MANILA - Parents of hazing victim Horacio "Atio" Castillo III on Friday said members of the Aegis Jvris fraternity deliberately attempted to cover-up their crime.
Horacio Castillo Jr. and Carminia Castillo said their son's body was already stiff when he was brought to the Chinese General Hospital on Sep. 17, the morning after the neophyte's initiation rites at the fraternity library in Manila.
"From there, dinala siya sa Chinese General [Hospital] (CGH) ng 9 in the morning. Ngayon, from the CGH pa, stiff na siya. So he was long dead before pa siya dinala doon sa CGH. Then ayun, iniwan nila, tapos kinuha na ng pulis, dinala na sa punerarya as wala, unidentified siya eh. Parang talagang plano nilang i-cover-up," Castillo's mother told DZMM radio.
"Hindi nila bubuhayin 'yung anak namin. Very sure na hindi nila bubuhayin," Horacio Jr. said.
"He was long dead bago nila idala doon. Sinigurado nila siguro talaga na patay na siya," Carminia added.
At a Senate hearing on Castillo's death Wednesday, police revealed a social media conversation among Aegis Jvris fraternity members showing their intent to cover up the neophyte's death.
On the message thread, one member allegedly asked if the fraternity library has been cleaned up, apparently to hide evidence.
"It was somebody who was also a lawyer na nagsabi noon na I think alisin pa 'yung paddle, something like that. To clean it up," Horacio said.
"'Yun 'yung parang sana instead na pinagpaplanuhan niyo na i-cover-up 'yan, linisin 'yung crime scene, sana dinala niyo sa ospital agad. Nung time na nag-collapse siya. UST (University of Santo Tomas) is just like kabilang kalsada lang," Carminia said, referring to the UST hospital.
Samples of DNA taken from Castillo's parents matched blood stains in a hazing paddle and white shirt found in the fraternity library, indicating that it had come from their son, according to a police report released last week.
Carminia meanwhile revealed that members of the fraternity even filed libel charges against their counsel Lorna Kapunan.
"They were filing charges pa kina Atty. Kapunan. Libel charges," she said.
The Aegis Jvris fraternity previously vowed to cooperate with the investigation. At the Senate hearing, however, members opted not to respond to senators' questions and invoked their right against self-incrimination.
"Nagpalabas pa sila na they will be cooperative. May statement pa sila, that’s insult to injury and they never helped," Horacio said.
Arvin Balag, the alleged fraternity leader, was cited for contempt by the Senate after refusing to answer questions during Wednesday's hearing.
"With all due respect, I invoke my right [against] self-incrimination," he said, adding that there is already a pending case against him.
Several Aegis Jvris fraternity members are facing charges of murder, violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 8049 (Anti-Hazing Law), perjury, robbery, and obstruction of justice for Castillo's death.
HOW THEY FOUND 'ATIO'
Horacio Jr. said his wife was praying the rosary early on Sept. 18 when they received an anonymous text saying that their son has been brought to a hospital.
He said he felt a sigh of relief that maybe something just happened to his son and that he had been admitted to a hospital.
However, relief quickly turned into dread.
"Sabi ko, 'nasaan ‘yung anak ko, Is he admitted?’ Sabi niya, ‘Sir, his body was taken by the SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives)’ and nahulog ‘yung mundo ko," he said.
"When you hear the words SOCO and body, you know something bad already happened to your son. And then the nurse told me, tried to pacify me, ‘Wag muna, sir. 'Wag muna. Why don’t you go to the funeral parlor and identify first 'yung anak niyo?’ Just imagine me driving, there’s a 60 to 70 percent chance that your son is dead," he said.
The couple said they had initially wanted to thank John Paul Solano who brought Atio to the hospital because they thought he was the good Samaritan who found him on a sidewalk in Balut, Tondo.
"Ang sama pa nga ng loob ko nun na parang tinapon lang 'yung katawan niya, 'yung first version ni Solano. Buti na lang may nakapulot. But 'yun pala it was all a lie. Talagang cover-up eh," Carminia said.
Solano is now among primary suspects in Castillo's death. He, however, said he was not present at the hazing rites and was called by his fraternity brothers on the morning of Sept. 17 when Castillo was already "half-dead."
Castillo, 22, died due to massive injuries consistent with hazing, according to an autopsy report.
He was rushed to the Chinese General Hospital early morning of September 17, but was declared dead upon arrival.
The Senate is investigating the incident as Castillo's death revived calls for stronger legislation against violent initiation rites.