Brotherhood up to the end: Aegis Juris fratmen surrender together

MANILA, Philippines – In the past they looked every bit like lawyers. On Friday, they looked like frightened sons, as they headed off to jail for the non-bailable charge of hazing.

The 10 Aegis Juris fraternity members charged in the hazing death of freshman law student Horacio "Atio" Castillo III surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday, March 23.

The 10 young men, law students of the prestigious University of Santo Tomas (UST), were dressed down, stripped of their usual suits and white long sleeves.

They will spend the succeeding nights at the NBI until the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) decides whether to let them stay there, or send them to the regular Manila City Jail.

They cannot post bail, but they have a pending motion to be granted provisional liberty. (READ: Fratmen in Atio Castillo case want Manila judge to inhibit)

"They will be treated fairly, these young gentlemen just wanted to make sure that they are safe," said NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin. 

Brotherhood

The 10 men – Mhin Wei Chan, Jose Miguel Salamat, John Robin Ramos, Marcelino Bagtang Jr, Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Axel Munro Hipe, Oliver Onofre, Joshua Joriel Macabali, and Hans Matthew Rodrigo – honored their code of silence up to their detention.

The reason why they are charged is because one of their brothers, Marc Anthony Ventura, spilled crucial details about that fateful morning on September 17. Ventura named the 10 as the ones who participated in the last two phases of the hazing.

The 10, however, have admitted to nothing. Their defenses are grounded on technicalities, finding loopholes in the gaps of the Manila Police District in its documentation, and Atio's alleged pre-existing heart condition.

They stayed together, and even surrendered together.

NBI agent Danilo Mayani received a call early morning Friday from a common friend who was with one of the parents.

Nagsabi sa akin na magvo-voluntary surrender sila ngayong umaga, from that time tinawagan ko si Director Dante Gierran humingi ako ng clearance, binigyan niya ako at doon na nagkaroon ng arrangement na sunduin ang mga bata,” Mayani said.

(They told me they will voluntarily surrender this morning, and from that time, I called up Director Dante Gierran to ask for clearance, which was given to me, and we arranged to pick up the boys.)

All 10 of them, bags in tow, surrendered together to the NBI just before noon on Friday. They might also be staying in one cell together while they are at the NBI.

"We will assess the situation, considering their security," Lavin said.

"They are all united, although they are emotionally affected because all of them have never been detained before. All the families of the accused have positive thoughts and they are giving comfort to one another," said Paterno Esmaquel Sr, lawyer of Salamat and Ramos.

Ten young law students headed off to jail for the non-bailable charge of hazing for the initiation rite of their brother Horacio Castillo that led to his death at age 22 pic.twitter.com/IL6B7jXsbP — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) March 23, 2018

Pain on both sides

Aegis Juris’ master initiator Axel Hipe looked like he had just cried, rubbing his eyes as camera lights flashed on their faces.

Hipe led the 4-hour hazing and decided when to stop punching Atio on the basis of the swelling of his muscles, according to an initial narration made by Ventura to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"He should have done something, but now it's too late," Atio's mother Carmina said.

Parents and relatives of the 10 fratmen accompanied their sons to the NBI. They refused to give statements.

"Nung kaninang dumating sila, emotional, lalo na nung tinurn over sa amin ng parents (They were emotional when they arrived, especially when the parents turned them over to us)," Mayani said.

Carmina said she is "both happy and angry." 

"I see these 10 accused and I see the suffering of my son. They put in their own hands the life of my Atio. Did they know my son? Did it ever occur to them that they are harming a human being?" Carmina asked.

Rain

It was raining Thursday morning, March 22, when Judge Alfredo Ampuan of Manila RTC Branch 40 ordered the arrest of the fratmen.

Rain has meant so much to Carmina since Atio died. Rain poured whenever they tried to visit Atio in his grave, which Carmina interpreted as her son telling them to no longer visit.

Carmina said it also rained when the DOJ announced the filing of non-bailable charges after more than 5 months of investigation.

“Was it Atio with God?” she wondered.

Rain will pour on less significant days, but Carmina will still think about what her son wants to tell her. Because now that is all she has.

“They ended the life of my son too soon. All we have now is memories,” she said. – Rappler.com

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.

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