Suspect in Atio hazing death released from Senate detention

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This article was updated with details of Balag's release.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 22) — One of the principal suspects in the hazing death of Horacio "Atio" Castillo III has been released from Senate custody at the order of the Supreme Court.

Arvin Balag, alleged president of Aegis Juris Fraternity that conducted Castillo's hazing rites, was granted temporary freedom through a resolution of the high court dated December 12.

Balag walked free at around 7 p.m. on Thursday, Senate sergeant-at-arms Jose Balajadia told CNN Philippines Friday.

Balajadia said the Senate immediately heeded the Supreme Court's order, which it received at around 6 p.m that day.

The Supreme Court ordered "in the interim the immediate release" of Balag, pending its final decision on Balag's November 7 petition that challenges his detention in the Senate.

The fratman has been detained since October 18 after he was cited in contempt during the probe on the hazing death of Castillo.

He caught the ire of senators after he refused to answer questions about his position in the fraternity, despite records showing he was the president. He later said he stepped down from his post last August.

Balag is one of 42 respondents tagged in the killing of Castillo, a 22-year-old freshman law student at the University of Santo Tomas. Castillo died after hazing rites done by members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity on September 16.

READ: Timeline: The case of Horacio Castillo III

AJF member Marc Anthony Ventura identified Balag as the one who delivered the fifth and final blow that rendered Castillo unconscious, before he was brought to the Chinese General Hospital.

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

Balag asked the court to declare null and void the resolution filed by Senator Miguel Zubiri for Senate to investigate Castillo's case. He said the Senate resolution was not in aid of legislation, but in aid of prosecution. He added the contempt order violated his right to be respected during a Senate investigation.

Balag apologized during the third Senate probe on November 6. He said he did not mean to disrespect the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.

Committee Chairman Ping Lacson said he spoke to his colleagues to lift the contempt charges against Balag, but said the frat member's Supreme Court petition stopped them.