Police are eyeing possible obstruction of justice charges against Aegis Jvris fraternity members who allegedly discussed how to cover up the hazing death of law freshman Horacio Castillo III in a chat group on Facebook messenger.
The chat took place from Sept. 17 to 18, immediately after Atio’s death, and was read aloud by Senator Joel Villanueva during Wednesday’s Senate probe into Castillo’s death.
C/Supt. Joel Coronel, chief of the Manila Police District, said they were able to get a copy of the messages through a link from the “Justice for Horacio Castillo” Facebook page.
He said the Facebook chat was verified by the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime group.
“At the moment, we are filing charges against those directly involved in the initiation and hazing of Atio Castillo and during the next round of preliminary investigation, we will already include those who may be held liable for obstruction of justice, including those mentioned in the chat,” he told ABS-CBN News.
“We’re waiting for feedback from Facebook Philippines, who I understand will give us the verified and authentic certification for these chat groups, and based on the rules on electronic evidence, we can present this before the investigating panel,” he said.
He explained the message thread may be admissible in court because it “was open in social media.” He said that while the chat may be private to some members, “others have access to it and they can link it and send it to others who can also have access to this.”
The Senate and law enforcers are investigating the death of Castillo, 22, supposedly due to massive injuries consistent with hazing.
Coronel said most astounding to him from the legislative hearing was the “attempt of the fraternity to cover up and conceal this particular incident despite that they have announced that they are willing to support and cooperate in the investigation.”
The controversial Facebook chat was started with a lawyer-member of the frat calling for a meeting.
“Brods, we need to meet ASAP. Calling on all die-hard Aegians. We all have important things to do but I couldn’t find anything more important than this,” said Marvy Abo, a lawyer and fraternity alumnus said in the chat group.
“Their family is quite well-off. Tomorrow, they will be able to get a search warrant for the frat library. Hopefully it will be clean, with the paddles removed,” said Alston Kevin Anarna, another lawyer and alumnus.
A certain Ronald Cheng, who is working at the Supreme Court Clerk of Court’s 2nd division, was also part of the conversation, saying, “I have seen the CCTV (footage) of the village. The frat lib [library] is not covered.”
There has been no evidence so far to prove that University of Santo Tomas Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina knew of the fatal hazing of law freshman Horacio Castillo III, said Coronel.
Lawmakers had questioned Divina, who is also part of the Aegis Jvris fraternity and whose law firm will represent the school if faced with a lawsuit, during the legislative hearing Wednesday, on his knowledge of the crime supposedly committed inside their organization’s library in Manila.
“In the course of our investigation, we have no evidence to show that he has knowledge of the initiation activity so far,” he said.
“The only link of Atty. Divina in this particular case is that he the dean of the Faculty of Civil Law and it was under his watch or administration and being a full-fledged member of the Aegis Jvris fraternity that this incident happened,” he added.
The parents of Castillo sued Divina for murder and violation of Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law. He was also charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.