What different documents say on Atio Castillo’s cause of death

Lian Buan
What different documents say on Atio Castillo’s cause of death
There are 4 documents being looked at – the autopsy report, medico-legal report, death certificate, and histopathological report

MANILA, Philippines – What is really the cause of death of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III who was punched and paddled for 4 hours on September 17 until he fell unconscious and died?

On September 25, during the first Senate hearing on Castillo’s case, Manila Police District (MPD) Director Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel said the Aegis Juris fraternity neophyte was immediately embalmed at a funeral parlor.

On October 18, during the second Senate hearing, Coronel again mentioned the embalming. But this time, he cited a “final autopsy report” and said Castillo’s cause of death was “blunt severe injuries in the upper limb.”

At the time, Coronel did not give details of when this autopsy was conducted.

Senators then asked Coronel in both hearings why Castillo’s autopsy came after the embalming process. They wanted to know whether the autopsy was still accurate if it was done after the embalming.

Coronel admitted then that it was a “lapse” that had “affected the post-mortem of the autopsy examination.”

The MPD has yet to release a copy of this autopsy report.

Medico-legal report

On October 24, fraternity member John Paul Solano submitted his counter-affidavit to the Department of Justice (DOJ). There, Solano also publicized a medico-legal report dated September 20.

As the Solano camp pointed out, there was no clear cause of death indicated by Police Chief Inspector (PCI) Mesalyn Milagros Probadora.

Instead, Probadora made observations of an enlarged heart and a “provisional anatomical diagnosis” of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Based on that, Solano concluded that Castillo died of a pre-existing heart condition, and not hazing, even saying that the medico-legal report did not make findings of kidney injuries, which he said is common among hazing victims.

On October 27, Solano released another document: Castillo’s death certificate. Signed September 18 by Probadora, the death certificate states that the “provisional cause of death” is HCM.

On the same day, Rappler asked MPD public information office chief Superintendent Erwin Margarejo if there was an autopsy report. Margarejo said, “Wala po (None).”

The death certificate indicates that there is a pending histopathological report. Solano said they have been asking the MPD for a copy of this report but have yet to get one.

“All pieces of evidence presented before any proceeding is disputable unless it is accepted by the judicial authorities as evidence. It is the judicial authority who will appreciate and evaluate the degree of evidence presented before them,” Margarejo said.

Castillo’s father, Horacio II, said this histopathological report would be more conclusive. (READ: Lacson: If Atio Castillo had heart condition, why was he still hazed?)


Senators earlier criticized Solano for claiming Castillo did not die from hazing. So on November 6, during the 3rd hearing, they threshed out this issue again.

Coronel said the autopsy was done at 10 am on September 18, the day after Castillo’s death, and the day that the death certificate was signed.

Superintendent Joseph Palmero, the chief medico-legal of the PNP Crime Laboratory, said the “provisional anatomic diagnosis” found on the medico-legal report should not be misconstrued as a cause of death.

Senator Grace Poe, who was doing the grilling, did not ask about the death certificate. But she asked Palmero how they could have conducted the autopsy if Castillo had already been embalmed.

Palmero said the organs were still intact when they did the autopsy.

“The body was partially embalmed because the body was believed to be more than 24 hours, and because they have no freezer that’s why the practice is to do partial embalming so that the body will not decompose. The organs were still intact,” he said.

Again, Palmero maintained the autopsy showed that the cause of death was blunt injuries. (READ: It took fratmen 30-40 minutes to bring Atio Castillo to hospital – witness)

Solano said he was just basing his statements on the documents from the MPD. The fratman also said he is still asking for the histopathological report.

“If ever naman mag-adverse ‘yung histopathological report, hindi naman kami gagawa ng alternative cause of death (If ever the histopathological report would be adverse, we would not come up with an alternative cause of death),” Solano added.

On November 6, the MPD released a statement insisting on blunt injuries as Castillo’s cause of death.

“The public should be warned that in hazing, each blow by a paddle is similar to lethal injection of potassium chloride. An overdose of potassium is fatal and will cause cardiac arrest. All victims of hazing had died this way,” said the MPD’s crime laboratory. with reports from Jee Geronimo and Rambo Talabong / Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.