(UPDATED – 8:58 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — Nearly two weeks after Horacio Tomas “Atio” Castillo III died and now that he is laid to rest, it remains unclear how he had perished in the hands of his supposed brothers in the Aegis Juris Fraternity and who carried out the fatal hazing of the 22-year-old University of Santo Tomas freshman law student.
As tears fell and cries for justice reverberated on Wednesday while Atio’s casket was being lowered into the ground after a funeral mass in Santuario de San Antonio Church in Forbes Park, Makati, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the temporary release from detention of John Paul Sarte Solano, who was earlier identified by the police as a primary suspect in Castillo’s slay.
DOJ orders Solano’s temporary release
In its five-page resolution, the DOJ said Solano should be released because he gave himself up to authorities and was not apprehended.
“Solano voluntarily surrendered himself to the police authorities through the intercession of Senator Panfilo Lacson, hence there was no arrest to speak of,” noted the resolution signed by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan T. Villanueva, Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Anthony D. Fadullon, and Acting Prosecutor General Jorge G. Catalan Jr.
“It must be emphasized that at the time when the police authorities were looking for respondent (Solano), he was not then considered as a suspect but only a person of interest,” it added.
Solano earlier claimed that he had helped revive Castillo, who was later brought to the Chinese General Hospital, where Atio was declared dead on arrival.
The 27-year-old medical technologist, a member of Aegis Juris, denied that he had a hand in the fatal hazing of Castillo.
During a closed-door session with senators Monday night, Solano said a fraternity brother called him up in the morning of Sept. 17 and asked him to go to the Aegis Juris library on Dapitan Street because somebody had collapsed.
When he arrived in the area, he saw Castillo lying on the floor. He then checked Atio’s vital signs and found that he no longer had a pulse.
He said he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Castillo and then advised his fraternity brothers to take Atio to the hospital. Solano said they told him to follow them to Chinese General Hospital on Blumentritt Road in Sampaloc, Manila.
Also, during the closed-door session, Solano revealed to senators the names of six fraternity members allegedly involved in Castillo’s hazing.
Fratmen deny hand in Atio’s fatal hazing
At the office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)’s Death Investigation Division in Manila on Wednesday, 15 Aegis Juris members were summoned to shed light on Castillo’s death.
Lennert Bryan Galicia was among the fraternity members who showed up at the NBI. But instead of giving a testimony, Galicia presented his witnesses, who said that he was in Bulacan when Castillo’s hazing took place.
Galicia was the one who allegedly offered his house in Norzagaray, Bulacan to be used for Castillo’s initiation rites. But Galicia’s fraternity brothers reportedly declined his offer after learning that a party would be held in his residence.
Another frat member, Jason Robinos, did not go to the bureau but sent an affidavit through his brother, stating that, “I categorically deny, any kind of involvement or planning in the alleged hazing, which resulted in the death of…Mr. Castillo.”
Later in the day, Robinos surrendered to the Manila Police District but maintained that he had no part in Castillo’s hazing.
According to Robinos, he has long been inactive in Aegis Juris and is now focusing on his studies as a fifth year graduating student. He added that he was confined in a hospital between September 14 and 16 due to gastroenteritis.
Those behind hazing from ‘well-connected, moneyed’ families
A third frat member, Zimon Pardo, also did not show up and just sent a lawyer to the NBI on his behalf. Pardo’s lawyer promised investigators that his client would submit an affidavit.
Last Monday, Sept. 25, DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said those behind Castillo’s fatal hazing belonged to “well-connected and moneyed” families thus there was a delay in the case.
According to Aguirre, eight Aegis Juris members directly linked to Atio’s death were allegedly being coddled by the fraternity’s officials and senior members.
On Wednesday, Atio’s uncle, Dr. Gerry Castillo, said he knew that their family would be fighting with a “very powerful law firm,” which he linked to his nephew’s fatal hazing.
“The people of the Philippines are not dumb. They are not stupid, we are not stupid. That’s why if I have all the means, I would have to fight. I’ll get justice for Atio. Bahala na ang Panginoon sa inyo [Your fate is up to God],” he said.
WATCH A RELATED VIDEO REPORT BY NEWS5: