Fratman identified in Atio hazing blocks witness testimony

MANILA, Philippines – Mark Anthony Ventura is not qualified to be state witness, said the lawyer of one of the fraternity men named in his sensational affidavit as being present during the fatal initiation rites of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III.

The fact that Ventura is identified in the Aegis Juris flyer as the fraternity secretary and police have described him as designated 'master initiator 2' disqualifies him as a state witness, said Paris Real, lawyer of Alex Bose, one of the 23 reportedly named by Ventura in his affidavit.

“We are of the opinion that in view of Ventura’s opinion that he was the master initiator and that the flyer of the fraternity would bear the douse that he was also Secretary of the fraternity, those particular matters would only show that Ventura, under Section 10 of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) is disqualified from being state witness, apart from the fact that he actually participated as he admitted in his sworn affidavit in the supposed hazing,” said Real. 

During the preliminary investigation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, October 30, Real said that Ventura is “the most guilty, not only because of his position, but because of what he did.”

Under Section 10, a person deemed to be the most guilty in the case cannot be disposed of as witness.

Ventura is the only one so far among the Aegis Juris members who has admitted to the hazing.  Another frat member, John Paul Solano has  downplayed his role in the incident, claiming arriving belatedly to the crime scene to try and revive Castillo.

Ventura admitted to taking part in the punching and hitting of Castillo, according to the report by GMA’s DZBB. Bose was supposedly  among the individuals who prepared the videoke set on the eve of Castillo's initiation rites, according to a report on Inquirer. 

Ventura said the videoke was set up to drown out the noise from hazing.

Real also asked the DOJ panel of prosecutors to issue a show cause order against reporters for publishing the content of the affidavit, even though Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had already bared details and names in a press conference.

“Discussing and quoting everything is another matter, and that was done by your friends in the media,” Real told reporters.

Can Ventura still be state witness? 

Real said Ventura only had until Monday to submit his counter-affidavit, which Aguirre called the strongest evidence so far. It was this very affidavit that got Ventura into the WPP.

But Ventura did not submit on Monday, and the DOJ panel has not received a copy yet from the WPP. The panel therefore considered his right to submit an affidavit waived.

As an effect, the DOJ panel said Ventura will still be treated as a respondent in the case.

According to Lorna Kapunan, the lawyer for Castillo’s parents, Ventura can still be a witness despite Monday’s development.

For example, the DOJ prosecutors can choose not to charge him eventually owing to his being witness. If he is charged, prosecutors can always file a motion to withdraw before the court.

Section 10 of the WPP Law states: “Nothing in this Act shall prevent the discharge of an accused, so that he can be used as a State Witness under Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court.”

The same provision says it is the court which declares someone a state witness. But until such a declaration, Aguirre has the discretion to admit someone into the WPP, with access to benefits like protection.

Real said they are asking the DOJ panel for more time to file their counter-affidavit because they have yet to receive a copy of Ventura's statements which they have to address.

Indescribable pain

Reacting to the moves of Bose’s camp, Horacio’s father and namesake said: “Siguro defense nila 'yun, lahat puwede naman nilang sabihin, but later on it will be up to the courts to decide.” (That is probably their defense, they can say anything but later on it will be up to the courts to decide.)

Horacio II and wife Carmina were emotional on Monday, saying that the upcoming All Saints’ Day will be hard for the family, having to visit their son Atio at the cemetery.

“It’s going to be hard, you know my father passed away, it hurts when you lose your dad, one of your parents, but I tell you mas masakit para kung 'yung anak mo (it hurts more if it’s your child). The pain is indescribable,” the older Castillo said. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

image