MANILA, Philippines - Investigators from the Manila Police District (MPD) have identified two alleged leaders of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity and eight other suspects in the death by hazing of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) student Guillo Servando.
MPD probers earlier obtained the photographs of Cody Errol Morales, the “grand triskelion” of the Tau Gamma Phi-De La Salle University chapter, and Pope Bautista, secretary of the fraternity’s DLSU chapter who accompanied Servando and the other injured neophytes back to a condominium unit in Manila.
Servando, a second-year hotel and restaurant management student of DLS-CSB, died last June 28 after undergoing fraternity initiation rites in Makati City.
The remains of Servando were cremated last Wednesday in Caloocan City.
Three other fraternity neophytes – John Paul Raval, 18, Lorenze Agustin, 18, and a 17-year-old – were seriously injured after the initiation rites last Saturday in a house at 4454 Calatagan St. in Barangay Palanan, Makati.
Sources said Morales and Bautista led the 15 fraternity members that conducted the fatal hazing.
Investigators have so far identified Morales and Bautista and eight others out of the 15 suspects, that include three women.
The other suspects were identified as Anton Santiago, Don Castillo, Carl Loresca, Hans Tamaring, Trex Garcia, Stephen Peñano, and alias Emeng and Vic.
A source told The STAR Don Castillo was the “master” of Agustin, while Emeng was the so-called master-initiator.
The four neophytes were picked up from McDonald’s Taft Avenue at 5:30 p.m. last Saturday, and were returned to Raval’s unit at One Archer’s Place condominium in Manila at 9:34 p.m.
Servando died, while the three others were rushed to hospital and are in stable condition.
One of the sources said before Servando died, Bautista had tried to revive him, but when that failed, Bautista just disappeared.
Bautista was also the assigned “medic” who was tasked to ensure that the victims would be “physically okay” after the initiation.
Jomar Pajarito, caretaker of the Makati house where the rites were held, confirmed the information obtained by investigators.
Pajarito did not confirm if Tau Gamma Phi often used the house for their initiation rites.
Probers said Pajarito told them that Morales only calls him when the group would hold a “meeting” in the house.
Pajarito is now under custody of the Makati police after he surrendered to authorities last Tuesday.
Investigators said that some of the suspects have already deactivated their Facebook accounts.
The Makati police justified yesterday the delay in the filing of charges against members of the Tau Gamma Phi in connection with the death of Servando.
Makati City police chief Senior Superintendent Manuel Lukban said investigators are waiting for the statements of the hazing victims who are still recuperating in a hospital.
“We have the statement of Mr. (Aurelio) Servando (father of the victim) and another statement from another victim, which remains unsigned. The two other victims have yet to execute their affidavits,” Lukban told reporters.
Lukban vowed to file the case next week.
“We don’t want to submit half-baked evidence, which could lead to the dismissal of the case. We have yet to file a case because we are giving importance to the statement of the victims, who have yet to fully recover,” said Lukban. “We want to have an airtight case.”
Lukban also noted that Pajarito had given his account to police.
“We have yet to accept the statement of Jomar so as not to derail the case. We are still coordinating with the Manila Police District and the National Bureau of Investigation,” Lukban added.
He said if the statement of Pajarito remains uncorroborated and purely self-serving, he would be struck out as a witness.
Lukban said Merlyn Venus, owner of the house that the fraternity used, could not yet be connected to the crime after Pajarito claimed that he decided on his own to let the fraternity use the house.
“We can’t conclude yet the participation of each of the members,” he added.
Lukban also revealed that about four to five of the 15 members of Tau Gamma Phi, who were present at the initiation, have coordinated with the police and indicated their intention to cooperate.
He refused to identify the fraternity members pending further investigation, but that they expressed contrition.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) called yesterday on officials of DLS-CSB and the officers and members of Tau Gamma Phi to cooperate with investigators and find the truth in the fatal hazing of Servando. CHED has condemned the death of Servando.
CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan urged all private and public higher education institutions (HEIs) to be vigilant and institute measures to regulate the recruitment and initiation activities of school fraternities.
“The commission calls upon the officials of the college, the officers and members of the fraternity to undertake with utmost urgency all proper and necessary measures to ferret out the truth, investigate with expediency the circumstances leading to the senseless loss of a young life. Perpetrators and persons responsible should be properly penalized,” Licuanan said in a statement.
“CHED decries that despite repeated memoranda to schools, deaths from similar incidents repeatedly occur,” she said.
Licuanan said officials of HEIs should be aware of their serious responsibilities and duties to strictly comply with the provisions of Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.
She said initiation rites, which involve acts of violence, run counter to the basic values and fundamental principles for which schools are established.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen denounced the traditional practice of hazing in fraternities.
Leonen said violence should have no place in brotherhood.
“Wise men know this: brotherhood is earned, it is not produced by inflicting harm on the other. Teach this to our sons and daughters,” he said in his Twitter account.
Leonen, a former dean of UP College of Law, said: “Impunity for violence thrives in a climate of unjustified silence and illicit transactions sub rosa (in secrecy). The next victim can be your own son,” he stressed.
Leonen has cited the ruling of the SC last May affirming the Court of Appeals (CA) decision that found five members of the Scintilla Juris guilty of murdering a member of Sigma Rho.
In the 28-page decision penned by Leonen, the high court said while they affirmed the CA’s ruling, they made the modification that the five convicts – Danilo Feliciano Jr., Julius Victor Medalla, Christopher Soliva, Warren Zingapan and Robert Michael Beltran Alvir – were also found guilty of attempted murder.
The SC’s Third Division ruled that the five men should be liable for the murder of Dennis Venturina and the attempted murder of Mervin Natalicio, Cesar Mangrobang Jr., Leandro Lachica, Arnel Fortes and Cristobal Gaston Jr.
Lawmaker hits school officials
Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian lamented yesterday that DLS-CSB officials have allegedly refused to cooperate with police investigators asking for school records of members of the Tau Gamma Phi.
Gatchalian deplored the reluctance of university administrators to cooperate with police investigators that obtained the names of two prime suspects in the death of Servando based on the statements taken from one of the three other neophytes who underwent hazing.
“The fact that St. Benilde officials want a court order before they give records of students involved in the Servando case is an indication of their refusal to be accountable in fraternity-related incidents,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House committee on higher and technical education.
He said this was the same attitude of University of the Philippines officials who have remained mum on the case of a 17-year-old student who was reportedly hospitalized for two days after undergoing initiation rites of the Upsilon Sigma Phi in Quezon City.
The UP Diliman administration has issued a statement confirming that there was a “fraternity incident” but said it was not giving details pending an investigation.
Upsilon Sigma Phi includes famous alumni like the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and current UP president Alfredo Pascual.
Gatchalian said Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law has not been effective in putting a stop to violent hazing and it does not hold accountable school administrators whenever injuries and death result from initiation rites conducted by fraternities.
Police investigators said they were puzzled why UP authorities did not inform them and continue to deny the reported hazing incident involving one of its students and a prominent fraternity.
Chief Superintendent Richard Albano, director of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD), noted that while the university has already issued a statement pertaining to the victim’s family’s request for privacy, there was still a crime committed.
Albano lamented that despite this, the university had yet to provide details.
Superintendent Richard Fiesta, commander of the QCPD Station 9, even said they only heard from news reports that UP officials have confirmed the hazing incident.
“I had been asking them since then. They said there was no report,” Fiesta told The STAR yesterday.
And when UP finally issued a statement on Thursday confirming the incident, the QCPD was not officially informed by school authorities.
Albano said the police could not investigate the case at the moment since there is no complainant and UP has not provided any information. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edu Punay, Pia Lee-Brago, Reinir Padua, Paolo Romero