Life on the line for young fratmen, but Atio Castillo’s mom feels numb

Lian Buan
Life on the line for young fratmen, but Atio Castillo’s mom feels numb
'They committed a crime they thought they can get away with; now they have all the time to think about what they did,' says Castillo's mother Carmina

MANILA, Philippines – Judge Alfredo Ampuan’s courtroom could not fit everyone on Friday, March 16, the first ever hearing of ten young law students charged of hazing, leading to the death of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.

The 10 fratmen of Aegis Juris fraternity looked sharp on Friday, with their reputable lawyers in tow, squeezed inside the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 40 courtroom as Judge Ampuan gave out his first orders.

He denied outright the motions of some of the fratmen to hold out the issuance of the warrants of arrest, saying they are prohibited motions. The indictment for violating the Anti-Hazing Law carry with it a non-bailable charge.

If they are arrested, they would say goodbye to law school and will be locked up indefinitely. The fratmen also asked the court for bail, but Ampuan’s order is not encouraging. 

“The (motion) shall be set for hearing only after this Court determines probable cause…and only after the arraignment and pre-trial conference,” Ampuan said as the young men looked on.

The ten charged, all present on Friday, are the following:

  • Arvin Balag 
  • Ralph Trangia
  • Oliver John Audrey Onofre
  • Mhin Wei Chan
  • Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo
  • Joshua Joriel Macabali
  • Axel Munro Hipe
  • Marcelino Bagtang
  • Jose Miguel Salamat
  • Robin Ramos




Life on the line 

There was a heavy feeling inside the courtroom, almost as if everyone was aware what’s at stake for the young men who, if not for the hazing, would have had bright futures ahead.

Enter Horacio and Carmina Castillo, Atio’s grieving parents.

Due to the lack of seating space, Mr and Mrs Castillo stood a long time right beside one of the accused, Mhin Wei Chan, who, according to witness Marc Anthony Ventura, was among those who hit Atio’s muscles with a spatula to calm the swelling. (READ: For parents of Atio, Guillo, ‘the pain doesn’t go away’)

In front of the Castillos were the leaders of Aegis Juris fraternity: Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia and Axel Munro Hipe. The three paddled Atio until he fell unconscious and died, said Ventura.

“Standing next to the accused, I was more numb and angry at the same time. I really don’t care what the future holds for them. They took for granted a life,” Carmina said.

The Castillos have not backed down in this entire battle for their son. They are strong in their statements, and could stare down the fratmen at any venue.

Carmina said not one of them has reached out to the family; not a nod when they see each other in hearings.

“I feel that some are still in denial and some do not understand the gravity of the situation they are in. They committed a crime they thought they can get away with, now they have all the time to think about what they did,” she said.

Fight for Atio

The Castillo’s fight has taken them to the Senate, where they witnessed while crying the passing of Senate Bill No. 1662 which seeks to ban all forms of hazing in school fraternities, sororities and other organisations.

Under the present Anti-Hazing Law or Republic Act 8049, hazing is allowed as an initiation rite if the school is notified prior to the event.

If Judge Ampuan issues an arrest warrant, Carmina said it will give her peace.

But it will be the worst nightmare for the parents of the 10 fratmen.

“I understand what the parents are feeling, you want to protect your child at all cost,” Carmina said.

She added: “If only they saved Atio, from the time he collapsed and brought him to the hospital, the events would be very different from today. Soon they will realize right actions will prove correct and justice and truth will always prevail.” –

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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 or tweet @lianbuan.