fraternity hazings

CA rejects hazing suspect’s bid vs judge in Atio Castillo case

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CA rejects hazing suspect’s bid vs judge in Atio Castillo case
The Court of Appeals says hazing suspect Ralph Trangia 'miserably failed' to establish that a Manila court judge acted with impartiality when it rejected his bid to dismiss the case

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) has rejected a bid by one of the suspects in the killing of law student Horatio “Atio” Castillo III to block a Manila court judge from participating and deciding on the case.

In a 75-page decision dated September 22, the appellate court’s first division ruled that there was no basis for Ralph Trangia to claim that Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20 Presiding Judge Shirley Magsipoc-Pagalilauan acted with grave abuse of discretion when she earlier refused to inhibit. 

Castillo, a freshman law student at the University of Santo Tomas, was killed in a hazing initiation of the Aegis Juris fraternity in September 2017. 

Trangia is among the individuals charged for violating the anti-hazing law, and he was also allegedly the one who drove Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital where the law student was declared dead on arrival. He left the Philippines following the incident, but eventually returned early October. 

Trangia sought Pagalilauan’s inhibition after the latter denied his demurrer to evidence motion in February 2022. If the demurrer was granted, it would have meant dismissal of the case, but Manila RTC Branch 20 ruled that prosecution witness Mark Anthony Ventura identified Trangia as being present during the incident, as well as paddling Castillo. 

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Manila RTC Branch 20 likewise denied a motion for reconsideration in March 2022, prompting Trangia to bring his motion to the CA. 

But the CA, in its decision, said that there was no grave abuse of discretion, and that Trangia “miserably failed to establish that the court a quo acted with manifest impartiality in issuing the assailed orders.” 

“Rather it is evident that petitioner’s claim of bias and partiality is merely based on the denial of his Demurrer to Evidence, which in itself is not sufficient to prove that the court a quo acted with bias, bad faith, malice, or corrupt purpose,” the appellate court said.

“It is settled that the trial court’s assessments of the credibility of witnesses is accorded great weight and respect on appeal and is binding on this Court, particularly when it has not been adequately demonstrated that significant facts and circumstances were shown to have overlooked or disregarded by the court below which, if considered, might affect the outcome thereof,” CA added.  –

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