DOJ panel sets mid-February target to resolve Atio hazing death case Featured

DOJ panel sets mid-February target to resolve Atio hazing death case Image: Inquirer News

A three-member investigating panel of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected by mid-February to come up with its findings in connection with the preliminary investigation on the criminal complaints concerning the death of freshman University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio "Atio" Castillo III.

The panel headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva made the commitment in a case status update dated January 29 which was submitted to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II through the Office of the Prosecutor General.

The other members of the panel are Associate Prosecution Attorneys II Wendell Bendoval and Honey Rose Delgado.

Pending before the DOJ are the complaints for murder, violation of the Anti-Hazing Law, obstruction of justice, robbery and perjury separately filed by the Manila Police District and Castillo's parents against more than 30 people, most of them members of the UST-based Aegis Juris fraternity.

The prosecutors initially wrapped up the preliminary investigation--where the complainants and respondents were given the chance to refute each other's sworn statements and evidence--- on November 28 last year, but the panel reopened it on January 12 after it received the affidavit of suspect-turned-witness Marc Anthony Ventura.

On January 22, the respondents submitted their comments with regard to the affidavit of Ventura who also fielded clarificatory questions from the panel.

The case was then submitted for resolution with prosecutors tasked to determine if there is probable cause to file charges in court.

The panel's resolution will have to be reviewed by a senior deputy state prosecutor and approved by Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr.

Castillo underwent initiation rites at the Aegis Juris library in Sampaloc, Manila on September 17.

Ventura, who is under the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program, earlier narrated how his fraternity brothers took turns beating up Castillo inside the Aegis Juris library in Sampaloc, Manila.

He also named some of Aegis Juris members who took part in the initiation.

Ventura identified Aegis Juris leader Arvin Balag as the fraternity member who gave the fifth and final blow that rendered Castillo unconscious before he was brought to Chinese General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Refuting the allegations, Balag submitted a counter-affidavit to prosecutors where he argued that there is no evidence that Castillo went through physical or psychological injury as a prerequisite for admission to Aegis Juris.

The other respondents, including medical technologist John Paul Solano, said Castillo succumbed to a pre-existing heart condition, which was disputed by the final autopsy report of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory dated October 3 which showed Atio died of "severe blunt traumatic injuries" on both his upper limbs. — RSJ, GMA News

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