Hazing suspect's return not proof of innocence – Castillo lawyer

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Ralph Trangia and his mother, Rosemarie, arrived in Manila on October 17.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — A primary suspect in the hazing of law student Horacio "Atio" Castillo III returned to the country on Tuesday.

Eva Air flight BR 271, the flight that suspect Ralph Trangia boarded, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 from Taipei, Taiwan before Tuesday noon. Trangia came from Chicago in the United States.

He was accompanied by his mother, Rosemarie, who is facing obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping her son escape to the U.S.

Speaking to CNN Philippines News Night Tuesday, Atty. Lorna Kapunan, legal counsel of the Castillo family said, while Trangia retuned to the country, his departure - just two days after Atio's death - may not bode well for him.

"It is consistent with guilt, it is not consistent with innocence," Kapunan said.

 

While the Trangias claimed they returned to the country to prove their innocence or at the very least, their willingness to face the charges, Kapunan said "it also shows they're probably afraid."

Kapunan added it has to be proven that Trangia was the least guilty in Atio's hazing death for him to be put under the witness protection program.

Trangia, who is the sergeant-at-arms of the Aegis Juris Fraternity of the University of Santo Tomas, is one of the suspects in the death of Castillo. He is facing facing murder, robbery, and anti-hazing law charges.

The Trangias, who were escorted by the police and a number of lawyers upon their arrival, refused to speak to the media.

The police invited the mother and son to cooperate in the investigation by issuing a sworn statement, but the Trangias refused to heed the call. They also refused protective custody.

Manila Police Homicide Division Chief Senior Inspector Rommel Anicete said Ralph will only be arrested with a court warrant. But at this point, the case is still at the preliminary investigation stage in the Department of Justice.

"Hindi namin siya iimbitahan, magrerequest lang kami to communicate, nakipagcoordinate na kami sa mga lawyer niya," he said.

[Translation: They will not be invited, we will request for them to communicate by coordinating with their lawyer.]

Authorities believe Trangia, and his father Antonio, own the car that transported Castillo's body to the hospital. Antonio, also considered a primary suspect, is still at-large and facing the same charges as his son.

Ralph and his mother flew to the United States on September 19, two days after Castillo was declared dead after the hazing rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity. He left a day before authorities included him on the lookout departure order.

Cooperation

Authorities are hoping the Trangias will help shed light on the hazing-death in the next hearings, such as naming the fraternity members present during the initiation rites and how Atio died.

Trangia's lawyer Rowell Ilagan said his clients want to prove their innocence. He said they have no plans to escape as their return tickets were already booked.

The Trangias assured authorities they will help in the investigation and the search for justice for Atio.

"Rest assured our clients will file their counter-affidavits. They will respect the legal process and they will participate in the legal proceedings," he said.

The family is mum on the details pending the investigation, but Ilagan says they will mention names in the sworn statements. He said they are studying the DOJ's offer to place his clients under the witness protection program.

Ilagan added they believe evidence gathered at the fraternity library should be excluded from the proceedings, saying the police search at the frat lib has several technical flaws.

The police inspected CCTVs outside the frat library and found fingerprints on the cameras. They also said the CCTV's hard drive, where the video was recorded, is missing.

The media was not allowed inside during the crime scene sweep, but sources said they found trash scattered all over the place. T-shirts, cigarette butts, alcohol, food, softdrinks, and pillows were also recovered. Paddles were also found inside the frat library during the first day of search.

According to a police report, Atio had hematoma or bruises on both upper arms. He also had several marks of candle wax drips all over his body. Authorities said the initial autopsy report showed Castillo succumbed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or thickening of the heart muscle.

Trangia is one of the 16 Aegis Juris Fraternity members who have been named as suspects in the hazing case, most of whom remain at large.