Aegis Juris' alleged president calls for dismissal of Atio murder charges for lack of merit

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One of the principal respondents in the hazing death of Atio Castillo says the charges filed against him including murder are baseless and unfounded.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 30) — A principal suspect in the death of Horacio "Atio" Castillo III on Monday said the charges against him, including murder, must be dismissed since these are baseless and unfounded.

Arvin Balag, alleged president of the Aegis Juris fraternity, submitted to the Justice Department's senior prosecutor's office his 12-page counter-affidavit dated October 30 stating why the charges against him for murder and violation of the anti-hazing law lacked merit and probable cause.

"The instant complaint against me should be rightfully dismissed by this Honorable Panel for lack of merit and for failure of Complainants to prove by probable cause that I committed violations of Republic Act No. 8049 (Anti-Hazing Law) and Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (murder)," read Balag's affidavit, with the words "dismissed" and "failure" spelled out in capital letters.

Balag's statement comes more than a month after Horacio Castillo, Jr. and his wife Carmina, filed a complaint with the Justice Department on September 25 and a supplemental complaint on October 9. These complaints accused Balag and 21 other individuals and the Aegis Juris fraternity of the death of their 22-year-old son Atio.

Atio was on his freshman year of law studies at the University of Santo Tomas when he applied to join the fraternity. He died on September 17 allegedly in hazing rites.

READ: Timeline: The case of Horacio Castillo III

Balag: My presence at hazing was not proven

"A careful perusal of the records will reveal that Complainants failed to prove the existence of murder as well as the existence of any of its qualifying elements, such as treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, employing means to weaken the defense, means or persons to insure or afford impunity and evident premeditation," Balag's counter-affidavit read.

The document also said Balag "cannot be held liable for murder as charged therein for the death of Atio for the simple reason that neither my presence nor my participation was proven by the complainants."

He is represented by the Broto Cu Gotohio Law Offices. The counter-affidavit cited at least seven precedents in Philippine jurisprudence supporting Balag's claim for dismissal on the murder charge.

On the charge of violating the Anti-Hazing Law, Balag denied that he "could not in any way be held liable" as well "since there is no evidence whatsoever that Atio was placed in some embarrassing or humiliating situation or subjected to physical or psychological suffering or injury as a prerequisite for admission or entry to an organization."

In his counter-affidavit, Balag reiterated an earlier claim made by a fellow fraternity member, John Paul Solano, that Atio suffered from a pre-existing condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) that may have led to his death on September 17.

READ: Atio death certificate proves he died of heart disease - hazing suspect

Citing on online source, Balag said "patients with HCM have an increased risk for Cardiac Failure. Thus, if it is true that Atio died of Cardiac Arrest, the death of Atio is not due to hazing but he died of Cardiac Arrest most probably due to his HCM."


Citing the Medico Legal Report, Balag said there were no injuries to Atio's kidneys. Police have said that the cause of Atio's death was "severe blunt traumatic injuries."

"If it is indeed true that Atio is a victim of hazing where he suffered from severe physical trauma, Atio's kidneys should have acquired some degree of kidney injury," Balag said in his counter-affidavit.

He added, "Simply put, there is no finding in any manner whatsoever that Atio suffered multiple organ failure which is the reported common cause of death from hazing. Thus, the most likely proximate cause of the death of Atio is Cardiac Arrest because of HCM, and not due to hazing.

Castillo's parents insist their son was healthy, saying he was an active football player. They added Castillo underwent a medical checkup before he entered the university, and was declared in good health.

Balag's affidavit also stated that a Facebook conversation that allegedly showed him and other fraternity members and alumni discussing their next moves after Atio's death is "inadmissible as evidence."

In a senate hearing, the Manila Police Department presented screenshots of the conversation and declared that based on the statements in it, there was a clear attempt to cover up the death of Atio.

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

State witness: Balag was involved in hazing

It is unclear if Balag's October 30 counter-affidavit took into consideration a statement made six days earlier by another respondent, Marc Ventura. In his sworn statement to the Justice Department and National Bureau of Investigation, Ventura narrated his account of the seven hours until 6 a.m. of September 17 when Atio died.

Ventura has turned state witness. He said Balag struck the fifth blow that caused the neophyte to collapse and fall unconscious.

READ: Aegis Juris president struck final blow that rendered Atio unconscious — state witness

"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.]

Balag's counter-affidavit was executed also on the same day that one of the other high-profile respondents, Nilo Divina presented his 42-page statement. Divina is the dean of the UST Civil Law Faculty and an alumnus of the Aegis Juris fraternity. The dean denied any attempt at a cover up and defended himself saying he did all he possibly could to assist the Castillo family and help them get justice.

RELATED: UST law dean Divina slams 'smear campaign' over hazing death

CNN correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.