MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Tuesday his office is ready to offer witness protection to Ralph Trangia, one of the suspects in the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio "Atio" Castillo III last month.
Trangia's return from the United States is a "welcome development" in the department's investigation on Castillo's death, Aguirre said.
"Hopefully, Mr. Trangia’s return is covered in good intentions to clear his name and to tell the truth," he said in a statement.
"While he may be a suspect as of the moment, depending on what he will tell our investigators, he could be a potential witness. And for this reason, the DOJ (Department of Justice) offers to him and to his family, the protection of our Witness Protection Program (WPP)," he added.
Trangia, a member of the Aegis Jvris Fraternity, returned to Manila Tuesday, three weeks since he left for the United States.
He went overseas on Sept. 19, two days after Castillo was declared dead at a hospital after suffering massive injuries during fraternity initiation rites.
Authorities earlier sought the cancellation of his passport to compel his return.
Aguirre urged Trangia and his family to "fully cooperate, to tell the truth and, as a future lawyer, to work for justice." He also called on anyone who may know what happened to Castillo to come forward.
"Those who do will find the truth liberating, you cannot live in lies and untruth forever. We are waiting for you," he said.
Trangia, along with several other Aegis Jvris members, are facing charges of murder, robbery, and the violation of the anti-hazing law for Castillo's death.
The 22-year-old was rushed to the Chinese General Hospital on Sept. 17 after suffering a heart attack due to the beating he went through during Aegis Jvris initiation rites.
The Mitsubishi Strada used to bring Castillo to the hospital was traced to Trangia's father Antonio Trangia, police earlier said.
Castillo's family learned of his death before dawn the next day through an anonymous text message.