MANILA (3RD UPDATE)- A Manila court convicted Monday a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity for obstruction of justice in connection with the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas student Horacio "Atio" Castillo III.
Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Carolina Herrera sentenced John Paul Solano to up to 4 years, 2 months and 1 day imprisonment for 1 count of obstruction of justice.
He, however, was acquitted of another count as well as perjury in relation to the fatal hazing.
Solano brought Castillo's bloodied body to a hospital in Tondo following the fatal hazing in September 2017, claiming that he found the law freshman's body on a sidewalk.
Local authorities disputed Solano's claims and he later backtracked on his statement.
Solano also admitted that it was Arvin Balag, the head of the fraternity, who instructed him to lie to authorities. Members of the fraternity have been tagged in the death of Castillo.
In his defense to the obstruction of justice charge, Solano said he had no intention of misleading the police because he gave his true details but that he gave the false statements to police under instructions of Balag and under the impulse of uncontrollable fear of being implicated in Castillo's death.
But the court junked his argument of duress saying he opted to stay behind in the hospital and saw those who brought Castillo to the hospital to leave.
"[N]othing would prevent him from refusing to follow the supposed instructions or get lost in the hospital or from speaking the truth to the police officers who arrived to investigate," said the 27-page decision.
The court also said Solano's fear of being implicated in the crime was not imminent so as to exempt him from any criminal liability, calling his claim "speculative."
Solano was acquitted of another count of obstruction of justice because according to the court, he did not actually and physically draft the judicial affidavit containing the false claim.
In acquitting Solano of perjury, the court said prosecution failed to prove the element of administration of oath, citing conflicting statements of police officers.
Solano had insisted he did not sign the affidavit which supposedly contains the perjurious statement.
A statement under oath is a key element of perjury.
Solano remains free for now subject to the same conditions of his bail.
Castillo's parents, Horacio Jr. and Minnie, welcomed the decision calling it proof of a cover-up.
They said it will help in the ongoing case against 10 Aegis Juris fraternity members facing hazing charges before a Manila regional trial court.
Gerarda Villa, mother of hazing victim Lenny Villa, was also present during the promulgation to show support for the Castillos.