THE leader of the Aegis Juris fraternity on asked the Justice Department to dismiss the criminal charges against him, saying there was no evidence showing he was present or took part in the fatal hazing of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III.
Arvin Balag, leader of the Aegis Juris, also insisted that Castillo did not die of injuries from initiation rites, even though another fraternity member, Marc Anthony Ventura, said it was Balag who delivered the last blow that rendered the neophyte unconscious.
In a counter-affidavit, Balag said there was no proof showing that Castillo underwent hazing in their library on Sept. 17.
“I could not in any way be held liable for violation of Republic Act 8049 (Anti-Hazing Law) since there is no evidence whatsoever that Atio was placed in some embarrassing or humiliating situation or subjected to physical or psychological suffering or injury as a prerequisite for admission or entry to an organization and that I had any direct participation therein,” Balag said, in his counter-affidavit submitted to the Justice Department Monday.
“There was also no proof that the death of Atio was attended by a relative disparity in physical characteristics, usually translating into the age, gender, the physical size and the strength of the aggressor and the victim,” he added.
Balag was among the 23 fraternity members identified by Ventura who either participated in or were present during the hazing of Castillo.
Ventura’s affidavit also reportedly tagged Balag as the one who allegedly struck the fifth blow that rendered the neophyte unconscious.
The Senate has detained Balag after citing him for contempt during an earlier hearing for refusing to answer even the most basic of questions.
In his reply, Balag asked the DOJ’s panel of prosecutors to junk the complaints for murder, violation of the Anti-Hazing Law and obstruction of justice filed separately by the Manila Police District and Castillo’s parents Horacio II and Carminia.
Balag said he cannot be held liable for murder “for the simple reason that neither my presence nor my participation nor my participation was proven” by the complainants and that they failed to establish all elements of murder.
“As stated above, abuse of superior strength cannot be appreciated in the instant case since no witness saw how the alleged killing was perpetrated,” Balag said.
Balag said the complainants presented no witnesses stating his actual direct participation to the supposed illegal hazing done on Atio as a neophyte of Aegis Juris fraternity.”
Just like his frat brothers John Paul Solano and Axel Hipe, Balag also argued that Castillo died from a pre-existing heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and not from hazing injuries.
“If indeed it is true that Atio is a victim of hazing where he suffered from severe physical trauma, Atio’s kidneys should have acquired some degree of kidney injury due to accumulation of myoglobin and the same could be a cause of acute kidney failure resulting in multiple organ failure,” he explained.
“Simply put, there is no finding in any manner whatsoever that [Castillo] suffered multiple organ failure, which is the reported common cause of death from hazing. Thus, the most likely proximate cause of the death of [Castillo] is cardiac arrest because of HCM, and not due to hazing,” he said.
Balag also denied the allegation of obstruction of justice and cover-up.
He argued that the screenshots of conversations on Facebook where he allegedly instructed fraternity members to keep silent about Castillo’s death and deactivate their social media accounts could not be used as evidence against him simply because they were not properly authenticated.
The other respondents led by UST law dean and fraternity member Nilo Divina have also submitted their respective answers to the DOJ panel and sought the dismissal of the charges.
The DOJ panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva set the next hearings on Nov. 2 for submission of counter-affidavits of remaining respondents and on Nov. 9 for submission of reply by complainants.
Senator Miguel Zubiri, a friend of the victim’s father, on Tuesday said Balag’s explanations were “pathetic.”
It was Balag who was named by hazing suspect-turned-witness Ventura as the person who gave the fifth and final paddle hit that rendered Castillo unconscious. Castillo was later brought to the Chinese General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.