Fratman's conviction proves intent to conceal Atio's slay: parents

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2019 04:59 PM

MANILA – The parents of slain University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, who was killed in an alleged hazing incident, welcomed the conviction for obstruction of justice of an Aegis Juris fraternity member. 

John Paul Solano brought Castillo’s body to the Chinese General Hospital in September 2017. He initially claimed he found the body in Tondo but later admitted he was instructed by frat head Arvin Balag to lie to authorities.

The lie, according to Castillo’s parents, was part of the plan to conceal what really happened to their son.

"So talagang napatunayan that they have that intention to obstruct, pagtakpan, i-conceal. So we are very happy with the conviction of obstruction, our first step to a perfect conviction,” said Atio’s mother, Carminia, who attended the promulgation of judgment at Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14 with her husband Horacio, Jr.

(It proves that there was really an intention to obstruct and conceal.)

“So dito nag-umpisa 'yung cover-up, yung conspiracy, and then after this, we should remember na pumunta sila sa Novotel para, nagpa-meeting sila para kung paano nila pagtakpan ang krimen. It’s all in the chatroom,” Horacio, Jr. added, referring to a retrieved conversation among Aegis Juris members discussing how to clean up the fraternity library where the incident happened.

(This is where the cover-up, and conspiracy started. After this, we should remember that they went to Novotel to discuss how to cover-up the crime.)
The couple said they intend to file more cases against those involved, including lawyers who participated in the alleged cover-up.

Ten Aegis Juris fraternity members are facing a hazing charge before a Manila court. 

Aside from Balag, these are Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Axel Munrio Hipe, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat, and Robin Ramos.

Based on medico-legal reports submitted by the police, Castillo died of “severe blunt traumatic injuries on his upper extremities” although the accused claimed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) that he died due to a pre-existing heart condition.

Horacio, Jr. said that Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 20 is still hearing the accused’s petition for bail.

He added that only fraternity member-turned-state witness Mark Anthony Ventura has testified so far.

The Castillos expressed dismay at the UST Faculty of Civil Law’s lack of cooperation over the case.

“We don’t know the reason why silent sila,” Mrs. Castillo said.

Asked if they intend to reach out to UST Law Dean Nilo Divina, she said: "No more, no need." 

The Castillos and their lawyers have accused Divina of involvement in the hazing and the cover-up although DOJ prosecutors dismissed complaints against him due to insufficiency of evidence.

Divina has denied any involvement.

The UST Law dean is also facing disbarment complaints while he himself filed cyberlibel and slander complaints against Castillo’s lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, over statements allegedly maligning his reputation. The DOJ recently indicted Kapunan for slander.

Also present during the promulgation Monday morning was Gerarda Villa, the mother of hazing victim Lenny Villa.

Villa was an Ateneo law freshman in 1991 when he died during initiation rites of the Aquila Legis fraternity. His death prompted the passage of Republic Act 8049, the Anti-Hazing law.

"Up to now, masakit pa sa loob ko ang pagkamatay ng anak ko. Hindi makalimutan. But we have to fight for our children. We have to fight for the other children na mangyayari pa ang ganito kung hindi tayo magtutulong-tulong. Kaya ako nandito para tumulong at makiisa sa kanilang ipinaglalaban. Congratulations sa paglalaban niyo at sa pagtitiyaga niyo,” she said.

(Up to know, the death of my child still haunts me. I can't forget about it. But we have to fight for our children. We have to fight for the other children because if we won't help each other, this may happen again in the future. That's why I'm here to help with their cause. Congratulations to their fight and perseverance.)

“1991 since namatay si Lenny, hanggang ngayon may kaso pa rin. Imagine, ang law natin at kung gaano katiyaga ang isang ina para sa isang anak na namatayan tungkol sa hazing. Sana mahinto na ito. 'Yun ang aking panaginip na mangyari,” she added.

(Lenny died in 1991 and until now the case is still open. Imagine how persevering a mother is to fight for her child who died due to hazing. I hope hazing stops. That is my dream.)

In the wake of Castillo’s death, Congress enacted Republic Act 11053 or the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law in July last year.

The new law prohibits all forms of hazing in fraternities, sororities and organizations in schools and imposes a graver penalty of up to 40 years in prison (reclusion perpetua) and 3 million peso fine to all those who planned or participated in hazing.