Aegis Juris president struck final blow that rendered Atio unconscious – state witness

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(L-R) Arvin Balag, Atio Castillo, Marc Ventura

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — A hazing suspect-turned-state witness named Aegis Juris Fraternity officials who led the initiation rites of Horacio "Atio" Castillo III, with their president giving the final paddle hit that left the neophyte unconscious.

Marc Ventura, a 24-year-old University of Santo Tomas (UST) Law student who is on leave from his studies, gave the Department of Justice his sworn statement on October 24 to shed light on the alleged hazing death of Atio. A copy of his affidavit was obtained by CNN Philippines on Thursday.

There were at least 25 people — himself, 23 other fraternity members, plus an unidentified woman — who were inside the fraternity library in Sampaloc late evening of September 16 before Atio's final rites began, the affidavit stated.

He identified the members present as Arvin Balag, Ralph Trangia, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Mhin Wei Chan, Edric Pilapil, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, Karl Matthew Villanueva, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Axel Munro Hipe, Marcelino Bagtang, Zimon Padro, Jose Miguel Salamat, Zach Abulencia, Daniel Ragos, Dave Felix, Sam Cagalingan, Alex Cairo, Luis Kapulong, Leo Lalusis, Kim Cyrill Rogue, Robin Ramos, Ged Villanueva, and Alex Bose.

How Atio was tortured

Ventura's affidavit stated the following:

1) The initiation at 2 a.m. of September 17 started with a prayer for guidance and an intercession for the proceedings to go smoothly.

"Sinimulan ang final rites ng pagtitipon ng mga brods para magdasal, humingi ng gabay sa taas para walang mangyaring masama," he said.

2) Atio was tortured for over four hours by 16 fraternity members, including Ventura, who punched the 22-year-old, then hit him with meter-long paddles multiple times, and tried to wake him from unconsciousness with candle drippings.

3) Atio was made to sing the fraternity hymn while being punched repeatedly on his arms until his muscles swelled. "Susuntikin hanggang tumigas o pumutok ang braso o magkulay purple. Habang sinusuntok kailangan niyang kumanta ng Aegean Hymn," he said in his sworn statement.

[Translation: He was punched until his arms bulged or turned purple. While he was being punched, he was asked to sing the Aegean Hymn.]

4) Those who took turns punching him were Abulencia, Ragos, Cagalingan, Cairo, Kapulong, Pilapil, and others he wasn't able to identify.

5) After the punching, fraternity members tapped wooden spatulas on Atio's arms to relax the swollen muscles. He was told to rest, then perform the "Baby Shark" dance. ("Baby Shark" is a 90-second children's ditty sung with matching movements.)

6) Frat members spit in a cup, then Atio was blindfolded and told to drink from a glass which contained egg whites as a "test" of his "character."

7) Atio was then told to strip naked.

8) At 4:30 a.m., Atio was ordered to go around the fraternity members for a procedure known as "begging" while the fingers of his non-writing hand were hit with a spatula while he was being "indoctrinated." "Ang susunod na proseso ay umiikot siya sa mga Master para sa begging kung saan ini-spatula yung daliri ng kamay na hindi ginagamit sa pangsulat habang ini-indoctrinate siya ng mga Master."

9) At past 5 a.m., Atio was "responsive, mukhang pagod at hapo [looked exhausted]."

10) The back of Atio's thighs were marked in the area between the bottom of his buttocks and above the back of his knee to serve as the target for the paddles. One person assisted Atio by holding him by his arms in front, while another held the towel which Atio bit on.

11) Atio was supposed to receive 11 hits with the paddle. The first strike was delivered by Axel Hipe. The second hit by Ralph Trangia. By the third strike dealt by Aegis Juris president Balag, Atio's knees buckled.

12) When Atio regained his bearings, they went through with the fourth strike administered by a new, unidentified fraternity member.

13) The fifth paddle strike once again given by Balag caused Atio to collapse. "Sa ikalimang palo doon na siya napasubsob. Nagcollapse siya doon. Hindi siya nagsasalita pero umuungol kapag tinatawag namin siya," he said.

[Translation: After the fifth strike, that's when he fell face first. He collapsed. He stopped talking but he was moaning when we were calling his name.]

14) Atio was made to smell ammonia, but was unresponsive even if he was still breathing and had a pulse. "Doon na kami kinabahan kasi hindi na siya nagrerespond pero meron pa siyang pulso at hininga," Ventura said. Balag told them not to panic and give Atio time to rest.

[Translation: That's when we started to worry because he was no longer responding but he was breathing and there was a pulse.]

15) After 15 to 20 minutes, they panicked because Atio was still unconscious. That was when Balag told them to jolt Atio from unconsciousness by dripping candle wax over his body. "Si GP tinawag niya kami at inutusan niya kaming patakan ng kandila sa paa at sa dibdib si Hor (Atio)," Ventura said.

[Translation: GP called us and ordered us to drip candle wax over Hor's feet and chest.]

16) Abulencia, Ragos, Cagalingan, Cairo, Pilapil, Ramos, Balag, Chan, Onofre, Trangia, Macabali, Hipe, Bagtang, and Rodrigo were at the frat library when Atio collapsed.

17) Atio was loaded into the red pickup of Trangia, but then unloaded when frat member John Paul Solano arrived so he could revive him. After his unsuccessful attempt, Solano told the frat members to bring Atio to a hospital.

18) At past 6 a.m., Ventura went home and went to church. He said while he was in church, he read Balag's instructions to the fraternity members on Facebook Messenger.

The message read: "Code of silence. Deactivate muna kayo."

A meeting to cover up Atio's death?

In his six-page sworn statement, Ventura said he was fetched by Macabali, saying they were asked to go to Cubao. He said they went to Cubao to meet with the fraternity members and some alumni.

Present during the meeting were Trangia, Chan, Onofre, Hipe, Bagtang, Pilapil, Abulencia, Ragos, and some other names he forgot. Their older brods "Marvi," "Gem," Henry Pablo Jr., Brian Bangui, Milfen Alvarado, Manny Ventura, and some other names he couldn't remember were also in the meeting.

He said they discussed how to approach and tell Atio's parents of the incident, and argued over their next move.

"Si Marvi ang nagsasalita na malaking balita daw ito na sasabog daw ito kapag nalaman ng magulang dahil pinag-uusapan nila kung paano sasabihin o lalapitan 'yung magulang. At saka may pagtatalo sila kung ano ang dapat gawin," he said.

[Translation: Marvi spoke and said that this was big news ready to explode once his parents knew, because they were discussing how to tell or approach his parents. They debated on what to do next.]

Ventura is one of among 17 respondents facing charges for murder, robbery, and violation of Anti-Hazing Law over the law student's death. His death has sparked outrage among Filipinos and placed into doubt the effectivity of an existing law that prohibits a violent initiation rite known as "hazing."

Aegis Juris president Balag, during the Senate hearing on October 18, invoked his right against self-incrimination when questioned by senators of his role in the fraternity. He was cited in contempt and detained in the Senate.

At the Senate hearing, the Manila Police District revealed contents of a lengthy Facebook thread among the fraternity members in the hours after Atio's death. The police said the thread proved an attempt to "cover up, conceal" the death of Atio.

Related: Police: Aegis Juris attempted to 'cover up, conceal' UST law student's death

A day after he executed his affidavit before the National Bureau of Investigation, Ventura was placed under the witness protection program, with full protection from the Justice Department.

Related: Atio collapsed on 4th paddle strike, lost consciousness on 5th – state witness

The Justice Department cast a wider net on "persons of interest' in Atio's death by issuing  on October 26 an immigration lookout bulletin with a total of 65 names, which included UST Law Dean Nilo Divina.

Related: Nilo Divina, 64 other fraternity members linked to Atio hazing placed under immigration lookout order