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Frat on Atio death: What hazing?

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II last Friday warned members of the media for reporting parts of the sworn affidavit of witness Mark Anthony Ventura, which he discussed in detail in a news conference on Wednesday, October 25. DOJ, File

MANILA, Philippines — Members of the Aegis Juris fraternity have insisted on their claim that neophyte Horacio “Atio” Castillo III did not die from hazing injuries even after another fratman, Marc Anthony Ventura, spilled the beans on the fatal initiation rites.

Ventura, one of the respondents, turned state witness last week and revealed details of Castillo’s final hours at the hands of his fraternity brothers.

In his counter-affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Monday, fraternity leader Arvin Balag claimed that there was no proof showing that Castillo underwent hazing in their library on Sept. 17.

“I could not, in any way, be held liable for violation of Republic Act 8049 (Anti-Hazing Law) since there is no evidence that Atio was placed in a humiliating situation, or subjected to physical or psychological suffering or injury as a prerequisite for admission to an organization and that I have any direct participation therein,” Balag’s affidavit read.

“There was also no proof that the death of Atio was attended by a relative disparity in physical characteristics, usually translating into age, gender, physical size and the strength of the aggressor and the victim,” he said.

Balag was among 23 fratmen named by Ventura in his tell-all affidavit as those who participated in or were present during the hazing of Castillo.

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Ventura tagged Balag as the one who allegedly struck the fifth blow that rendered Castillo unconscious.

Balag has been detained by the Senate after he was cited in contempt during a previous hearing.

In his answer, he asked the panel of prosecutors to dismiss the complaints for murder, violation of the Anti-Hazing Law and obstruction of justice filed separately by the Manila Police District and Castillo’s parents Horacio II and Carmina.

Balag argued that he could not be held liable for murder “for the simple reason that neither my presence nor my participation was proven” by the complainants.

Like his frat brothers John Paul Solano and Axel Hipe, Balag claimed that Castillo died from a pre-existing heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and not from hazing injuries.

“If it is true that Atio is a victim of hazing where he suffered from severe physical trauma, his kidneys should have acquired some degree of injuries due to accumulation of myoglobin and the same could be a cause of acute kidney failure resulting in multiple organ failure,” Balag explained.

He also denied the allegation of obstruction of justice and cover-up.

Balag argued that the screenshots of conversations on Facebook where he allegedly instructed fraternity members to keep silent about Castillo’s death and deactivate their social media accounts could not be used as evidence against him simply because it was not properly authenticated.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri described as “pathetic” the defense put up by Balag.

“I have only one word to describe Arvin Balag and his counter affidavit…pathetic,” Zubiri said in a statement.

The other respondents led by UST law dean Nilo Divina have submitted their respective answers to the DOJ panel and sought the dismissal of the charges.

The DOJ panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva considered Ventura to have waived his right to file his defense after he failed to submit his counter-affidavit on Monday.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier announced that the charges against Ventura would be dropped after he turned state witness.

The panel set the next hearings on Nov. 2 and 9. – With Paolo Romero

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