THE Regional Trial Court of Manila has rejected the plea of the 10 accused in the 2017 fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III to dismiss the criminal charges against them on the ground of insufficiency of evidence.
The 10-page order issued by Manila RTC Branch 11 acting Presiding Judge Shirley Magsipoc-Pagalilauan held that the prosecution had presented evidence sufficient to deny the demurrer to evidence filed by the accused and proceed with the trial.
A demurrer is a motion to dismiss on the ground of insufficiency of evidence.
“After going over the grounds relied upon by the accused vis-à-vis the evidence presented by the prosecution, the court finds that there is sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment of the crime charges,” the order said.
The accused—Arvin Balag, Mhin Wei Chan, Axel Munro Hipe, Oliver John Audrey Onofre, Joshua Joriel Macabali, Ralph Trangia, Robin Ramos, Jose Miguel Salamat, Danielle Hans Matthew Rodrigo, and Marcelino Bagtang, Jr.—are being tried for violation of Republic Act 8049, the Anti-Hazing Law, after the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause to indict them over Castillo’s death.
They were charged for the death of Castillo, then a 22-year-old freshman at the Faculty of Civil Law in the University of Santo Tomas, during initiation rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity.
In their demurrer to evidence, all the accused assailed the credibility of the prosecution witnesses especially Mark Anthony Ventura, calling him an “unreliable and not credible” witness. He has a motive to implicate the accused to save himself from the prosecution and his testimony is inconsistent with physical evidence, they said.
However, the trial court said it finds Ventura credible as one of the main witnesses. “He was able to provide a detailed, direct and straightforward narratives of the events that transpired during the hazing.”
Evidence does not show that Ventura has an improper motive to falsely testify against the accused, his ‘brods’ in the Aegis Juris Fraternity.
“It is accepted that there were inconsistencies in the testimonies of the victims but that these were minors and did not affect their credibility. It rules that such inconsistencies, and even probabilities, are not unusual ‘for there is no person with perfect faculties or senses,” the trial court pointed out.
The accused insist that Castillo did not die of hazing but of enlargement of the heart.
However, the trial court said doctor-witnesses have testified that the victim’s cause of death is severe blunt traumatic physical injuries.
“The prosecution having established that Horacio died of hazing and that all accused were present during the commission of the crime, it is now incumbent upon the accused to adduce evidence to controvert that of the prosecution or that they prevented the commission of crime of hazing,” the trial court said.