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Unbashed Balag stands firm on single UST Aegis Juris defense: Atio died of cardiac arrest, not hazing

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Aegis Juris Fraternity president Arvin Balag has sought the dismissal of criminal charges filed against him before the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horacio “Atio” Castillo III.

Balag is among the 23 frat members named by Aegis Juris member Marc Anthony Ventura, who turned government witness and submitted his tell-all affidavit on who either participated or were present during Castillo’s hazing last month.

Balag, who has been detained by the Senate after citing him in contempt during an earlier hearing, has submitted his counter-affidavit through his lawyer.

He asked the panel of prosecutors led by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva to dismiss 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.

“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 have any direct participation therein,” read his counter-affidavit submitted to the DOJ on 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,” Balag said.

Just like his fraternity brothers John Paul Solano and Axel Hipe, Balag also claimed in his defense 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/failure resulting to 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 added.

Balag argued that 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,” his affidavit stated.

“The qualifying circumstances of employing means to weaken the defense, means or persons to insure or afford impunity cannot also be appreciated because of the fact that no proof of evidence was presented by the complainants that the same exist in the instant case,” it pointed out.

Balag said the complainants “presented no witnesses stating my actual direct participation to the supposed illegal hazing done to Atio as a neophyte of Aegis Juris Fraternity.”

“It is self-serving and purely hold speculative accusation in the absence of specific allegation of facts in the complaint showing my participation in the commission of the subject offenses,” he added.

Lastly, 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 it was not properly authenticated.

The other respondents have also submitted their respective answers to the DOJ panel and sought the dismissal of the charges.

Villanueva said she had given other respondents until Nov. 2 and 3 to submit their respective counter-affidavits.

The panel of prosecutors set the submission of a reply on Nov. 9 while Nov. 16 will be the filing of the rejoinder.

Castillo died after attending the “welcoming rites” of the fraternity last September 16. (PNA)