A local court found John Paul Solano, primary suspect in the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, guilty of obstruction of justice Monday.
The Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14 sentenced the Aegis Juris fratman to two years to up to four years and two months in prison for willfully interfering with the process of law. It, however, acquitted him of perjury or intentionally lying under oath
Solano, in his first affidavit, said he randomly found Atio’s body in Tondo, Manila on Sept. 17, 2017. He said he brought Atio to the Chinese General Hospital by flagging down motorists. The court said Solano then gave another story, saying he initially made “incorrect statements” for “uncontrollable fear of for his life.”
But the court still convicted him of obstruction of justice.
“(Solano’s) fear of being implicated in the death of Castillo is not imminent. Had accused spoken of the true incidents prior to bringing Castillo to the hospital, the matter would have been investigated first by the police before hailing him to court should they find that he acted in complicity with the others in bringing about Castillo’s injuries,” the court said.
Atio’s family welcomed the decision.
“We are very happy with the conviction of obstruction. This is our first step to a perfect conviction,” Atio’s mother Carminia said.
Atio’s father said the conviction proves there was cover-up. He added this will help in the hazing case against 10 other Aegis Juris members facing charges of homicide, robbery, and violation of the anti-hazing law.
“Clearly, it can be shown ang cover up na nangyari and hopefully we would file cases again sa mga kasama sa — even mga lawyers — cover up,” Castillo said.
The Philippine National Police previously said it is evident the Aegis Juris alumni and active members were trying to “conceal or obstruct justice” by discussing their next moves in a private Facebook chat. Members of the fraternity had a Facebook conversation from September 17, the day Castillo died, to the 18th, when news of his death broke. The frat members also met in a hotel days after Atio’s death.
Castillo, a 22-year-old University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman, was found dead after he took part in hazing rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity. The initial autopsy report stated he succumbed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or thickening of the heart muscle. According to a police report, Castillo had hematoma or bruises on both upper arms. He also had several marks of candle wax drips all over his body.
Solano earlier denied his involvement in Castillo’s death in September 2017, saying he only extended medical assistance when he found Atio in Tondo, Manila on September 17. However, police said it was Solano who recruited Castillo to join the Aegis Juris fraternity. They also said Solano, who has a background in medicine, was called by fraternity members to revive Atio.