MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since the tragic death by hazing of UST Law student Horacio Castillo III, members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity allegedly involved in the crime, faced the Senate’s joint public hearing, Wednesday.
They are Arvin Balag, the president of the Aegis Juris Fraternity; OJ Onofre, the one who called Solano to respond to the medical needs of Atio; Axel Hipe, the alleged recruiter of the group; and Ralph Trangia, the owner of the vehicle used to transport the then half dead Atio to hospital.
Manila Police District or MDP Head C/Supt. Joel Coronel presented during the hearing the online chat exchanges between the leaders and members of the fraternity from September 17 to 18. Based on the transcript, the group was discussing an attempt to do a cover-up and a plan to evade the liabilities they might face for the death of Atio.
The MPD also presented CCTV footage inside an elevator at the Novotel where the fratmen held a meeting to discuss the steps they would undertake regarding the incident.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said that, what the MPD presented are strong pieces of evidence against the Aegis Juris Fraternity members.
“It will assist the prosecutors and even the MPD in their investigation . . . it’s unbecoming of their lawyers that they the are the ones doing the cover-up,” Lacson said.
During the Senate inquiry, the statement of John Paul Solano during a September 25 executive session was also read where he stated the sequence of events that happened on the 17th of September.
In the entire course of the hearing, the fraternity members had not answered the questions of the senators but just invoked their right against self- incrimination.
This irked the legislators and even prompted Senator Grace Poe to cite Balag in contempt , which was immediately approved by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the chairman of the joint hearing.
Balag, later on, appealed to lift the decision.
“I would like to apologize for my earlier statements and asking if my contempt be lifted . . . Yes, I’m a member but as to the incumbent presidency, I’m already in another school. I’m already in Lyceum College of Law since August..,” Arvin Balag said.
But when asked who decided to bring Atio to the Chinese General Hospital and not to the UST Hospital near the Aegis Juris Fraternity Office, Balag said, “As to that question I will invoke my right to self incrimination.”
To which Sen. Joel Villanueva responded, “Then your contempt will remain.”
This was promptly endorsed by Sen. Lacson who said, “The motion is carried. Sargeant at Arms, after this hearing you place him under detention.”
“You already have that kind of thinking at a young age, how much more when you become an adult? The motto of your fraternity is ‘Do no injustice, suffer no injustice’. You are doing injustice to your fellow schoolmate, fratmate, brother by not answering these questions. Atio’s parents are even here. You just have to answer a simple question. But if you don’t want, then it’s up to you to choose your fate,” Sen. Poe said.
It was also revealed that the Aegis Juris Fraternity broke its own call to its members to talk and help in the investigation.
According to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the members abused the use of their right against self- incrimination.
Meanwhile, University of Sto. Tomas Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina denied having a hand in the death of Atio.
“I have no liability, I have no capability to establish that I had no prior knowledge of the incident and I was not party to any cover up. There’s no way I could be made liable,” Divina said.
The parents of Atio hope that Solano will continue cooperating with authorities so they could attain justice in the death of their son.
“The case is now advancing with the Senate hearing. There are a lot of revelations already. So I think our case against them is getting stronger,” Atio’s father, Horacio Castillo II said.
“No one comes to us not even to offer help from them, none,” he added. “We also feel pity for them because their lives are over. You think they are set to become lawyers? No longer. Their lives are over,”
The Castillo couple also requested for the fraternity members to return the personal items of their son like his cell phone, eyeglasses, and watch, saying those are the only things left of Atio that they can return to them. – Aiko Miguel | UNTV News & Rescue