Facebook Messenger chat may give clues to Castillo's hazing death
MANILA, Philippines – Seven men, believed to be members of the Aegis Juris fraternity based at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), chatted on Facebook Messenger from Saturday, September 16, to Sunday morning, September 17. Their exchanges could provide clues to what happened on the night UST law freshman Horacio Tomas Castillo III was killed by hazing.
People who want to help identify those who inflicted fatal injuries on Castillo provided screenshots of the conversation among the 7 men. (READ: Castillo family: 'Atio was killed by criminals from Aegis Juris fraternity')
The exchanges provide specifics about the hazing rites:
- Fraternity members knew that they were doing something dangerous and prohibited
- There was intent to cover up the incident
- The lone neophyte they initiated could have died at their hands
The screenshots were posted in the Facebook group "Hustisya Para kay Horacio" on Wednesday morning, September 20. The group was created by Castillo's friends.
Castillo – Atio to his family – was supposedly found dumped on a pavement in Tondo, Manila, and brought to the Chinese General Hospital by John Paul Solano. The latter claimed he was on his way to buy a cigarette when he saw the body, and that he flagged a red Strada pickup to help him bring the body to the hospital, where Castillo was declared dead on arrival.
His body bore bruises in both arms, cigarette burns, and candle wax drippings all over his body – marks of hazing, his parents believe.
Solano, who turned out to be a member of Aegis Juris, is now primary suspect in the case. He is believed to be the “Popoy” that fraternity members contacted in the chat to help with the “emergency” Sunday morning, apparently after the overnight hazing.
Frat men chatting
The 7 supposed frat men who chatted on Facebook Messenger were:
There was mention of another member – even tagged in the chat – whose house and neighborhood in Bulacan was the original hazing venue. However, the frat men decided to conduct their “major frat activity” at the“FL” (fraternity library) in Dapitan, Manila, for fear that guests and neighbors at the party would see them, video record them, and spread the word about them.
Rappler is redacting the family names of the person on the thread pending verification by the authorities.
The hazing plan
The screenshot message thread started with a time stamp 9:53 am, presumably on Saturday, September 16. Axel was asking who would be joining the “FR” (fraternity rites) of the neophyte at 9 pm at the “FL.” It would be a “major frat activity,” Arvin said
Followers of the Hustisya Facebook group believe the “neophyte" was Castillo. A Rappler source said Castillo was the lone new member. This was confirmed in the chat, where members said they were bringing “isa lang naman” (only one) to be initiated.
The hazing rite was to be hosted by a frat member in Bulacan. But because there was a party at that place, Jayar suggested they move the rites to the fraternity library instead.
Still, Lennert insisted they do it across the street from the house in Bulacan, and that he would make sure no one squealed on them.
“Walang magsasalita doon. Tyaka di kayo makikita. Tago yung lugar din. Pwede dun,” Lennert said. “Ako bahala, papatayin natin magsasalita haha.” (No one will talk there. And we won't be seen. The place is hidden. That place will do. I'll take care of matters, we'll kill whoever squeals.)
Arvin decided to move the activity to Manila. In a message time stamped 6:39 pm, he wrote, “Fratlib.”
Axel replied with a skull emoji.
The next message would come after almost 15 hours. On "SUNDAY, 9:11 AM,” Axel messaged, “emergency,” and asked for the number of “Popoy.” That was about the same time Castillo was declared dead at the Chinese General Hospital.
Arvin asked members to delete the group chat, to which Axel again replied with a skull emoji.
Arvin also told members to deactivate their accounts and reminded them of the “code of silence.”
The last messages on the screenshot thread were from Popoy. He asked if the "3-hour detention rule” was applicable because he was left in the hospital.
Castillo's father said his son was recruited by an Axel Hipe to the Aegis Juris, a fraternity based in and recognized by the UST Faculty of Civil Law. He said Horacio didn’t plan to join the fraternity, but was later on convinced to apply. The parents allowed him to apply because of the supposed guarantee that there would be no hazing, and that they thought their son would be in good hands because UST law dean Nilo Divina, a family friend, is an Aegis Juris member.
On Friday, September 15, Horacio reportedly told his father his initiation had been completed and that there was a welcome party for successful applicants on Saturday evening. The parents got nervous when they couldn’t contact Horacio anymore on Saturday evening. His things were brought home by an Uber driver who was booked using Horacio’s number. (READ: 'You do not murder your brother': People demand #JusticeForHoracio)
On Sunday night, Castillo’s parents received an anonymous text, tipping them about their son's whereabouts. The Castillos found their son's remains at the Archangel Funeral Home in Sampaloc, Manila.
UST law dean Divina has barred all officials and members of Aegis Juris fraternity from entering the campus. The Manila Police District said it had identified other suspects in Castillo’s death, but have yet to announce their names.
The Bureau of Immigration has placed 16 Aegis Juris members on its lookout bulletin:
- Arvin Balag
- Mhin Wei Chan
- Marc Anthony Ventura
- Axel Munro Hipe
- Oliver John Audrey Onofre
- Joshua Joriel Macabali
- Jason Adolfo Robiños
- Ralph Trangia
- Ranie Rafael Santiago
- Danielle Hans Mattew Rodrigo
- Carl Mattew Villanueva
- Aeron Salientes
- Marcelino Bagtang
- Zimon Padro
- Jose Miguel Salamat
- John Paul Solano
– with reports from Eloisa Lopez/Rappler