In a 27-page decision, the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14 sentenced John Paul Solano to up to four years in prison after he was found guilty of obstruction of justice.
Edd Gumban
UST frat man convicted of obstruction of justice
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - June 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A member of the Aegis Juris fraternity involved in the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III in 2017 was convicted of obstruction of justice yesterday by a Manila court.

In a 27-page decision, the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14 sentenced John Paul Solano to up to four years in prison after he was found guilty of obstruction of justice.

Judge Carolina Herrera, however, acquitted Solano in the perjury charge.

This is the first conviction in the Castillo hazing case as 10 other members of the fraternity are standing trial for the separate case of violation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.

The court rejected the defense of Solano that he had no intention of misleading the police when he gave false statements under the instructions of their frat leader Arvin Balag and also out of fear of being implicated in Castillo’s death.

The judge noted that the accused opted to stay in hospital while he saw those who brought Castillo to the hospital leave.

“Nothing would prevent him from refusing to follow the supposed instructions or get lost in the hospital or from speaking the truth to the police officers who arrived to investigate,” read the decision.

“It is clear that Solano gave false and fabricated information to mislead the police or prevent them from apprehending those responsible for the death of Castillo,” it stressed.

The court held that Solano’s fear of being implicated in the crime was not reason enough to exempt him from any criminal liability, calling his claim “speculative.”

In acquitting Solano of perjury, the judge explained that the prosecution failed to prove the element of administration of oath, citing conflicting statements of police officers.

The court noted that it was necessary for the prosecution to prove that the accused made the statement under oath, which is a key element of perjury.

“Consequently, that part of the first element of the offense that the accused made a statement under oath was not proven beyond reasonable doubt,” the court pointed out.

During the trial, Solano had insisted that he did not sign the affidavit, which supposedly contained the other false statements. 

Solano brought the unconscious Castillo from the frat library to the Chinese General Hospital, where the 22-year-old law student was declared dead on arrival on Sept. 17, 2017.

He initially told police that he found Castillo lying on the road covered with a blanket.

During an investigation of the Department of Justice, Solano said Balag instructed him to say he found Castillo in Tondo.

The court has yet to resolve the hazing case against Balag and nine others – Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Munrio Hipe, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Marcelino Bagtang, Jose Miguel Salamat and Robin Ramos.

The court is still hearing their petition for bail. They have been detained at the Manila city jail since May 2018. 

Family welcomes conviction

Castillo’s parents, Horacio Jr. and Minnie, welcomed the guilty verdict on Solano for obstruction of justice.

“It sends a signal that something wrong really happened. There was  cover-up and they intended to obstruct justice,” Minnie said in an interview.

She said they plan to appeal the dismissal of perjury charge against Solano.

The family said the conviction of Solano would help in the trial of the other frat members facing hazing charges.

Gerarda Villa, mother of hazing victim Lenny Villa, was present during the promulgation to show support for the Castillos.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. of Ako Bicol party-list lamented the verdict on Solano.

“The acquittal of Solano in the charge of perjury is denial of justice to the Castillo family. It sends a clear message that these misguided people who commit hazing will eventually get away with their crime,” Garbin said. –  With Jose Rodel Clapano, Delon Porcalla, Janvic Mateo 

 

HORACIO “ATIO” CASTILLO III JOHN PAUL SOLANO
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