The parents of hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Castillo III are on the “road to healing” with the emergence of crucial testimony against Aegis Juris fraternity men responsible for the death of their only son.
In a Mass on Friday commemorating the 40th day since Atio’s death, Horacio Jr. and Carmina Castillo expressed mixed emotions upon reading the statement of Mark Anthony Ventura, who decided to testify against his fraternity brothers and join the government’s Witness Protection Program.
“We were [going through Ventura’s] statement. I wanted to feel what [Atio] was feeling. I’m feeling fear, takot na takot siguro siya nun and humiliating things [were being done to him]. It was very hard. Na-feel ko `yung pain niya, his fear, his loneliness,” Carmina told the Varsitarian in an interview at the Santuario de San Antonio in Makati.
“Hindi siya sanay sa ganun. It was crushing really, but it made me angry. I really want to know kung sino pa `yung mga involved, all of those who participated sa cover-up. I want justice for my son now more than ever,” she added.
Horacio Jr. said the fratmen were apparently saving their own skins when they decided not to bring Atio immediately to the nearest hospital when he still had pulse in the morning of Sept. 17.
“Buhay pa sana anak namin ngayon if they did the right thing. Pero ang inisip nila sila lang, to save themselves,” Atio’s father told the Varsitarian.
Jerry Castillo, uncle of the slain UST law freshman, also slammed the Aegis Juris members.
“They say they wanted to save Atio, the moment he collapsed. They should have brought him to UST Hospital [for] first-aid medicine and to revive him, yet you called someone who is not a doctor,” Jerry said, referring to fratman John Paul Solano, a licensed medical technologist and one of the lead suspects.
Solano tried to revive Atio after initiation rites and brought the 22-year-old neophyte to the Chinese General Hospital supposedly on orders of Aegis Juris “grand praefectus” Arvin Balag.
Solano drew flak last week for claiming in his affidavit filed on Oct. 23 that Atio died of a pre-existing heart condition, not from hazing. The Castillos refuted this, saying Atio was healthy before joining the fraternity, citing their son’s health records from UST.
Lorna Kapunan, legal counsel of the Castillo family, said Solano’s claim was “rubbing salt on the wounds” of Atio’s bereaved parents.
“The evidence speaks for itself. Sadly, the [fratmen] are confusing the issue by saying that [Atio] had a heart ailment, which I think is ignominy to injury. Parang nilagyan mo ng asin `yung sugat,” Kapunan said.
Ventura, former secretary of the Aegis Juris Fraternity who was named a government witness on Oct. 26, bared that Balag gave Atio the fifth and last paddle strike that rendered the neophyte unconscious. Atio had collapsed from the fourth blow.
Ventura also revealed that 10 members of the law fraternity took turns hurting Atio, while six others were drinking and using a videoke machine outside the frat library on Laon Laan Street to drown out the noise.
“You know what was worst? May videoke. They were celebrating and drinking habang `yung anak namin namamatay doon,” Horacio Jr. said.
Also on Friday, UST Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. led a Mass and candle-lighting ceremony in campus to commemorate Atio’s death.
Members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity behind the hazing death should admit to their “abominable crime” so that “justice may be served,” the Rector said.