UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Castillo III died due to his pre-existing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy condition, and not hazing injuries as asserted by the complainants, according to three doctor-witnesses presented by the respondent members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity.
During the continuation of the preliminary investigation, the three doctors—Floresto Arizala Jr., Rodel Capule and Bu Castro—submitted to the investigating panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva their respective judicial affidavits in support of the defense of the members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity that Castillo did not die of hazing injuries.
Instead, all their written testimonies stated that Castillo died due to his pre-existing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy condition.
Their medical assessments were submitted to the DoJ as part of the rejoinder-affidavits of respondents and frat members John Paul Solano, Axel Hipe and Mhin Wei Chan.
The three doctors disputed the finding of the Philippine National Police medico-legal division that Castillo died of hazing injuries, particularly due to acute tubular necrosis and congestion.
Arizala, former chief of National Bureau of Investigation medico-legal and also a lawyer, branded the PNP finding as “out of this world because there is no such thing as death due to hazing.”
Capule cited the initial medico-legal of the Manila Police District crime laboratory office that Castillo had grossly enlarged heart, adding it could not be superseded by the finding of Supt. Joseph Palmero of the Crime Laboratory Office in the PNP headquarters.
Lastly, Castro stressed the finding of Dr. Palmero was not conclusive in establishing the cause of Castillo’s death, stressing that the real cause of death was HCM as stated in the death certificate.
In his rejoinder, Solano also assailed the credibility of Palmero based on information that he was supposedly not a licensed pathologist who was qualified to conduct autopsy.
“If the report is true that Dr. Palmero is not a licensed pathologist and member of the FPSP [Fellow Philippine Society of Pathologist], then he is incompetent to conduct histopathology examination on the tissues of Horacio, much less to prepare and issue the said histopath findings, and thus the said histopath findings of Dr. Palmero is nothing but a mere scrap of paper,” the affidavit stated.
“This histopath findings of Dr. Palmero does not have any evidentiary value or probative value and the same cannot and should not be used as legal basis to establish the cause of death of Horacio and/or to establish probable cause for the crime of murder and/or violation of Anti-Hazing Law resulting to death,” it stressed.
Solano asserted the PNP autopsy report could not be considered valid under the rule on the presumption of the regularity in the performance of duty because there was an “overdue and unexplained delay” in its release.
He explained their camp had asked for copy of the report several times since filing of the criminal complaint by the MPD before the DOJ last Oct. 4, but was only provided a copy after he submitted his counter-affidavit last Oct. 24 where he raised Castillo’s cause of death as an issue.
“From the foregoing circumstances, it is quite clear that there is an obvious irregularity in the preparation and presentation as evidence of the said histopath findings which precludes the application of the rule on the presumption of regularity of official acts. I learned from my lawyer that any taint of irregularity affects the whole performance and should make the presumption unavailable. There can be no ifs and buts regarding this consequence considering the effect of the evidentiary presumption of regularity on the constitutional presumption of innocence,” Solano said.
The frat members earlier denied criminal liabilities in Castillo’s death and sought the dismissal of charges of murder, hazing and obstruction of justice filed by the MPD and Castillo’s parents Horacio II and Carminia for lack of probable cause.
UST law dean Nilo Divina, also a member of the fraternity who was named respondent in the complaint filed by Castillo’s parents, also denied any liability in Castillo’s death.
He argued he could not be held liable as accomplice of fraternity members involved in the fatal hazing simply because he was not aware of it and only learned of Castillo’s death after the initiation rites.
One of the respondents and fraternity members, Marc Anthony Ventura, has turned state witness and submitted a tell-all affidavit to the DOJ tagging 23 of his frat brothers in the fatal hazing of Castillo.