MANILA (3RD UPDATE) - A member of the Aegis Jvris fraternity has signified intent to turn witness in cases against fellow members involved in the hazing death of law freshman Horacio Castillo III, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said Wednesday.
Marc Ventura, one of the respondents facing charges of murder, violation of the anti-hazing law, and robbery in relation to Castillo's death, has admitted to being present during the initiation rites, according to Aguirre.
Aguirre said he decided to place Ventura under provisional acceptance of the Department of Justice's witness protection program after hearing his narration of events that led to Castillo's death on Sept. 16.
"I don’t know kung may nag-udyok sa kaniya, but the way I look at it, he, accompanied by his lawyer and his mother, apparently decided to voluntarily take advantage of the protection being offered by the witness protection program," Aguirre told reporters.
Aguirre said Ventura was enrolled in the first year and was an officer of the fraternity, but "was on leave already as a student" during the incident.
He said Ventura's intent to be a witness is a "very welcome development" into the investigation of 22-year-old Castillo's death supposedly due to massive injuries consistent with hazing.
"Siguro if ever we need somebody else from among those who witnessed the initiation rites, baka isa na lang, just to corroborate. Pero 'yung linaw ng kaniyang deklarasyon, even without any corroborative testimony, I believe his statement will stand in court," he said.
Castillo's parents have been notified of Ventura's testimony and intent to turn into a witness and they were delighted, said Aguirre.
"Natutuwa sila, magandang development 'yan," he said.
Horacio Jr. and Carminia Castillo have filed charges in connection with the hazing death of their son against at least 40 Aegis Jvris members and University of Santo Tomas Civil Law dean Nilo Divina.
If accepted into the witness protection program, Ventura will no longer be among the accused, said Aguirre.
Aguirre said Ventura shared details of the violent initiation rites, which supposedly started around 1:00 a.m. of Sept. 16, with about 10 people punching Castillo on his arms.
"Meron silang term na ‘hangga’t hindi pumuputok’ 'yung kaniyang braso, tuloy-tuloy lang sila ng pagsuntok," he said, adding that Ventura identified "many" of those who participated.
Then when Castillo's arms were already swollen, these were hit with a spatula to "calm" the muscles, said Aguirre.
The last step, Ventura had claimed, was paddling. An incoming member was supposed to be hit 10 times with the paddle, but a leader or a solo newbie will receive 11 strikes.
"'Nung third paddle against Atio, tinanong pa siya kung kaya pa niya. Sumagot pa ata si Atio na kaya pa niya. But in the fourth paddle, hindi na niya kaya and he collapsed already and unintelligible na 'yung kaniyang response; pag tinatanong siya, hindi na siya maka-respond, parang umuungol na lang siya," said Aguirre.
The initiators had a brief respite from the paddling after the collapse, but when they saw that Castillo was regaining consciousness, they hit him for the fifth time.
"'Nung fourth, nag-collapse na; so 'nung fifth lalo pang nag-collapse at nun naging panicky na 'yung members ng frat and they tried to revive him," said Aguirre.
"Parang merong nag-suggest na patuluan ng kandila para malaman kung magre-respond nga sa pain ng candle droppings, but apparently wala nang response si Atio," he added.
These events occurred around 5:00 a.m., as the fraternity members were expecting to finish the initiation and welcome their new members by dawn.
"Sasalubungin nila ang pagbukang-liwayway ng new member kung halimbawang makapasa na, kaya lang hindi na sila nakarating dun," said Aguirre.
The members were "very much concerned," he said, and they called for a car and a driver, and came the pick-up and driver of fraternity Grand Praefectus Arvin Balag, not member Ralph Trangia's as previously reported.
"Apparently, walang driver si Trangia; ang may driver ay si Balag. The NBI already knew that the driver they are going to locate is the driver of Balag, not of Trangia," said Aguirre.
Trangia, who flew to Chicago with his mother last month, was implicated in the case because the red Mitsubishi Strada that brought Castillo's body to the hospital belongs to his father, Antonio, also included in the complaint.
HE STILL HAD A PULSE, BUT BROUGHT TO HOSPITAL TOO LATE
Aguirre said Ventura also revealed that the members tried to revive Castillo after he collapsed, but none of them had background on medicine or first aid so they had to call fellow member John Paul Solano, a medical technologist.
"Sinakay na siyang dadalhin sa ospital, which they agreed to bring him to Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital, but nang dumating si Solano, binaba ulit nila si Atio and they tried to revive him," Aguirre said.
"Meron pang pulse, may heartbeat pa, kaya nga they tried to revive him; but because of that, binaba ulit nila, pinasok ulit nila dun sa library, but nang hindi mag-succeed, saka pa lang nila dinala ulit, sinakay ulit nila sa pick-up," he added.
After Solano failed to revive Castillo, he told Balag and the other members present to bring him to the hospital.
“Na-delay pa, 'yun ang nangyari," said Aguirre. Asked what could have gone wrong in the process, he said: "Talagang unconscious na siya eh."
Aguirre added that Ventura did not mention anything about Castillo possibly dying of a pre-existing heart condition as alleged by Solano.
"We don’t know, pero maraming komplikasyon 'yan. Pag na-complicate, including 'yung sa kidney, talagang could result in deaths," he said.
"But nobody, I don’t know kung nag-issue ng death certificate ang hospital o kung ano ang diagnosis ng mga doctor. Wala akong alam," he added.
-- Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News