Aegis Juris fratmen in Atio Castillo slay case move for bail
MANILA, Philippines – At least two Aegis Juris fraternity members have filed their motions for bail before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed charges against them over the fatal hazing of freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.
Jose Miguel Salamat and John Robin Ramos, two of the 10 fratmen charged for hazing, submitted an omnibus motion on Monday, March 12 before the Manila RTC Branch 40.
The omnibus motion also asks the court not to issue a warrant of arrest yet. The court set a hearing on Friday, March 16.
Who are Salamat and Ramos? Witness Marc Anthony Ventura said Salamat and Ramos took part in the second phase of hazing, the spatula round. This was where they supposedly hit Castillo's arms with a spatula to calm the swelling.
The first phase involved punching Castillo, but the members who took part in the punching phase were not charged. The DOJ instead recommended further investigation.
Ventura said it was Axel Hipe, Ralph Trangi,a and Arvin Balag who paddled Castillo until he fell unconscious and eventually died. They were included in the charges. Read details of Ventura's affidavit here.
What is contained in their motion? The omnibus motion seeks dismissal of the charges, but if not, bail. It also requests the court to invalidate Marc Anthony Ventura as a state witness.
Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law imposes life imprisonment on the accused if death results from the hazing. Under the Rules on Criminal Prodecure, an accused charged of an offense punishable by life imprisonment shall not be admitted to bail.
Salamat and Ramos argued that the rules also require strong evidence of guilt.
What is their argument? Salamat and Ramos repeated the arguments that Castillo died of a pre-existing heart condition called hypertropic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
They attacked the expertise of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief medico-legal Superintendent Joseph Palmero, who signed the police’s final medico-legal report on Castillo.
The motion likened Palmero to Dr Erwin Erfe of the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), saying: “As in the case of Dr Erfe, Dr Palmero is only a medico-legal officer. The prosecution cannot claim otherwise because no less than Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II of the DOJ has publicly declared that the opinion of a non-pathology expert is not an expert opinion.”
Salamat and Ramos also attacked the credibility of Ventura, pointing out the witness’ testimony that Castillo was paddled on his lower extremity, but the police’s medico-legal report said there’s trauma in the upper extremity which caused Castillo's death.
Castillo’s uncle, Gerry, had dismissed this argument as another flimsy alibi. “We’re not stupid here, how can you die? Obviously he died, it speaks for itself, they killed him,” he said.