By JEFFREY G. DAMICOG • ANALOU DE VERA • JAIMIE ROSE R. ABERIA
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has expressed openness to accept Aegis Juris fratman John Paul Solano as a state witness to the death of hazing victim Horacio Tomas “Atio” Castillo III.
The secretary clarified that although there is no offer yet to Solano, the Department of Justice (DoJ) may consider placing him under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) if he asks for it.
“It is possible but he has not yet applied,” Aguirre explained.
Solano was freed from Manila Police District detention cell Thursday afternoon, a day after the DoJ ordered his release and to proceed with the preliminary investigation in the criminal complaints filed against him and 17 others over the death of the 22-year-old University of Sto. Tomas (UST) law student.
“The release of the respondent would not mean he is already off the hook,” Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. said Wednesday.
“The preliminary investigation that would be conducted would only mean that he would have the opportunity or chance to file his answer,” he explained.
Catalan said the first hearings of preliminary investigation is set on October 4 and 9.
“We will be creating a three-member panel to conduct the requisite preliminary investigation headed by prosecutor Susan Villanueva,” he said.
During his release yesterday, Solano expressed his gratitude to the MPD.
“First of all I would like to thank MPD na nagtyaga sila sa akin kahit medyo na stress sila. And again, I extend my deepest condolences sa parents ni Atio,” said Solano during a brief interview.
Before his release, Solano first underwent medical examination conducted by a doctor from the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SoCO) inside the MPD-Homicide section, to see if he sustained any injuries during his six-day stay at the custodial facility.
At around 1 p.m., authorities and his legal team accompanied him outside the MPD Headquarters and boarded their vehicle.
READY TO TELL ALL
Solano, meanwhile, also assured that he will tell the truth during the start of the preliminary investigations.
“And also, rest assured I will shed light po sa stories sa pagdating ng preliminary investigations na I will tell the truth na po,” he said.
Solano also maintained that he is innocent in the fatal incident. “I will prove my innocence [by] telling the truth,” he said.
THE CRIME SCENE
Meanwhile, the MPD conducted a search at the Aegis Juris fraternity library in Sampaloc, Manila, where the hazing rites for Castillo reportedly occured.
As of this writing, members of MPD homicide section, Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO), District Special Operation Unit, a representative of the building’s owner, and Barangay 471 Chairwoman Ruby Perez were still inside the fraternity library at the corner of Navarra and Laong Laan Streets.
MPD spokesperson Erwin Margarejo said the operatives were looking for pieces of evidence such as fingerprints, foot marks; and body fluids like blood samples, saliva, and vomit, which can be considered supplementary evidence.
He said that believes that team would find a breakthrough in their investigation even as the hazing happened between 12 midnight to 8 a.m. of Sept. 17, or more than a week ago.
“Gumagamit ng technology para kahit punasan ‘yung area ay makakakuha pa rin ng sample,” he said.
He also explained that it took a while before they were granted a search warrant by the Manila Regional Trial Court.
“Alam naman natin in applying for a search warrant may process na susundin and it is the judge who decided kung may probable cause na kailangan ng search warrant,” he said, adding that they ordered police to secure the area five days ago.
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