Timeline: The case of Horacio Castillo III

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UST law freshman Horacio Castillo III (file)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 27) — Horacio "Atio" Castillo III has been laid to rest, but the fight for justice by his loved ones continues.


The 22-year-old freshman law student at the University of Santo Tomas died after a supposed "welcoming party" of the Aegis Juris Fraternity (AJF) on September 16.  As it turned out, what happened that night was a hazing rite.

AJF is based at the UST Faculty of Civil Law. Its current dean, Nilo Divina, is an alumnus of the fraternity. Atio brought this up to assuage his parents' apprehensions when he asked permission to join the fraternity.  He also assured them that  the fraternity does not conduct hazing.

His parents said Atio promised to come back on September 17, Sunday.

He didn't.

September 18, Monday

Atio's parents received an anonymous text, saying their son was brought to the Chinese General Hospital (CGH). However, the hospital told them that the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) took their son to the  Arcangel Funeral Homes in Sampaloc, Manila.

The father said a bystander found his son, wrapped in a thick blanket, on a pavement in Balut, Tondo on Sunday. He brought Atio to CGH, where he was declared dead on arrival  at 9:21 a.m.

The police report said Atio had hematoma or bruises on both upper arms, as well as marks of candle wax drips all over his body.

The UST Civil Law Dean issued a preventive suspension order on AJF members that same day.

September 19, Tuesday

The police identified six "persons of interest" in the case. The list includes fellow Thomasian John Paul Solano, the supposed bystander who found Atio in Tondo. It was later learned that Solano was an AJF member.

Authorities said no one from the fraternity had surfaced to cooperate in the police investigation.

Meanwhile, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri filed Senate Resolution No. 504, callingfor an investigation into Castillo's death.

September 20, Wednesday

Manila Police District (MPD) Director Superintendent Joel Coronel said the police were on the lookout for John Paul Solano, as well as  father-and-son Antonio and Ralph Trangia, possible suspects in the case.

The Uber driver, who was one of the last people to see Castillo before he died, also talked to the police. MPD Spokesperson Superintendent Erwin Margarejo said the driver picked up an anxious Atio on Saturday afternoon.

Atio asked the driver to bring his bag containing school supplies to his home, Margarejo said. The driver agreed on one condition: that Castillo show him the contents of the bag.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order for the persons of interest in Castillo's case.

Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo also filed a resolution calling for an investigation into the Castillo's death at the House of Representatives.

September 21, Thursday

Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Tonette Mangrobang said one of the persons of interest, Ralph Trangia, flew to Taipei, Taiwan on Tuesday - a day before the lookout bulletin was issued.

September 22, Friday

Solano turned himself in to Senator Ping Lacson in Taguig City, and was later turned over to the MPD. Divina facilitated the surrender, saying his father and Solano's father were close friends.

Solano said he was not present at Atio's hazing, and was only called to help resuscitate him because he is a registered medical technologist.

He apologized for lying in his first statement, where he said he found Atio on the pavement.

Another person of interest, Aeron Salientes, came to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), to claim innocence in the case. He said he had been inactive in the fraternity for three years and denied any involvement in planning the welcoming rites.

The Justice department released another lookout bulletin order, adding four more names "in the interest of the ongoing probe."

Aguirre also ordered the NBI to coordinate with the International Police to locate Trangia, who was believed to have traveled on to the United States from Taiwan. 

The DOJ also offered protection to witnesses in the UST student's death.

September 24, Sunday

Atio's parents, Horacio Jr. and Carmina, went to the MPD in the hopes of talking face-to-face to Solano. The suspect, however, refused to talk to them since his lawyers were not present, according to the police.

September 25, Monday

The MPD filed cases of perjury, murder, robbery, obstruction of justice, and violation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law, against Solano.

Meanwhile, 16 others were included in the murder, robbery, and anti-hazing law charges:

  • Antonio Arizala Trangia
  • Ralph Trangia
  • Arvin R. Balag
  • Mhin Wei R. Chan
  • Ranie Rafael Santiago
  • Oliver John Audrey B. Onofre
  • Jason Adolfo L. Robiños
  • Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo
  • Karl Mathew Villanueva
  • Joshua Joriel Macabili
  • Axel Munro Hipe
  • Marc Anthony Ventura
  • Aeron Salientes
  • Marcelino Bagtang
  • Zimon Padro
  • Jose Miguel Salamat

Police filed the same charges against "several unidentified members" of the fraternity and its sister organization, the Regina Legis et Juris Sorority.

Ralph Trangia's mother, Rosemarie, who flew out of the country with her son was also charged with obstruction of justice.

Solano, through his lawyer Paterno L. Esmaquel, said the complaint of murder, obstruction of justice, perjury, robbery and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law filed against him were  not appropriate.  Esmaquel said there is no complex crime of murder and violation of the Anti-Hazing Law.

The lawyer argued that Solano cannot undergo inquest proceeding because he voluntarily surrendered and was not arrested. He said the DOJ should immediately order his client's release.

At 6 p.m., the Senate, led by the Committee on Public Order, conducted its first hearing on Atio's case.

In addition to his prior statements, Solano said he was not alone when he brought Atio to the hospital. He said he followed a black Fortuner and a red pickup on board a motorcycle, but refused to name the people in the two vehicles.

Authorities confirmed this with footage from closed circuit television (CCTV).

Solano said he was told  to lie in his account of how he found Atio. He added he was willing to tell everything he knew, but changed his mind because of the charges filed against him.

At first, Solano said he would tell everything in his  affidavit instead, but later agreed to an executive session proposed by some senators.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Committee on Public Order, said it is possible to grant Solano legislative immunity so that his testimony will not be used against him.

September 26, Tuesday

The House Subcommittee on Prosecutorial Reforms of the Committee on Justice approved House Bill 3467,  prohibiting hazing and regulating other forms of initiation rites of fraternities, sororities and other organizations, as the current anti-hazing law only regulates the practice.

September 27, Wednesday

While Atio was laid to rest, the DOJ ordered Solano's release.

Another suspect in the hazing, Jason Robinos, also surfaced at the MPD.

Robinos, who is the treasurer of AJF, denied involvement in the hazing in his affidavit.

September 28, Thursday

The MPD released Solano on DOJ's orders.

Police recovered paddles in the AJF library or Fratlib.

September 29, Friday

The MPD said the CCTVs inside the fratlib were tampered.

October 4, Wednesday

The DOJ started the preliminary hearing on the hazing case. The lawyer of the Castillo family, Lorna Kapunan, said her client wanted more names added in list of suspects, including Divina and other UST officials.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Aguirre to stop the ongoing NBI investigation on the request of Atio's parents.  He gave the investigation to the MPD.

October 6, Friday

A witness identified three AJF members that he saw carrying Castillo's lifeless body near the fratlib.

Aguirre said the United States Homeland Security was ready to deport Ralph Trangia on the request of the Philippine government.

October 9, Monday

Divina and UST Law Faculty Secretary Arthur Capili were named respondents in the supplemental complaint filed by Atio's parents with the Justice Department.

October 10, Tuesday

Ralph Trangia returned to Manila with his mother.

October 12, Thursday

Divina filed a libel case against lawyer Lorna Kapunan over her claims he was liable for Atio's death.

October 18, Wednesday

Police reveal in a Senate hearing attempts by Aegis Juris Fraternity members to "conceal" circumstances behind Atio's death, based on screengrabs of a Facebook conversation.

Senators release Solano's closed-door-testimony. Arvin Balag, an Aegis Juris member who is believed to be president, is accused of urging Solano to tell lies about Atio's death and directing frat members to bring an unconscious and bruised Atio to a more distant hospital on September 17.

Balag is cited for contempt and detained at a Senate room for refusing to answer the senators' questions.

Meanwhile, Atio's mother appeals to fraternity members to tell the truth and return her son's belongings.

October 20, Friday

UST stresses commitment to the hazing case.

The institution slams the "inaccurate portrayal" of it being indifferent to the Castillo case, and claims it has done its part in looking into it.

October 21, Saturday

Professors at the UST Faculty of Civil Law issue a statement standing by Divina.

October 22, Sunday

Primary suspect Solano in his counter-affidavit says Atio died due to a pre-existing heart condition and not hazing.

His statement angers senators, with Senator Joel Villanueva calling it "mockery of justice."

October 25, Wednesday

The Justice Department reveals that hazing suspect and Aegis Juris Fraternity member Marc Ventura willingly went to the department to receive protection as he revealed details on Atio's killing.

According to Aguirre, Ventura said Atio lost consciousness when he was hit by a paddle for the fifth time during the initiation rites. More than 10 fratmen tortured Atio, Aguirre quotes Ventura as saying.

Aguirre says Ventura gave the names of those involved.

October 26, Thursday

The Justice Department places UST Law Dean Divina and 64 other persons-of-interest under an immigration lookout bulletin order.

Aguirre tells CNN Philippines Divina was added to the list upon the request of the parents of Atio, while the Philippine National Police also asked for some names to be added.

October 27, Friday

John Paul Solano insists Atio Castillo died of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).

He presents a copy of Castillo's death certificate, which shows the cause of Atio's death was due to HCM, an inherited disease where the heart muscle thickens.

October 30, Monday

UST Law Dean Nilo Divina files at the Department of Justice (DOJ) a counter-affidavit refuting the two complaints filed by Atio's parents.

The Castillo couple is accusing the dean of knowing about Atio's hazing, concealing their's son's death, and protecting frat men responsible for the crime.

Divina wants "baseless charges" against him junked. He adds, the allegations linking him to Atio's death are part of a "smear campaign."

Alleged Aegis Juris President Arvin Balag also submits his 12-page counter affidavit calling for the dismissal of charges against him.

He says charges for murder and violation of the anti-hazing law lacked merit and probable cause.