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Sorority sisters to be charged in Atio hazing

The raps involved 19 more respondents, which included primary suspect John Paul Solano and other Aegis Juris fratmen, charged with murder, robbery, obstruction of justice, perjury and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law last Oct. 4. STAR/Mong Pintolo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Manila police investigators are set to file  charges against six members of the sorority affiliated with the Aegis Juris fraternity implicated in the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III last month.

“There are females who will be included in the charges,” Manila Police District (MPD) director Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel told radio station dzMM yesterday morning.

He said six female suspects said to be members of the Regina Legis et Juris sorority have been included in the initial list of suspects to be charged by the MPD before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The raps involved 19 more respondents, which included primary suspect John Paul Solano and other Aegis Juris fratmen, charged with murder, robbery, obstruction of justice, perjury and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law last Oct. 4.

However, Coronel did not reveal the identities of the female suspects.

He later said in another dzMM interview that three female members have been identified, and would be included in the amended charge sheet.

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Earlier reports said that female suspects were spotted at the vicinity of the Aegis Juris Law Resource Center, or the “frat library” being referred by Aegis Juris members, when Castillo attended “welcome rites” on Sept. 16 and 17.

Castillo later died at the Chinese General Hospital last Sept. 17, with hematoma on his upper arms as well as bruises and marks of candle drippings in different parts of his body.

Charges of obstruction of justice will also be filed against several members of the Aegis Juris involved in the alleged cover-up of the death of Castillo, Coronel said.

Coronel said the Philippine National Police’s anti-cybercrime unit had confirmed and authenticated and the messages in the private Facebook chat group created by some fraternity members just a few hours after Atio was declared dead at the CGH.

He said the MPD is awaiting official confirmation from Facebook Philippines that the chat group was verified, and the messages even if private can be used as evidence under the rules of electronic evidence.

“We have received several leads, and we’re pursuing three exchanges of messages in Facebook,” Coronel said, adding the MPD intends to file the new set of charges before Oct. 24 at the second preliminary investigation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) into the case.

The new Facebook chat groups apparently were formed after the same Aegis Juris members deleted the first one just a few days after they created it based on the messages presented during the hearing of the Senate committee on public order into Atio’s hazing death on Tuesday.

Coronel said the chat group was created on Sept. 17 by lawyer Marvi Rosero Abo, a member of the fraternity, who also hastily organized a meeting at the Novotel hotel in Cubao, Quezon City that same day.

He said there was “never a mention of the condition of Atio” in the message of the chat group that counted some 30 Aegis Juris members in it.

Earlier, murder charges were filed against 19 Aegis Juris members before the DOJ.

Atio collapsed during the initiation rites at the fraternity library near the UST Faculty of Civil Law where Aegis Juris is based.

Fraternity member Solano said he was roused from sleep by his brods from his Caloocan City house that morning and tried to revive Castillo but failed.

The victim was rushed by Solano and at least three other suspects to the CGH where he was pronounced dead at 9:21 a.m. CGH doctors told the committee, chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, that rigor mortis had already set in, which could mean Atio had been dead for three to six hours when he was rushed to the hospital.

The chats read to the committee were chilling and strongly indicated a cover-up.

“Buhay pa ba (Is he still alive)?” a message from a sender named Bongget Rogelio identified by the police as lawyer Ferdinand Rogelio, read.

“Brod may kaya yang family niyan. Bukas makakakuha na sila ng search warrant sa fratlib. Sana malinis na. Matanggal na paddle dun (Brother, his family is well-to-do. Tomorrow, they will be able to secure a search warrant to the fraternity library. I hope it has been cleaned. The paddle removed,” this from lawyer identified as Alston Kevin Anarna. 

“Nakita ko na yung cctv ng barangay. Nilapitan ko ung tanod a contact ng brod dito saten. Plus, nakita ko din yung mismong monitor. Hindi covered ang fratlib ng cctv (I saw the CCTV camera of the barangay. I approached the barangay watchman who is a contact of a brother. Plus, I also saw that actual monitor. The fraternity library is not covered by the CCTV),” read another chat sent by Ronald Cheng, who reportedly works as legal researcher in the Supreme Court.

Lacson said he will push for amendments to the Anti-Hazing Law that will impose stiffer penalties for those involved in cover-ups of hazing deaths.

Meanwhile, Castillo’s father and namesake Horacio and his mother Carminia submitted yesterday his laptop to the MPD homicide section as part of the ongoing probe of the case.

The older Castillo said the laptop was owned by his son. “Nasa bahay lang iyon, ginagamit niya dati pa (It was just at home that he had used before),” he told reporters yesterday.

He noted that police investigators would only check if his son’s laptop could provide any leads on his death by alleged hazing.

Castillo said that the personal belongings of the victim, including his cellphone, watch and eyeglasses, have not been recovered even after Carmina begged to members of Aegis Juris present during the Senate hearing last Wednesday to return the missing tiems.

MPD spokesman Supt. Erwin Margarejo meanwhile said that the loss of Castillo’s property was the basis for filing robbery charges against 16 Aegis Juris members allegedly involved in Castillo’s hazing.

With Paolo Romero

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