(UPDATED – 4:30 p.m.) MANILA – Despite its busy schedule, the Senate has scheduled for 6pm Monday (Sept. 25) a hearing on the fatal initiation rites on University of Sto. Tomas law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, and will tackle proposed amendments to the anti-hazing law.
School authorities, fraternities, officials of the Manila Police District (MPD) which is handling the case, have been invited to attend the hearing, according to Public Order committee chairman Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson said in a radio interview Sunday that he asked MPD’s head, Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, to personally bring to the Senate the lone suspect in detention, John Paul Solano, the medical technologist and Aegis Juris fraternity member who was called in to check Castillo when the Law freshman appeared to be unresponsive as a result of his physical injuries.
Castillo’s family has also been invited to the hearing, Lacson told DZBB. The inquiry in aid of legislation was triggered by a privilege speech by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, and will also tackle pending amendatory bills, like those of Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Win Gatchalian. “May mga bills na naka-refer at ang [Bills have been referred to us and the] objective is how to strengthen [the] current law against hazing,” added Lacson.
Lacson conceded that one criticism against the present law is that it does not prohibit initiation rites per se, but only imposes restrictions on physical hazing. The current mood, after Castillo’s death, is to ban all forms of hazing altogether.
Solano, who insisted he was not part of the hazing that resulted in Castillo’s death but was only called by fratmen later, apparently because of his medicine background, surrendered Friday to Lacson, who turned him over to MPD chief Coronel.
Solano was accompanied by UST law dean Nilo Divina, tagged a founding member of the Aegis Juris. Divina had ordered the suspension of frat members after Castillo’s death.
Lacson confirmed Solano expressed a wish to be a state witness, and not a principal suspect, but the senator said “that is for the investigating officers to decide.”
However, the senator said, “First of all, he has to plead his case before the prosecutor,” which determines whether to charge him first as perpetrator and then subsequetnly discharge him as a state witness. But, said Lacson, it is not the prosecutor, but a judge, which decides whether a respondent can be discharge as state witness.
In another development, MPD chief Coronel said they continue to track down fraternity members suspected of having participated in Castillo’s hazing, and expected to add more names on the respondents’ list, including fraternity alumni said to have had a hand in the hazing.
“Locating them has become difficult,” because of the suspension from law school, but Coronel said they expected to “make arrests again”. He said about six people might be included in the charges.
The father and mother of fraternity member Ralph Trangia, who flew out of the country just before the Justice department ordered immigration authorities to issue a lookout bulletin order on him, will likely be included among the respondents for their role in covering up the case and abetting their son, according to Coronel.
Meanwhile, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines clarified Sunday that Ralph never entered Taiwan, but was just a transit passenger who flew onward to Chicago ” via Taoyuan International Airport by BR56 on September 19, 2017.”
In a statement, TECO said, Mr. Trangia “was only one of the millions of transit passengers, who had passed through Taiwan’s busy airport and departed for North America. At this point in time, TECO does not know Mr. Trangia’s current whereabouts.”
In a related development, MPD officials indicated that there is a possibility the father-and-son Trangias would be turning themselves in within a couple of days.
According to MPD District Director Coronel, the Trangias and John Paul Soriano remain three among the principal suspects in the case.
He added that there is information some members of the sister org, the sorority Reginas Juris, were present during the hazing rite and, so, would be part of the lineup of persons of interest that would be summoned.
The parents of Horatio paid a visit to MPD where they tried to talk to Solano, but the meeting failed to transpire because Solano’s lawyer was not on hand.