MANILA- Aegis Jvris fraternity member Marc Anthony Ventura could no longer present his defense at the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) preliminary investigation into the alleged hazing death of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.
This as Ventura, among several accused in Castillo's death who is now under the DOJ's Witness Protection Program (WPP), failed to submit his counter-affidavit on Monday, the deadline set by the DOJ investigating panel.
Lawyer Paterno Esmaquel, counsel for respondent John Paul Solano, also an Aegis Jvris member, inquired from the panel during Monday’s hearing whether Ventura’s failure to submit his counter-affidavit constituted a waiver of his right to file his defense.
Panel chair Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva responded: “Yes, his right to file his counter-affidavit is waived.”
Ventura has never appeared at the DOJ hearings and has not sent a counsel to represent him.
He instead sought a meeting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Oct. 24 and pleaded to be admitted into the WPP, where he is now under full coverage.
Among requirements for admission into the WPP is the execution of an affidavit detailing one’s knowledge about an alleged crime.
Ventura submitted to the WPP a 6-page affidavit narrating events leading up to, during, and in the aftermath of Castillo's “final rites” on Sept. 17.
The DOJ investigating panel has not received a copy of Ventura’s statement to the WPP, and still considers him one of the respondents in the complaint for murder, robbery, violation of the Anti-Hazing Law, and obstruction of justice.
Lawyer Lorna Kapunan, counsel for the Castillo family, said they will leave it up to the DOJ to determine Ventura's fate.
"It's not up to us but for the DOJ to decide," Kapunan said.
Some 40 individuals, mostly Aegis Jvris fraternity members, were named respondents in the case.
Castillo was rushed to the Chinese General Hospital (CGH) on the morning of Sept. 17 but was pronounced dead upon arrival. An autopsy revealed that he suffered severe injuries consistent with hazing. :
Aguirre had announced in a news conference that Ventura’s testimony “can stand trial in court” because he has first hand knowledge of events surrounding Castillo's death and has admitted to participating in the initiation rites.