MANILA, Philippines – Manila Police District director Joel Coronel on Wednesday, October 18, said that contrary to an official statement released by the Aegis Juris fraternity, members involved in the fatal hazing of Horacio "Atio" Castillo III intended to cover up the incident.
During Wednesday's Senate hearing, Coronel revealed Facebook group chat message exchanges among fraternity members as early as the morning of Sunday, September 17 – the day Castillo died.
Coronel noted that in the early part of their investigation, the fraternity came out with a statement saying they will fully cooperate with the investigation.
"But then, in light of the discovery of these chat messages, it appears that from Sunday, September 17, the objective of the Aegis Juris fraternity is to cover up, conceal, to avoid and evade the prosecution of this case," Coronel said.
By Sunday afternoon, Coronel said some of the members attended a meeting at Novotel to discuss what actions to take following Castillo's death.
According to Coronel, of the 30 personalities mentioned or included in the message thread, 19 attended the meeting at Novotel. Police have already identified 12 of those in the meeting, while 7 are still subject for identification.
Screenshot from Rappler
Coronel said the "group messenger" was created by Atty Marvi Rosero Abo, and that fraternity members, particularly Arvin Balag and Jose Miguel Salamat, consulted with other members on what actions to take.
Salamat was asked to identify the 7 other members who attended the meeting, but he said he "can no longer recall" who these members were.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian then asked Coronel to summarize what the exchange of messages were about.
"In a nutshell, there was a reported incident of hazing death of a neophyte in their fraternity, and then mostly they were already in panic on what to do, they could not agree where to meet but then they agreed that they'd meet at Novotel and then what actions to be taken, some were in favor of facing this problem squarely, talking with the parents of Atio Castillo," Coronel explained.
He added: "And a great majority advocated that they just avoid and evade the prosecution, having concerns for their fraternity brothers who were involved, baka daw masira daw 'yung kinabukasan, ang future ng mga brads nila na involved sa hazing (afraid that the incident will destroy the future of their frrat brothers involved in the hazing), and that they need to meet. And part of the discussion was to contact the family and probably reach an agreement or settlement with the family regarding this particular case."
Coronel said majority of the members even said they will "find ways and means" to see that evidence will no longer be available to those conducting the investigation.
He noted that nowhere in the thread did it show that the fraternity members were willing to subject themselves to investigation. He also pointed out that from September 17 up to the present, police have not met any of the persons involved.
"To our mind, it appears that the agreement made then by those who met at Novotel Hotel was to cover up and to obstruct justice," he added.
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.