Police name 3 principal suspects in UST hazing death; manhunt ongoing

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John Paul Solano (L) and Horacio Castillo III

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — Police are on the lookout for University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student John Paul Solano for supposedly lying about the death of fellow law student Horacio Castillo III during an alleged hazing.

Manila Police District Director Police Superintendent Joel Coronel said on Wednesday Solano, who said he chanced upon the lifeless body of Castillo, recruited the victim to join Aegis Juris Fraternity.

"Our investigation shows that John Paul Solano is a UST law student and a member of the Aegis Juris Fraternity. We have strong evidence to show John Paul Solano deliberately, intentionally, and maliciously gave false statements to the Manila Police District. He is already considered a principal suspect in the killing of Horacio Castillo III. Manhunt operations are ongoing to effect his immediate arrest and capture," he said during a media briefing.

Solano earlier told the police he found the freshman's body morning of Sept. 17 at the corner of H. Lopez Boulevard and Infanta St. in Tondo, Manila. The body was wrapped in blanket. Officials of Barangay 133, however, said there was no body in the area.

He told the police he brought Castillo's body to the Chinese General Hospital with the help of strangers. He said he did not know the victim. But Coronel said Solano knew the so-called "Good Samaritans."

Aegis Juris Fraternity official Ralph Trangia and Antonio Trangia, whom police believed is the father of Ralph, are also considered primary suspects. Coronel said the Trangias allegedly own the car that transported Castillo's body to the hospital. They are also wanted by the police.

"Clearly John Paul Solano, with the assistance and cooperation of Antonio Trangia and Ralph Trangia, deliberately misled our operation to the death of Castillo by providing us false and fraudulent statements. They are now considered as suspects in this investigation," Coronel said.

He said the police have reason to believe Solano lied to cover up a murder.

"(The false statements) We feel was a cover-up for the actual murder and killing of the victim," Coronel said.

More suspects

Coronel said authorities have strong leads on the identities of the other suspects.

Aside from the three identified suspects, Coronel said all officers of the fraternity, including officials of Regina Juris, Aegis Juris' sorority counterpart, who were present during the initiation rites, are considered suspects.

"There's a possibility that even if they are not present during the hazing initiation rites, but may have participated or had knowledge in the recruitment and eventual hazing or initiation activities of Atio (Horacio) may be held liable," he said.

They are also investigating members of the UST Law faculty and alumni.

Powerful forces

Coronel said there are lawyers trying to discredit the police findings.

"The death of Horacio Castillo III is related to a hazing incident involving a law fraternity, identified as Aegis Juris Fraternity. A battery of lawyers have already come out to contest or dispute the findings of the investigation," he said.

The Justice Department on Wednesday issued an immigration lookout bulletin order against 16 members of the fraternity, including Solano and Ralph Tragia. The 14 others are now considered "persons of interest," Coronel said.

The police said Castillo was not killed inside the UST campus.

According to a police report, Castillo had hematoma or bruises on both upper arms. He also had several marks of candle wax drips all over his body. He was declared dead on Sunday morning. Coronel said the initial autopsy report shows Castillo succumbed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or thickening of the heart muscle.

The autopsy report is expected to be released within the week.

CNN Philippines' Rex Remitio contributed to this report.