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Suspect claims heart disease, not beatings, killed Atio

University of Santo Tomas (UST) law freshman Horacio Castillo III died of a pre-existing heart condition, not because of the beatings he suffered during hazing rites, primary suspect John Paul Solano told the Department of Justice on Tuesday.

At the resumption of the preliminary investigation into Castillo’s death, the victim’s grieving parents, Horacio Jr. and Carmina Castillo, sat in silence as Solano and 13 of his fellow respondents submitted their counteraffidavits to the DOJ panel of prosecutors.

Saying he should not be held responsible for Castillo’s death, Solano maintained that he was not present when the victim underwent initiation at the hands of Aegis Juris members.

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Reiterating what he had said during a Senate inquiry, Solano claimed that another fraternity member, Oliver John Onofre, asked him in the morning of Sept. 17 to rush to the Aegis Juris library to help them attend to “someone” who had “collapsed.”

Solano also said the medico-legal report prepared by the Manila Police District (MPD) showed that Castillo had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic heart disease that causes the thickening of the heart muscle.

“From my study as a licensed medical technologist, HCM could not have been caused by hazing or any physical activity. Patients with HCM have an increased risk [of] cardiac failure,” Solano stressed in his counter-affidavit.

“Thus, if it is true that [Castillo] died of cardiac arrest, [his] death is not due to hazing, but he died of cardiac arrest due to HCM,” he added.

According to Solano, the official police report on the victim’s death had “absolutely no finding … regarding the cause of death.”

Bruises, burns, candle wax

But Horacio Jr. insisted that the police autopsy said his son may have died of a heart attack after he was subjected to severe physical stress during the hazing rites.

Carmina added that their son was “very active” since he was a football player and that he had not been diagnosed with any heart disease.

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“What led to my son’s death was the blunt trauma coming from hazing that caused extreme pain and suffering that (may have caused) the heart attack,” Horacio Jr. told reporters after the hearing.

When Castillo’s body was examined by doctors at Chinese General Hospital, they noted heavy hematoma on both arms while bruises and burns from cigarettes and candle wax were observed on different parts of his body.

Paterno Esmaquel, Solano’s lawyer, accused MPD officials of trying to cover up the real cause of Castillo’s death.

“Why? Because MPD officials said twice during the [Senate] public hearing that the medico-legal officers [had stated] that (Castillo’s body) could no longer be autopsied because it was already embalmed,” Esmaquel said.

“Why are they saying that the body can no longer be autopsied when in fact it was autopsied? It is clear also from the medico-legal report that, sorry to say, the deceased has a pre-existing heart condition,” he added.

UST law dean Nilo Divina, who is a member of Aegis Juris fraternity, did not attend the hearing. He and 18 others were added as respondents in the supplemental complaint for murder and violation of the anti-hazing law filed by Castillo’s parents.

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