death is not due to hazing as claimed by the MPD in the criminal complaints filed against Solano and others before the DOJ but cardiac arrest due to HCM.

Solano added that the medico-legal report never identified Castillo’s cause of death. Instead, it said Castillo had HCM, which Solano said, was consistent with another medico-legal finding that Castillo’s heart was found to be enlarged and weighed 450 grams.

He stressed that without a clear cause of death, he, therefore, cannot be charged with murder.

“It bears to stress that from the said medico-legal report it is clearly found and stated therein that the heart of Horacio is clearly enlarged and weighed 450 grams. The normal heart of the person is only 300 grams more or less and thus it is indeed true that the heart of Horacio is grossly enlarged,” he added.

Furthermore, Solano claimed that the MPD and Castillo’s parents “conveniently omitted’ the said details in their complaint adding that if indeed Castillo died from hazing, his kidney should had acquired some degree of injury due to an accumulation of myoglobin.

Apart from Atio’s heart problem, Solano, in his affidavit asked the panel of prosecutors conducting the preliminary investigation to dismiss his inclusion in the case since he was “not present during the alleged initiation rites of Horacio.

But Castillo’s parents Carmina and Horatio II vehemently objected to Solano’s claim.

“What led to my son’s death was because of blunt trauma coming from hazing. That caused extreme pain and suffering to my son. That caused maybe the heart attack,” Atio’s father told reporters.

He cited that before Atio enrolled, he underwent a medical examination at the university and his son was “given a clean bill of health by the school.”

Carmina added that their son was very active in sports and was unlikely to suffer a heart attack.

“He is a football player he is very active…Wala siyang sakit sa puso (He doesn’t have a heart ailment),” she added.

The other respondents in the case-Axel Hipe, Oliver John Onofre, Jose Miguel Salamat, Ralph Trangia and his father, Antonio Trangia and Mhin Wei Chan — also subscribed to their respective counter-affidavits.

Hipe was identified by the police as the master initiator of the fraternity while Chan is its Secundus Internus.

In his counter-affidavit, Trangia also denied participation in Castillo’s hazing.

He insisted that his mere membership in the fraternity and ownership of the vehicle used to bring Castillo to the hospital is not tantamount to participation in the alleged crimes.

He also filed a joint counter-affidavit with his parents Antonio and Rosemarie denying the allegation of obstruction of justice by allegedly participating in the planning and execution, misleading authorities and facilitated the escape of the perpetrator, Trangia.

The Trangias said their flight to the United States right after the incident could not be construed as an attempt to escape considering that they also purchased return tickets dated October 10 this year.

Among those who have yet to submit their counter-affidavits are UST civil law dean Nilo Divina and 15 other fraternity members.

Villanueva said she had given Divina and the other respondents until October 30 to submit their respective counter-affidavits.

Castillo died after attending the “welcoming rites” of the fraternity last September 16. (PNA)