MANILA, Philippines – It was Aegis Juris fraternity master initiator Axel Munro Hipe who called the shots and led the almost 4-hour hazing rites which killed UST first year law student Horacio Castillo III, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Wednesday, October 25.
Aguirre was narrating some of the details in the testimony of Aegis Juris fratman Mark Ventura, who turned state witness on Wednesday.
Aguirre said the rites of Aegis Juris neophytes began on Monday, September 11, during which Ventura met Castillo.
On Sunday, September 17, it was only Castillo who underwent initiation rites, said Ventura as quoted by Aguirre. The rites started around 1am and ended by 5 am when Castillo fell unconscious. Aguirre said it was Hipe who led the entire thing.
Punching, then paddling
The first part was the punching of Castillo, which Aguirre said lasted 1 hour.
“There were about more than 10 who punched him, and meron silang term na hangga’t hindi pumuputok ang kanyang braso, tuloy-tuloy lang sila sa pagsuntok,” Aguirre said. (There were about more than 10 fratmen who punched him, and they have a term that they would just continue punching him until his arm swelled.)
Aguirre added that Ventura said, Aegis Juris fratmen followed the principle to continue punching until his arms swelled.
“It was the decision of the initiator, kung okay na, puputok na, tama na, it was the call of the master initiator,” Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said, referring to Hipe.
Hipe, in his counter-affidavit, said there is no probable cause to charge him of murder and violation of the Anti-Hazing law.
The 2nd part was hitting Castillo’s arms with a spatula-like object to “calm the muscles down.” The last part was paddling, and Aguirre said Castillo was to take 11 paddles because it’s the rules for neophytes going through the rites on his own.
“Noong 3rd paddle against Atio, tinanong pa siya kung kaya pa niya, sumagot pa ata si Atio na kaya pa niya, but on the 4th paddle, hindi na niya kaya and he collapsed already…But after a few minutes, siguro nakita na nila na nagkakamalay si Atio, they struck him the 5th time with a paddle, 4th nag-collapse na, yung 5th lalong nag-collapse,” Aguirre said. (On the 3rd paddle against Atio, they asked him if he can still take it. Atio supposedly said yes, but on the 4th paddle he collapsed. After a few minutes, perhaps when they saw Atio regaining consciousness, they struck him the 5th time with a paddle. He collapsed on the 4th, he collapsed further on the 5th.)
Aguirre said that according to Ventura, some of the fratmen suggested dropping melted candle wax on Castillo to force a response.
“But apparently wala nang response si Atio (Atio was no longer responding),” the justice chief said.
This happened before 5 am on September 17. Then they called John Paul Solano, trusting him to apply first aid on Castillo because of his background as a medical technologist. Solano told a Senate panel it was Oliver John Onofre who called him.
According to Aguirre, still quoting Ventura, Castillo has already been boarded on a vehicle to be taken to the hospital but when Solano arrived, they brought him inside the fraternity library again.
“May pulse pa that time, may heartbeat pa, kaya they tried to revive him, kaya binaba ulit nila, pinasok nila ulit sa library, nung hindi sila nag succeed, saka lang nila sinakay sa pickup,” Aguirre said. (Castillo still had pulse that time, he still had heartbeat that’s why they tried to revive him, that’s why they brought him down again and took him inside the library. When they didn’t succeed, that’s when they boarded him onto the pickup.)
The plan was supposedly to bring Castillo to the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC), which is beside the Department of Health (DOH) and a few minutes drive from the fraternity library on Laong Laan Street.
The Solano convoy eventually brought Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital, which is roughly the same distance as JRMMC from the library.
The nearest hospital would have been the University of Santo Tomas (UST) hospital which was just across the road, inside their own school campus.
“They believed kung mare-revive pa ni Solano, walang problema. Dun sila kumapit. After he tried to revive, Solano told the GP and the others na dalhin na sa ospital,” Balmes said. (They believed that if Solano could revive him, there would be no problem. After he tried to revive, Solano told the GP and the others to take him to the hospital.)
GP stands for Grand Perfectus, who was identified to be Arvin Balag. Balag is detained in the Senate where he was held in contempt for not answering questions from Senators.
Solano said he drove his motorcycle, while Hipe and Balag rode a black Toyota Fortuner. The unconscious Castillo was on the red Mitsubishi Strada pickup supposedly owned by the family of Ralph Trangia. Solano said he didn’t see Trangia on that morning.
Solano reported to seeing instead Trangia’s family driver. Trangia named the driver Romeo Laboga during the Senate investigation.
“Apparently, walang driver si Ralph Trangia, and may driver si Balag, so the NBI already knew that the driver…they will look for the driver (Apparently, Trangia has no driver, it was Balag who has a driver, so the NBI knew about the driver, they will look for the driver),” Aguirre said.
A report by the Manila Police District said Castillo was declared dead on arrival by the attending doctors at the emergency room of the Chinese General Hospital around 9:20 am of September 17.
Aguirre said that even though the Witness Protection Program (WPP) is open to everyone, except the most guilty, Ventura’s testimony might already suffice.
“Kahit wala na, parang malakas na ito e (Maybe there would be no need for more witnesses, this seems strong enough),” Aguirre said.
Ventura named all the individuals who participated in the initiation rites, including a group of 7 who held karaoke sessions to cover up the noise from the hazing. Aguirre said Ventura’s list included the individuals who were put on the lookout bulletin, and then some more. – Rappler.com