A MANILA court has found Aegis Juris fraternity member John Paul S. Solano guilty of obstruction of justice in connection with the September 2017 hazing-murder of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.
Judge Carolina J. Esguerra of Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14 sentenced Mr. Solano to a minimum of two years, four months and one day to four years, two months, and one day of imprisonment for violation of Section 1 (i) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1829, on “Penalizing obstruction of apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders.”
Mr. Solano, however, was cleared of perjury charges.
The court said “it is clear that he gave false and fabricated information to mislead the police or prevent them from apprehending those responsible for the death of Castillo.”
“Consequently, his liability for violation of Section 1 (i) of Presidential Decree 1829 has been proven beyond reasonable doubt,” the court ruled.
Mr. Castillo was declared dead on arrival at the Chinese General Hospital on Sept. 17, 2017, after attending the welcoming rites of the fraternity.
The accused initially told authorities that he saw Mr. Castillo’s body at the corner of H. Lopez Boulevard and Infanta Street in Tondo, Manila, while he was passing by and stopped a vehicle and brought him to the hospital.
The court cited Mr. Solano as saying that he made the incorrect statements “due to uncontrollable fear for his life and for fear of being implicated/charged with the death of Castillo.”
“Along this line, accused’ fear of being implicated in the death of Castillo is not imminent. Had accused spoken of true incidents prior to bringing Castillo to the hospital, the matter would have been investigated first by the police before hailing him to court should they find that they acted in complicity with the others in bringing Castillo’s injuries,” the court said.
“(T)he fear which the accused claims to have overtaken him is not, in contemplation of law, as imminent as he believed, and is even speculative at that. Thus, his defense that he acted under the impulse of uncontrollable fear for his life or limb has no leg to stand on,” it added.
The court also acquitted Mr. Solano from the charge of violation of Section 1 (f) of PD 1829 or obstruction of justice for making or presenting any document with knowledge of its falsity, saying it was not Mr. Solano who made the Judicial Affidavit.
The parents of Mr. Castillo said they are “very happy with the conviction” for obstruction of justice.
“It can be shown, ‘yung cover-up na nangyari (cover-up that transpired). And hopefully, we will file cases again doon sa mga kasama, even ‘yung mga lawyers na involved doon sa cover-up (against those, even the lawyers, involved in the cover-up),” Mr. Horacio Castillo, Jr. told reporters.
Bail hearing at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20 is still ongoing for the 10 members of the Aegis Juris fraternity charged with violation of Section 4(a) of Republic Act No. 8049 or Anti-Hazing Law.