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Witnesses in Horacio’s death get threats

By REY G. PANALIGAN

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said yesterday the “code of silence” in fraternities and threats to possible witnesses are hampering the investigation into the death of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horacio Castillo III.

Aguirre disclosed that the two witnesses who have reached out to his office have already received threats to their lives. These two witnesses have earlier been identified as a member and a neophyte of Aegis Juris fraternity.

“They are afraid because they already received threats. They have not submitted affidavits yet despite our assurance to cover them under the WPP (witness protection program),” Aguirre said.

The justice secretary lamented that the Department of Justice (DoJ) may not be able to get the full cooperation of the two possible witnesses.

“So that’s a problem. We don’t know if they’ll cooperate,” Aguirre said.

Still, Aguirre urged more witnesses to come out and requested UST’s Aegis Juris fraternity to cooperate in the investigation.

“I ask them to come out and tell the truth and we will protect them under the Department of Justice’s witness protection program. They should trust us instead of those people hiding them or advising them not to come out,” he said.

The DoJ had earlier set up a hotline – 0995-442241 – for those who would like to volunteer information or be a witness in Castillo’s death.

Aguirre said the DoJ has received feedbacks that some officers and senior members of Aegis Juris fraternity have been preventing neophytes from cooperating in the investigation.

“There are eight neophytes who underwent initiation rites, and they are being prevented by the senior members from speaking up. Just like in any other fraternity, they have a Code of Silence,” he said.

While he recognized the stumbling blocks to a swift investigation into Castillo’s death, Aguirre again pleaded to possible witnesses to cooperate with the Manila Police District (MPD) or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The WPD’s homicide division is expected to file today with the DoJ charges of violation of the Anti-Hazing Law under Republic Act No. 8049 and perjury against John Paul Solano, the alleged main suspect in the Castillo murder.

Solano, a member of Aegis Juris fraternity, surrendered to the police.

Solano had earlier denied participation in the September 16 hazing and claimed he was merely called by his fraternity members to revive the already “half-dead” Castillo at their “fraternity library” on Laon-Laan street in Sampaloc, Manila near the UST campus.

FAILED DIALOGUE
Meanwhile, Castillo’s parents – Horacio II and Carmina – went to MPD headquarters at 10 a.m. yesterday to have a dialogue with Solano, but the latter refused to talk to them due to the absence of his lawyers, according to MPD Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel.

Coronel said that aside from meeting Solano, Castillo’s parents asked the status of the on-going investigation.

“Mr. Horacio Castillo and his wife also would like to speak with the suspect, John Paul Solano. Unfortunately, the lawyers of John Paul Solano were not present and that he requested that he will just wait for the lawyers. Hindi na nahintay nila Mr. and Mrs. Castillo ‘yung lawyer ni John Paul Solano kasi they have to attend to other matters,” said Coronel.

Coronel said that Castillo’s parents and Solano may meet at the Senate hearing today on the death of the UST student.
SURRENDER FEELER

The MPD chief also confirmed that other suspects have been sending surrender feelers, and one of them is Antonio Trangia, one of the primary suspects in the incident.

Coronel also said that they are expecting that he will turn-over the red Mitsubishi Strada (ZTV-539) that was used to transport Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital.

“I understand that he has send feelers already to facilitate his surrender and even to surrender the vehicle that has been used. Hopefully within today (Sept. 24) until tomorrow (Sept. 25), before the senate hearing, he’ll be appearing here to clarify his participation or involvement. Otherwise, he’s still considered a principal suspect,” Coronel told reporters.

He also clarified that they have not released yet a manhunt order to arrest Ralph Trangia, also one of the primary suspects, who allegedly fled to the United States.

Coronel said that based on a report given by the Bureau of Immigration, the young Trangia left the country with his mother on Sept. 19. They reportedly boarded a flight to Taipei, Taiwan, and went to Chicago, Illinois.

Coronel said that they already coordinated with their counterparts and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“We have already alerted our counterparts here. Meaning, the homeland and the FBI regarding the possibility of locating and tracing the whereabouts of Trangia. And I will just furnish them a copy of the cases that we’ll be filed against him, so that we can declare him a ‘fugitive from justice.’”

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