Hazing victim Horacio Castillo III laid to rest

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 27) — Hazing victim Horacio Castillo III was buried Wednesday, as his family vowed to pursue justice and the end of the fraternity that he sought to join.

Tears flowed as loved ones bid farewell to Castillo, who was known to family and friends as "Atio."

Castillo, 22,  was a University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman who was found unconscious on September 17 in Tondo, Manila. He had earlier participated in hazing rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity.

Timeline: The case of Horacio Castillo III

An estimated 300 people packed the funeral mass in Santuario de San Antonio Church in Forbes Park, Makati to share in the family's sorrow. Some wore black and white shirts, with the phrase "Justice for Horacio" printed on it.

The anti-crime watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption was also present, carrying signs with the message "No To Hazing" and "No To Senseless Killings."

In a brief eulogy after the mass, Atio's father, Horacio Jr., reminisced his first moments with his son when he was born. He described this as one of the happiest days of his life.

Atio was kind and righteous, and believed in God. He was a perfect son, his father said.

"Atio, thank you for being our son. For your laughter. We will miss you, but now go to the light. Dont worry about us. We will be okay," he said.

 

Atio is survived by Horacio Jr., his mother Carminia, sister Nicole, and grandmother Teresita.

At the end of the funeral rites, Atio's family and friends released butterflies. These, they said, symbolized their call for justice.

The family still allowed fraternity members to attend Atio's wake.

But Atio's uncle, Gerry Castillo, had fighting words for the members of the fraternity.

"You've lost a great boy. Youve lost a great member. A great neophyte," an angry Castillo said to reporters after the funeral. "This is the end of your fraternity. Believe me. I dont know if any neophyte would ever join your org," he added.

Details of his death and the circumstances have yet to surface from the prime suspect, John Paul Solano, who said he found Castillo unconscious and had administered initial medical assistance. However, Castillo succumbed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or thickening of the heart muscle, based on autopsy reports.

As Atio was laid to rest, news broke that the Department of Justice ordered the release of Solano, who is still however, not off the hook in Castillo's death by hazing.

Read more: DOJ orders release of main suspect in hazing death of neophyte

During the Senate probe into Castillo's death on September 25, Horacio Jr., vented his ire at those responsible for his son's demise.

"We will forever be tormented by the thought the Aegis Juris fraternity invited him to their organization, only to treat him like an animal," the elder Castillo said.

"Our heart breaks with every memory of the boy we had raised for 22 years with painstaking care, the boy we had cherished, the boy who had brought us so much pride and joy," he added.

A senseless death

Atio's uncle, Gerry Castillo said that even as Congress works to amend the 1995 Anti-Hazing Law, it doesn't diminish the fact that his nephew died a senseless death.

"It's going to be good for our future children, but for us, Atio is gone. No matter what you do, even if you pass this law, he's gone," Castillo told CNN Philippines Tuesday.

Read more: At least 18 frat-related deaths despite a 22-year-old anti-hazing law

The Castillo family said they plan to add more lawyers to the case and hope that justice will be served soon. They pleaded to the perpetrators to turn themselves in.

"You have consciences, right? Then, you should come out and tell the truth," the uncle said.

Seeking justice

In an executive session of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on September 25, Solano reportedly named six fraternity members directly involved in the hazing. The lawyers of Castillo's parents were happy with the development.

But Gerry Castillo believed that UST Law Dean Nilo Divina should also be held accountable for his nephew's death.

Divina was a member of Aegis Juris.

"He's the dean, he's the director. How come he did not open UST even if it was closed and to find out who is that Horacio? And inform us what exactly happened? Why? Why, when you have all means and the authority?" Atio's uncle said.

During the Senate probe on Castillo's hazing, Divina said he received information that a neophyte of the Aegis Juris died September 17, Sunday.

The family, on the other hand, only heard about what happened to Atio the day after.

This is a developing story. Please refresh the page for updates.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Ivy Saunar contributed to this story.