By Joseph Almer Pedrajas
A Manila court has denied the petition for bail filed by 10 accused in the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas (UST) Law freshman student Horacio “Atio” Castillo in September 2017.
In an order dated Dec. 10, 2019 Manila Regional Trial Court (Branch 20) Presiding Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali junked the petition of Arvin Balag, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Munro Hipe, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Ralph Trangia, Robin Ramos, Jose Miguel Salamat, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, and Marcelino Bagtang Jr. saying the “evidence of guilt of each of the accused [is] strong.”
The accused are charged for violating RA 8049 (anti-hazing law) which carries a maximum prison term of 40 years.
“It was established that the herein victim [Castillo] was subjected to physical injuries and died by reason thereof,” part of the 56-page order, which was released Friday night read.
“The Anti-Hazing Law provides that the presence of any person during the hazing is prima facie of participation therein as principal unless he prevented the commission of the acts punishable therein,” the court said.
The court said based on the testimony of Mark Ventura, the prosecution was able to establish that they “were present at the fraternity’s final rites,” and “some of whom were the fraternity officers.”
“It was also established by the prosecution that accused Hipe, Trangia, and Balag delivered blows on the victim using a paddle,” while “others were identified to have delivered blows on the arms of [Castillo],” the court noted.
The court said it is “not convinced” that Castillo’s death was due to cardiomyopathy or “enlarged heart” and not the severe blunt physical injuries inflicted on his body.
“Even if the victim is suffering from an internal ailment, liver or heart disease or tuberculosis, if the blow delivered by the accused is the efficient cause of death, accelerated his death or is the proximate cause of [his] death…there is still criminal liability,” the court added.
Castillo succumbed to injuries on Sept. 17, 2017 following hazing rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity.
Prior to his death, Castillo went missing until an anonymous person texted his parents to proceed to Chinese General Hospital. He was traced at a funeral parlor, with a bruised body and candle wax drippings on his skin.
In a statement late Friday night, Horacio’s mother, Minnie, welcomed the court’s decision.
“It proves that hazing occurred and Atio died of severe physical injuries and not of a medical condition,” she said.
Minnie told the Manila Bulletin that they are confident “to get the conviction for this case” and “to get the conviction all the way” for other suspects.
“I guess, malaki ang effect nito sa kaso,” she said.
Minnie also said they will push through with the filing of cases against some 20 suspects involved in their son’s death.
“Yung ni-name ng judge sa order, sila yung plano naming sampahan,” she said.
“We have evidence that they have participated directly based on testimonies ng witnesses.”
In June 2019, John Paul Solano, an Aegis Juris fraternity member who brought Castillo to the hospital, was earlier convicted for obstruction of justice.
Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Carolina Esguerra sentenced him to up to four years and two months in prison.