UNTIL BLOOD VESSELS BURST | Watch: Aegis Juris member details Atio hazing, seeks witness protection

October 25, 2017 - 2:01 PM
File photo of UST law student Horacio Tomas 'Atio' Castillo III, the latest fatality in initiation rites turned violent and tragic. PHOTO FROM ATIO'S FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

(UPDATED – 4:26 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — A member of the Aegis Juris fraternity who participated in the hazing that led to the death of law school freshman Horacio Castillo III has sought enrollment in the Witness Protection Program (WPP), Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday, October 25.

Aguirre said Marc Anthony Ventura, accompanied by his mother Merlene Ventura and his lawyer, Ferdie Benitez, went to his office to make the request, which the Justice chief described as a “very welcome development.” He added that Ventura is expected to be formally admitted into the WPP Wednesday afternoon.

Aegis Juris Fraternity member Marc Anthony Ventura at the Department of Justice in Manila on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017. Photo courtesy of J.V. Arcena, News5

Ventura, who Aguirre said is the only one who has accepted the DOJ’s invitation to turn state witness, “narrated what he knew” of the initiation rites, which took place from 1 a.m. of September 17 and ended when Castillo collapsed as he was being struck with a paddle roughly three hours later.

Recalling what Ventura had narrated, Aguirre said the Aegis Juris members and Castillo had been at the fraternity library the night of September16.

At 1 a.m., the initiation began with “more than 10” fraternity members punching Castillo’s upper arms. “Hangga’t hindi pumuputok ay tuloy-tuloy lang sila (This continued to the point where the blood vessels burst),” Aguirre said, quoting Ventura as estimating this phase took about an hour.

When bruising finally appeared, said Aguirre, the punches were stopped and replaced with taps by what he called a “spatula” similar to that used in cooking.

Aegis Juris Fraternity member Marc Anthony Ventura (seated, center) goes to the Department of Justice on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, with his mother, Merlene Venture (seated, right), Photo courtesy of J.V. Arcena, News5

The final stage was the striking with the paddle, Aguirre said.

Initiates, he said, are struck 10 times, once for each letter of the fraternity’s name, with the batch leader receiving an extra, or 11th, strike. Lone initiate, like Castillo, on the other hand, receive 11 blows.

At the third blow, Aguirre said, Castillo was asked “kung kaya pa. Sumagot naman siya na kaya pa (if he could still take it. He answered he could).”

However, on the next blow, Castillo collapsed and was “unintelligible” in his responses, Aguirre said.

Despite this, after a respite of a few minutes, Castillo was struck a fifth time.

It was at this point, said Aguirre, when the fraternity members became “panicky” and tried to revive him. They also dipped candle wax on him but received no response.

It was at this point, around 5 a.m. by Ventura’s reckoning, that they decided to take Castillo to the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital in the pickup of Aegis Juris “Grand Praefectus,” or president, Arvin Balag.

However, fraternity member John Paul Solano arrived so Castillo was unloaded from the pickup. Only when Solano failed to revive him was Castillo eventually taken to the Chinese General Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

Ventura also named everyone else who was there during the initiation rites.

“Mr. Ventura gave us the names of the persons who were present during the initiation rites of Mr. Atio Castillo III. After hearing the narration of Mr. Ventura, I immediately decided to place him under provisional acceptance into the WPP,” said Aguirre.

“Mr. Ventura’s decision to seek admission into our WPP is a most welcome development in this case as we all endeavor to give justice to Atio’s untimely demise,” the DOJ chief added.