Justice department reopens Atio hazing case after admission of witness’ affidavit 

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reopened the preliminary investigation on the hazing death of UST law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, following receipt of the affidavit of witness Marc Anthony Ventura.

In the affidavit submitted to the DOJ last Jan. 3, Ventura identified the members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity who took part in the hazing rites of Atio.

DOJ panel members Susan Villanueva, Wendell Bendoval and Honey Rose Delgado issued the order reopening the investigation.

“In the interest of justice and in observance of due process, the panel hereby motu proprio reopens the preliminary investigation of these complaints in order to give them the opportunity to submit their countervailing evidence,” the order read.

Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina said the case was reopened to admit Ventura’s affidavit and to enable the parties to give their comments.

“I think it should be seen as part of the continuing effort to ferret out the truth and at the same time afford due process to all,” Divina told the Varsitarian in a text message.

The DOJ will resolve the complaints of murder, perjury, obstruction of justice and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law in a hearing on Jan. 12.

Aegis Juris fratman John Paul Solano earlier disclosed details about the hazing rites and pointed to Aegis Juris leaders, but later claimed Atio died of a pre-existing heart condition.

Arvin Balag, “grand praefectus” or president of Aegis Juris, was released from detention at the Senate last month. He was cited in contempt for repeatedly refusing to answer questions in a Senate inquiry last Oct. 18.

Ventura, who surrendered and applied to become state witness on Oct. 25, claimed Balag dealt the final blow that rendered the 22-year-old Atio unconscious during the initiation rites last Sept. 17.

Justice ‘assured’

Gerardo Castillo, Atio’s uncle, said the President assured him of justice for his nephew during the Rizal Day celebration at the Rizal Park last Dec. 30.

“Justice will be given to Atio and 2018 looks bright,” Gerardo told the Varsitarian in an online interview.

The 22-year-old’s aunt Tata Castillo said the holidays were sad because of the tragic loss of Atio.

“This has been a very sad Christmas for all of us. Christmas is always celebrated with family and this time we are missing a member, Atio,” Tata said in a text message.

Atio’s family and friends expressed dismay over the Supreme Court’s decision to release Balag from Senate detention last Dec. 22.

In a prayer vigil commemorating the 100th day since Atio’s death at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque last Dec. 28, the slain student’s friends urged the Thomasian community to join the clamor for justice by keeping the discourse alive in social media.

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